What is QR code

QR codes

Quick Response or “QR” codes are two-dimensional barcodes (or special images) that can hold up-to 2k characters of encoded data. Such data can be in the form of website link, eSIM activation code, mobile app link, inventory tracking information, digital payment option, or even marketing image. QR codes provide better user experience for mobile users as they provide an effective alternative to typing (e.g. of a url or web address) to access web-based information.

QR codes were introduced in 1994 and initially had nothing to do with mobile phones, as they were first created by a subsidiary of Toyota to improve car manufacturing process. But with the introduction of smartphones and mobile apps, QR codes provided a user friendly option enabling better access to mobile content. QR codes have been trending in the US especially after the release of iOS 11 in 2017 which enabled iPhone users to scan QR codes directly from their mobile camera. In fact Statista estimates that over 11 million households in the US are expected to use QR codes in 2020. In this article we explore four common use cases of QR codes.

1. Mobile Marketing

QR codes are customizable by color, shape and style, and can include a brand or logo image (with certain constraints) in a digital or printed format (e.g. on a billboard). They can be utilized for user engagement and to market mobile apps, promotions, or any mobile/web based offering.

2. Contactless Mobile Payment

COVID-19 and the associated need for contactless payment solutions propelled QR codes to become a common digital payment alternative. Besides PayPal which now enables both merchants and mobile users to receive payments in touchless ways using QR codes, many mobile applications around the world (e.g. WeChat) have been using QR codes for long to facilitate mobile payments. Accordingly to KPCB and Visa, more than 4% of global consumer transactions are done via QR codes. 

3. eSIM activation

An emerging use case of QR codes is getting wireless services through embedded SIM (eSIM) QR codes. eSIM QR codes can be shared by e-mail or mobile apps to enable mobile users to get cellular data plans and wireless services in few clicks, and in a fully digital way without the need for physical SIM cards. Such QR codes tend to have more stringent security requirement compared to other generic QR codes. (For further details check: “How to pick an eSIM”)

4. Mobile contacts, documents or events

QR codes enable mobile users to create and share downloadable contacts (e.g. e-mail, phone number, address, social media handle), documents such as pdf or word files, or events that can be directly saved in mobile calendars in a user-friendly way.

Final remarks

QR codes have been gaining popularity as they provide a convenient and interactive way of distributing a variety of web and mobile content and services. They are expected to expand further with the ongoing digitization and more businesses going online, no thanks to COVID-19. If you have a web URL, app link, social media handle or vCard that you want to share as a QR code, you can try one of the common online QR generators to see how easy it is to generate and utilize QR codes.

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