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QR Code vs Barcode: What's the Difference? [2024 Update]

2 Minutes

In this article we explore barcodes vs qr codes and uncover the main differences between the two. Read on to learn which one is right for you.

difference between barcode and qr code

Barcodes

Barcodes are optical labels that represent data through varying-width lines and spaces, introduced in 1952 to streamline sales and inventory.

  • Linear series of lines and spaces.
  • Typically one-dimensional, though some types can be 2D.
  • Stores limited data, typically a sequence of numbers and sometimes letters.
  • Requires specialized barcode scanners.
  • Primarily encodes product identifiers.
  • Pervasive in retail, inventory management, and ticketing.

difference between qr code and barcode

QR Codes

QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes developed in 1994 for versatile data storage, originally for automotive parts in Japan.

  • Square grid of black dots and spaces.
  • Inherently two-dimensional.
  • Stores up to 2 kilobytes of data.
  • Scanned using smartphones and cameras.
  • Encodes a wide variety of data types.
  • Gained popularity for its multifunctional use.

Difference Between Barcodes and QR Codes

Barcodes and QR codes are both optical, machine-readable representations of data. However, they have distinct structures and uses. Here's a breakdown of their differences:

Appearance:

Barcode: Typically a series of parallel lines of varying thicknesses and spacings. The most common format is the 1D (one-dimensional) barcode.

QR Code: A matrix or 2D (two-dimensional) code consisting of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background.

Data Capacity:

Barcode: Can hold up to 20-25 characters of information, depending on the specific type.

QR Code: Can hold a significant amount more information. Depending on the version and error correction level, a QR code can store up to several thousand characters of information.

Data Type:

Barcode: Primarily encodes numeric or alphanumeric data.

QR Code: Can encode numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji.

Error Correction:

Barcode: Typically, barcodes don't have error correction, meaning if part of it is damaged, it might become unreadable.

QR Code: Comes with built-in error correction. Depending on the error correction level set during creation, a QR code can remain readable even if up to 30% of it is damaged.

Orientation:

Barcode: Read linearly, meaning they need to be scanned in a straight line.

QR Code: Read in two dimensions, horizontally and vertically, offering more flexibility in scanning.

Applications:

Barcode: Commonly used in retail for product labeling and point-of-sale systems, libraries, and inventory management.

QR Code: While also used in retail, QR codes are broadly used in marketing (linking to websites, videos, and promotions), ticketing, healthcare, and many other sectors. Their ability to store more information and link directly to digital content makes them especially useful for modern applications.

Scanning Equipment:

Barcode: Requires a light source to illuminate the bars and a sensor to measure the reflections to interpret the code.

QR Code: Can be read by camera-based devices, such as smartphones, making them more accessible for consumer interaction.

Origin and History:

Barcode: The first barcode system, resembling the UPC barcodes common today, was patented in the U.S. in 1952.

QR Code: Developed in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave, initially for tracking vehicles during manufacturing.

We hope that our qr code vs barcode article has now left you with a better understanding of the main differences between a barcode and qr code.

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