How to scan QR codes to download Android apps

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You may have noticed that I frequently post QR codes/barcodes when writing about Android programs. That’s because they’re the easiest way to give you a sort of download link for Android apps. While I can give you a link to an iPhone app which you can use to download the program using iTunes, there is no desktop client for Android. But using a barcode scanner, you can just point your camera at a QR code on your computer screen to open up the Android Market page for that app.

All you need is an Android phone with a camera and a barcode scanning application. One of my favorites is the cleverly-titled, Barcode Scanner from ZXing Team. It’s available as a free download from the Android Market and works with all versions of Android.

In addition to QR codes, Barcode scanner lets you scan the barcodes on books, CDs, or other products. It also features integration with Google Shopper which makes it easy to compare prices, or you can just search Google for more information about products.

But back to QR codes, all you have to do is fire up the Barcode Scanner app and point your camera at your computer screen when you see a QR code. Barcode Scanner will recognize what kind of code it’s looking at and provide you with the option to open the link in a browser — which will automatically take you to the android Market where you can download the app. You can also share links via email or SMS.

Looking for a way to create your own QR code? Smarterware‘s Gina Trapini suggest using Kaywa’s QR-Code Generator which lets you encode a URL, phone number, SMS, or up to 250 characters of text as a QR code.

For instance, you can scan the QR code on the right to visit the mobiputing home page.

Update: Google recently launched a web-based version of the Android Market. Most users can visit in a desktop web browser, sign in with their Google account, and send software directly to their phones by clicking a button. This doesn’t completely make QR codes and barcode scanners obsolete though.

First, there are already thousands of web sites with QR codes on them, and I don’t expect anyone to go through and manually update all the links. But more importantly, QR codes aren’t just for download apps. They can also be used to let you open a web site, view pictures, or explore other data with your phone.

QR codes are also used for downloading apps for other platforms such as Windows Phone 7.

If you’re looking for places beside the Google Android Market to download apps you might want to check out our list of 18 places to download Android apps.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since 2006. Brad has also worked with NPR, WHYY, PRI, and AOL.

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26 Responses to “How to scan QR codes to download Android apps”

  • JimStar:

    I have to say, this is my first time, grazing through these reviews. First, I would like to say, great write ups. Second. I am a sort of new to the android world. I have the Moto Droid. I find it fascinating what you can do with these phones. Second, All the sites I have read about, no one has gone through and explained what the QR codes are for or maybe I just haven't seen them. So that said, Thank you for this write up. I have had unanswered questions about these. Thanks.

  • […] 1.3 is available as a free download from the Android Market. You can scan the image to the right with your phone to download and install the […]

  • […] 1.3 is available as a free download from the Android Market. You can scan the image to the right with your phone to download and install the […]

  • AndrewMCollette:

    What if I’m browsing on my phone, and the qr code isn’t clickable?

  • AndrewMCollette:

    What if I'm browsing on my phone, and the qr code isn't clickable?

  • AndrewMCollette:

    Well that’s pretty fucking stupid. Why did I get my nexus one if I am still supposed to use a seperate device to properly experience the internet?

    So there isn’t an application that can recognize a qr on a site unless i use the phones camera?

    • more or less:

      well, again, if you have research more about the qr code, it’s mostly supposedly for the print ads or something that you will see and the advertiser might want you to go to their website, instead of typing the site manually, you can just take your phone camera and decode the qr code and wala it will connect you to their site (only if your internet connection on your phone is active).

      i can’t believe people will always complain without researching first what’s the use of the item… PEOPLE… lol

  • QR codes are almost *never* clickable. What you’re supposed to do is point your phone’s camera at them and use a barcode scanning app to recognize the code. It will open the link for you in your mobile web browser.

  • If you’re browsing the internet and you find the app you want to do download, you can just download it from the Android Market by searching by title.

    It’s also possible to create market links that you can click on a phone to automatically open the Android Market — but these links are useless on a desktop web browser, and since most people still visit this site using a desktop browser I’ve chosen to use QR codes primarily rather than links to apps in the Market.

    • ohCrap:

      Well a lot of times the app doesn’t show up in a market search, because the market search is rubbish (especially considering it is google). So with an unclickable QR picture, we are screwed if we only have our phone and “the cloud” to hand, which is the way things are supposed to be going.

  • Varism:

    But if i’m browsing the internet with my phone, how can i directly scan QR code ? Take another phone with scanner? 🙂 QR codes isn’t always links to apps download.

  • jcy:

    I don’t get what the problem is behind not being able to scan a QR code directly from a webpage ob my droid x’s browser to bypass the camera altogether

  • for some reason this doesn’t work for android phones not supporting android market app, my phone has the stupid SlideMe app.. i want away around this.

  • andy:

    latest version quickmark works very well!

    • more or less:

      yes, quickmark is a pretty fast decoder for the qr code but too bad, it only use a small portion of the screen and if the qr code is big, it takes or it won’t decode the qr code…

      i would recommend lynkee. it’s a bit fast. although there are some disadvantages (it’s true to almost all qr code readers)

  • Acuworker22:

    this is definitely the most “helpful” site i’ve come across
    i just got my phone friday and i am still quite baffled
    i’m not even sure why i need apps if i have the internet
    but whatever…thanks for the info

  • Great article. 2011 will be a very successful year for QR Codes. Social QR Code recently launched and is a QR Code generator designed for local, small, medium and large businesses to connect their customers with their social networks via QR Codes. Gain Facebook “Likes”, Twitter “Followers” and share content on both social networks as well!

    Please give it a try!

  • […] of the image and sends you to the correct site.    Here are links for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android to get you started.  A search on Google, or in the relevant app store should yield many more […]

  • sean:

    What a great site mate!!! keep up the good work. Let me share with you my site with apps and games for the spanish speakers!!!
    Greetings from Spain.

  • Oh thanks, i appriciate that!

  • Missediva:

    Thanks for this info…I just left the BB world and got an Android phone so this was very helpful!

  • this article really helps
    to me,thank u

  • Miks van Kristen:

    I’m a smartphone newbie and downloaded this app and love it! I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually but for now it’s a case of “if it moves, scan it” 😀 I love it, great app.

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