How to Scan a QR code on Android and iPhone: a Comprehensive 2024 Guide

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QR codes have become a common part of our daily lives, appearing everywhere, from restaurant tables to public transportation stops. Whether you’re accessing a digital menu, navigating a new city, or quickly connecting to WiFi, these versatile barcodes have made our interactions with the world much easier.

But do you know how to scan a QR code on your phone? Whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device, we’ve got you covered with simple, step-by-step guides that will turn you into a QR code scanning expert in no time.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • QR codes store data like links, text, and phone numbers.
  • iPhones and many Android devices have built-in QR code scanning in the camera app.
  • There is also a dedicated Code Scanner on iOS.
  • Google Lens or third-party apps can be used on Android for scanning QR codes.

What is a QR Code?

A QR code is a type of barcode that carries data such as links, text, phone numbers, etc. It stores data in two dimensions (horizontally and vertically), which is why it is able to hold much more information than a one-dimensional bar code.

To scan a QR code, you need to use your phone.

What are QR Codes Used For?

Popular uses for QR codes include:

Restaurant menus
Many restaurants, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted a no-physical-menu approach, with QR codes on the table that direct you to their digital menu.

Public transport navigation
QR codes at public transport stops can provide real-time updates or the latest information regarding schedules, route maps, and delays. 

Links to apps
Businesses use QR codes to link to their apps on the App Store or on Google Play for easy access. 
WiFi access
QR codes are sometimes used to store a network name and password so that when scanned, the device is automatically connected to that network. This is often seen in cafes and hotels. 

Do You Need an App to Scan QR Codes?

This is a common question about QR codes. Whether you need a dedicated QR code scanner largely depends on the device you’re using.

Smartphones and Tablets

iOS devices

You generally do not need a separate app if you are using an iOS device. This is because iPads and iPhones have QR scanning capabilities embedded directly into the Camera app.

Android devices
Many Android phones and tablets come with built-in QR code scanner features, but the way the software is implemented varies from one device to another. Some have it integrated directly into the camera app, others have specific access to QR code scanning via the camera app, and yet others might not even have the functionality (especially if the device is older). If your device’s camera does not support QR code scanning natively, you can download a free QR code scanner app from Google Play.

Computers

Desktops or laptops: This is not a common occurrence, but if you need to, you can scan a QR code using a webcam and a QR code scanner app or website. Tools like WebQR and the CodeTwo QR Code Desktop Reader & Generator have been created for this purpose.

How to Scan a QR Code on Android and iPhone

If you’ve been wondering how to scan a QR code on your phone, below we have step-by-step guides for both iOS and Android. There are several methods for each type of device.

How to Scan a QR Code on an iPhone

There are two ways to scan a QR code on your iPhone.

1. Camera App.

  • Launch the Camera app from the Home screen, Control Center, or Lock screen.
  • Select the rear-facing camera.
  • Hold your device so the QR code appears in the Camera app’s viewfinder.
  • Your device should recognize the QR code and display a notification. Tap the notification to access the link associated with the QR code.

How to Scan a QR Code on an iPhone

2. Code Scanner from Control Center

  • Make sure your iPhone is running iOS 14 or later. The built-in QR code scanner is available in the Control Center from iOS 14 onwards.
  • Open the Control Center by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen (iPhone X and later) or swiping up from the bottom of the screen (iPhone SE and iPhone 8 and earlier).
  • Tap the Code Scanner.
  • Position the iPhone so that the code appears on the screen.
  • To add more light, tap the flashlight to activate it.

How to Add the QR Code Shortcut to Your iPhone

Here’s the thing: the dedicated Code Scanner is not automatically available in the Control Center. You’ll need to add the QR code scanner shortcut to your iPhone.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap Control Center.
  3. The Control Center settings provide a list of shortcuts that can be added to or removed from the Control Center.
  4. Scroll down to the More Controls section.
  5. Look for the Code Scanner option – in some versions, it might even be listed as QR Code Reader.
  6. Tap the green + button next to Code Scanner to add a shortcut to it in your Control Center.

How to Add the QR Code Shortcut to Your iPhone

How to Scan a QR Code on Android

There are three different methods for scanning a QR code on an Android device. The best option depends on what kind of device you are using and how old it is.

We’ll take you through the list from the most commonly used methods to the least commonly used.

Camera App
  • Some Android devices come with a QR code scanner in the native Camera app.
  • Launch the Camera app on your phone.
  • Point it at the QR code you wish to scan.
  • The Camera app should recognize the QR code and display a notification or a little pop-up that gives you a preview of the information contained in the code.
  • Tap the notification or pop-up to access the information.

Google Lens
  • In case your Camera app can’t natively scan QR codes, you can scan them via Google Lens, which is integrated into many Android devices.
  • Open Google Lens. You can access Google Lens from the app itself, via Google Assistant, or the Camera app on some devices.
  • Point your camera at the QR code you wish to scan.
  • Google Lens should recognize the QR code and issue a pop-up showing you the information embedded in the code.
  • You can either click on the pop-up or press the shutter button to view the content.

How to Scan a QR Code on Android

QR Code Scanner app
  • You can download a QR code scanner app from Google Play.
  • Open Google Play.
  • Search for “QR code scanner“.
  • Download a reputable app, generally one with lots of downloads and good reviews. For example, the QR Code Scanner by Gamma Play or the QR & Barcode Reader by TeaCapps.
  • After installation, launch the app.
  • Allow the app to access your camera if prompted.
  • Point your camera at the QR code you want to scan.
  • The app will scan the QR code. You must follow the on-screen instructions to view the information encoded in the code.

Google Play QR Code Scanner

How to Scan QR Codes on Android Phones Without an App

If you don’t want to download a dedicated QR scanner app on your phone, just keep in mind the above other methods that should already be available on your Android device:

  1. The Camera App
  2. Google Lens

You’ll only need to download an app from Google Play if the above methods do not work or are not available to you (probably because it is an old device).

Popular Apps With in-Built QR Code Readers

There are a couple of popular apps with built-in QR code readers, but not all of them are made to scan any QR code.

Facebook

Facebook has a QR scanner. Simply search for “QR reader” on Facebook and click the first result.

This scanner will allow you to scan any QR code you want.

Facebook-QR

WhatsApp

Although WhatsApp has a QR code scanner, it can only be used to link devices. The scanner allows you to use the app on the Web, Desktop, and other devices.

When you try to scan any QR code other than the WhatsApp code, it will tell you that it is invalid.

Instagram

Instagram has a QR code scanner that allows users to easily find specific people’s profiles. However, this scanner can only read QR codes encoded with an Instagram profile link. These QR codes are generated within Instagram itself, using the Share profile button on your profile.

The Bottom Line

QR codes are versatile tools used for various purposes, such as accessing restaurant menus, navigating public transport, linking to apps, and connecting to WiFi. Modern smartphones often have built-in QR code scanning features, making it easy to scan codes without needing extra apps.

iPhone users can use the Camera app or add a Code Scanner shortcut in the Control Center. Android users can scan using the Camera app, Google Lens, or dedicated scanner apps.

FAQs

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Maria Webb
Technology Journalist
Maria Webb
Technology Journalist

Maria is a technology journalist with over five years of experience with a deep interest in AI and machine learning. She excels in data-driven journalism, making complex topics both accessible and engaging for her audience. Her work is prominently featured on Techopedia, Business2Community, and Eurostat, where she provides creative technical writing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours in English and a Master of Science in Strategic Management and Digital Marketing from the University of Malta. Maria's background includes journalism for Newsbook.com.mt, covering a range of topics from local events to international tech trends.