The majority of smartphones have integrated QR scanners. They use your phone’s camera to scan QR codes.
What is not so simple is when you have the QR code saved on your phone. Or someone shares a screenshot with you that contains a QR code.
Suddenly, your smartphone becomes dumb! It fails to read the QR code.
Instead of pointing you to a website address, or providing a promised coupon, the phone tries to scan it as an image without extracting any data.
What you can end up with is multiple duplicates of the same QR code that all fail to function.
How to scan the QR code image on the phone
- Use the Google Lens app (Android only)
- Use the Google Photos app (Android and iOS)
- Use the Google app (Android and iOS)
- Samsung phones have a “Scan QR code” feature. (Android only)
If your QR code is embedded in a PDF, it will need to be converted to JPG or PNG.
1. Use Google Lens
Google Lens is like Google image search on steroids. This app uses artificial intelligence combined with deep machine learning.
Rather than typing in a search, this is a search engine for real-world objects.
Point your camera at any object, and the app takes a good guess at what it is.
Take a picture of another phone, tap on search, and it pulls up the phone make and model details.
Another slick way to check what kind of phone you have.
Asides from being capable of doing wonders through the camera lens, it works just as well for the images already on your phone.
Step 1: Open the Google Lens app
If your Android phone does not have this, you can get it free in the Play Store.
Step 2: Select the image of the QR code you want to scan
Step 3: Decide what action to take. If it is a website URL, you can click website to visit the site, copy the URL, or share it.
If it fails to identify the QR code, check that the “search” tab is highlighted.
2. Use Google Photos
You do not need an Android phone to use Google Lens. The Google Photos app has this integrated.
What you do need is an iPhone or iPad that is running on iOS version 10.0 or higher.
If you have that, you can install the free Google Photos app on your device.
Step 1: Launch the Google Photos App
Step 2: Select the image with the QR code
Step 3: Tap “Lens”
If it fails to pick up on the QR code,
Step 4: Tap edit
Step 5: Select “crop”
Step 6: Tap and drag the edges closer to the QR code to enlarge it, then tap on “Save a copy”
Step 7: Tap on “Lens”
3. Use the Google app
The Google App works on iOS and Android. This adds a Google search widget to your home screen.
To the right of the Google search widget is the Lens icon.
The Lens icon looks like the outline of a camera lens and has the Google brand colors (red, yellow, blue, and green).
To scan a QR code with the Google app widget,
Step 1: Tap the Lens icon within the search bar
Step 2: Tap on the image that has the QR code. Within seconds, the QR code is scanned and the results are shown.
With the Google app installed on iPhones or iPads, you can do reverse image searches from the Photos app.
In your Photos app, select the image you want to reverse search, tap on the Share Sheet extension, then select the option to “Search with Google Lens”.
4. On Samsung phones: Use “Scan QR code”
Samsung phones have a QR scanner too. Nothing close to Google Lens, but it can get the job done.
Step 1: Launch the Scan QR code feature from the Quick Settings menu
To do this, swipe down on the home screen twice.
The first swipe opens your notifications menu. Swipe down again to open your Quick Settings.
A faster way: Swipe down with two fingers at the same time and it bypasses the notification menu taking you straight to the Quick Settings buttons.
If the “Scan QR code” button does not show on the first screen, swipe left.
If it is still hidden, tap the “+” button, swipe through the “available buttons” menu, then add the “Scan QR code” to your Quick Settings menu.
Tap on “Scan QR code” to launch it.
Step 2: Tap the photo icon
By default, the scan QR code feature on Samsung activates the camera.
Below the camera view are two buttons. One for a flashlight, the other to launch your gallery.
On the bottom right, tap on the photo icon.
Step 3: Select the photo that has the QR code
Step 4: Tap on “Done”.
The app will then scan the QR code and either give you what was intended or show a message that it “Couldn’t read the QR code”.
If it does fail to scan, have a go editing the image to make the QR code larger.
Something to be careful with when cropping is to keep some edges available. If you trim too far in, it can prevent QR scanners from extracting information.
How to Scan the QR code image in a PDF
Notice that all of the above methods rely on apps accessing your media gallery to scan QR codes as images.
None are capable of scanning a QR code that is within a PDF. It can be done though.
Two ways to scan a QR code in a PDF without needing to print
Before you waste paper and ink thinking you need a hard copy to take a photo, you can easily take a screenshot of the QR code.
Screenshots are saved as JPG or PNG on most devices. They always go into the media gallery or photo album on your phone.
To take a screenshot, use the side buttons on your smartphone.
- On Android phones, press and hold the power button and the volume down together for about two seconds.
- On iPhones, it is the side button and volume up at the same time.
Once you have a screenshot taken, depending on the size of the QR code image, it may need to be cropped to make it large enough to be picked up by the QR scanner on the phone.
If for whatever reason your phone is unable to take a screenshot, there are other ways to convert PDF to JPG.
The simplest is to upload a PDF in Canva, then download it as a PNG or JPG file.
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