Leveraging QR Codes for your Business: Stock Camera or SocketCam?

April 13, 2023 by Macie Blakeman | BLOG

2D barcodes, commonly referred to as QR Codes (QR stands for Quick Response) have been a fantastic boon for businesses. Packing in considerably more data than traditional one-dimensional barcodes, the two-dimensional “QR code” has a use for everything from inventory and delivery tracking to ticket authentication and even payment systems.

When it comes to the question of how to scan a QR code, though, the format's real strength becomes clear: it's possible to scan QR codes using nothing more than your smartphone’s built-in camera. By using the mobile devices that staff and customers already have in their pockets, it's possible for your business to reap the benefits of QR codes. However, businesses have run into some common issues when only using the stock camera app to consistently and reliably scan QR codes on their mobile devices. Users that want to leverage QR codes but keep running into scanning issues do, however, have other software-based scanning options to consider that may meet more of their daily requirements.

Let’s explore the basics of scanning QR codes with stock camera apps, the possible issues you may run into when using these apps for data capture, and Socket Mobile’s software-based solutions to overcome these issues.

How to Scan QR Codes on Mobile Devices

High-quality integrated cameras are a staple of modern mobile phones. They're not just great for snapping selfies and showing off your beach vacation, though. The pre-installed camera software on all mobile devices comes with built-in support for QR codes.

To scan a QR code on your mobile device, simply open the Camera app and switch it to the rear-facing camera (you can't scan using the front-facing camera). Line the QR code up in the center of the viewfinder and you'll see a reticle outlining the QR code. If you don’t see this, try adjusting the angle so the QR code is fully square or adjusting the distance for the code to come into proper focus. There's no need to press the shutter button to actually take a photo, unless you want a copy of the QR code for later reference.

Beneath the reticle, a pop-up notification will appear with the data from the QR code. It's primarily designed for use with QR codes containing website links, and if one is recognized you can simply tap the notification to visit the link in your phone's browser.

Note for Android Users: Not all Android phones include the same QR code scanning functionality built into the Camera app. For this reason, Socket Mobile will soon be adding barcode scanning support to SM Keyboard for Android.

Common QR Code Scanning Problems

Having native support for decoding QR codes on your device is only part of the battle. Especially for businesses that use this technology for optimizing daily operations such as retail inventory, deliveries, or warehouse management. Most smartphone cameras are designed for general-purpose photography rather than capturing important data from codes. While the built-in software will work perfectly in well-lit conditions while scanning a well-printed QR code, frustrating errors can crop up when the environment isn't perfect.

Low-Light: One of the biggest issues in scanning QR codes using stock smartphone software comes from low-light conditions, such as dimly lit corners of warehouses or during night-time deliveries. Switching the camera's flash into always-on mode (if supported) can help. However, with the close range required to scan most QR codes, it can wash the picture out and prevent a successful scan for the opposite reason. Not to mention the additional drain on your battery.

Distance: Scanning range is also an issue. Some native smartphone software struggles to use its auto-focus function at short ranges, resulting in either an extremely long scan time as the lens attempts to focus or even a complete failure to scan. Few built-in camera apps can scan QR codes at a distance, and even using the zoom feature rarely helps, as it can be difficult to hold the phone still enough for a successful scan.

Damaged QR Codes: A final cause for failed scans is the quality of the QR code itself. Whether it's been badly printed, has faded over time, or has suffered physical damage, poor QR code quality makes it difficult for general-purpose software to recognize the QR code and decode the data.

SocketCam: The Professional-Grade Scanner for your Smartphone

Socket Mobile’s SocketCam barcode scanner is a software-based platform dedicated to 1D and 2D code scanning. SocketCam focuses on just the task at hand - using your existing smartphone or tablet camera for reliable and consistent data capture.

Because it's not a general-purpose camera app, SocketCam is no good for sharing pictures of your latest Instragrammable latte - but instead excels at data capture and QR code scanning. Installed on your existing mobile device, it compensates for low lighting with measurably better scanning success under adverse conditions over the iOS or Android camera apps.

SocketCam also boasts the ability to scan QR codes at a longer range, which makes it ideal for inventory-taking, deliveries, or location-tagging tasks. It can scan multiple codes in considerably less time, making it the perfect option for businesses with considerable scanning volume. It's also capable of compensating for poorly printed, faded, or damaged QR codes Opens Worldwide Website (AU, EMEA, UK), recognizing and decoding them beyond the point built-in camera apps can handle.

Better still, SocketCam is easily integrated into existing workflows. Our most basic version, SocketCam C820 Opens Worldwide Website (AU, EMEA, UK), is available to download and use completely free of charge as part of our industrial-grade CaptureSDK data capture platform (also free). This allows you to integrate SocketCam into your apps and see for yourself how it improves on stock camera apps, all without paying a penny.

If you’re looking to test out SocketCam’s abilities without making the full commitment yet, our SM Keyboard Opens Worldwide Website (AU, EMEA, UK) app is the perfect option for you. SM Keyboard uses the same rapid-scanning, high-accuracy SocketCam technology but appears as a keyboard input device on your smartphone or tablet. You can begin experimenting without making a single modification to your current software stack. SM Keyboard is available for download now for iOS users, and an Android version will be available in the coming months.

For those needing even more capabilities, we have an enhanced version, SocketCam C860 Opens Worldwide Website (AU, EMEA, UK), launching soon. This subscription-based version includes advanced capabilities such as faster scanning speeds, even higher performance in low-light conditions, and scanning at longer distances. Whether you're using SocketCam C860 or the free SocketCam C820, we're confident you'll appreciate the advantages the SocketCam family brings over your smartphone's built-in camera app.

But don't just take our word for it: Download SocketCam today Opens Worldwide Website (AU, EMEA, UK) and try it for yourself, free and without obligation.

Try it free.

Test out our data reading and scanning technology for free with SocketCam. The SocketCam C820 lets you scan directly into your feature application using the camera on your mobile device, ensuring high-performance scanning without the need for an external barcode scanner.