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How to use QR codes in iOS 11

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How to use QR codes in iOS 11

Come iOS 11, you'll be able to scan and interact with QR codes natively — no need to download a separate app.

Depending on who you ask, QR codes are either outdated, entirely uncool, and useless, or they're open, accessible, kind of neat, and — it turns out — really big in China. I was a member of the QR Code Haters Club for many years, but iOS 11 may soften my cold, dark heart. Apple has added native support for QR code scanning via the camera app on iOS. It's a simple, quick, built-in, and — dare I say — delightful implementation of QR code scanning and interaction. It'll be interesting to see how it affects QR code popularity going forward.

If you're running the public or developer beta of iOS 11, follow along to learn how to scan and interact with QR codes! I'll also be tossing in a few tidbits about QR codes themselves and some of the different types you can scan.

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac (sadly, no public beta for the Apple Watch). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

How to scan a QR code in iOS 11

Apple's made it very easy to scan QR codes in iOS 11, it's quite literally a matter of opening your camera and pointing.

  1. Launch the Camera app on iOS.
  2. Point it at the QR code you want to scan.
  3. Look for the notification banner at the top of the screen — this is the data stored in the QR code.
  4. If your QR code contains actionable data (contact info, a phone number, etc.) tap on the notification banner to trigger the action.

    Showing the scanning process for using QR codes in iOS 11

How to disable QR code scanning in iOS 11

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and tap Camera.
  3. Tap the toggle next to Scan QR Codes to turn off QR code scanning.

A little more about QR codes

Along with announcing support for QR code scanning in iOS 11, Apple also announced support for NFC tag scanning (though not encoding). Some see NFC as a better, more futuristic data transfer method and QR codes as archaic and unfashionable. The argument has its merits — NFC tags are "powered" by an electromagnetic field created by the device that's attempting to read its data. Meanwhile, QR codes are nothing more than two-dimensional designs without any fancy circuitry or electromagnetic communication. But that — to me — is what makes QR codes so great. Anyone can create QR codes and store them physically or electronically. QR codes can also be scanned from a distance or up close. NFC tags have to be purchased, data has to be written to them (Apple doesn't support writing to an NFC tag), and you have to be within the near-field range in order to get information from them. Where NFC tags feel sort of closed off and inaccessible, QR codes are open and easy to make.

To give you an idea of how you might use QR codes come iOS 11, here's a list of different QR code data types and how iOS lets you interact with that data.

  • Website URL: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to open the website.
  • App Store Link: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to open the app in the App Store.
  • Telephone Number: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to call the number.
  • Plain Text: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to search the web using your default search provider in Safari.
  • SMS Message: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to compose the specified message to the specified number.
  • Email Address: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to compose an email to the specified email address.
  • Email Message: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to compose the specified message to the specified email address.
  • Contact Info: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to add the specified contact details to your contacts.
  • Calendar Event: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to add the specified event to your calendar.
  • Wi-Fi Credentials: Scanning this QR code will give you a prompt to connect to the specified Wi-Fi router with the specified login credentials.

That last one is especially exciting. Now you can have a long, complicated password on your guest network and you won't have to start off the evening with friends by doing an open mic session called, "I'm Reading out My Long-As-Hell Wi-Fi Password and You All Hate Me for It". You can simply show the QR code and your friends can scan and tap!

Thoughts?

What do you think of QR codes? NFC tags? Does Apple's implementation have you looking forward to iOS 11? Give us a shout in the comments or over on Twitter!

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