QR Code vs Barcode: What’s The Difference?

Barcode and QR Code

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Barcodes and QR codes are both ways of representing data in a machine-readable form. They have different applications, but both QR codes and barcodes serve the same primary purpose: to make storing and accessing data easy.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what barcodes and QR codes are. We will also learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Finally, we will compare a barcode and a QR code to understand their major differences. 

What is a Barcode?

UPC-A Barcode

A barcode is a machine-readable code that is used to store data.

Barcodes are made of a series of black (sometimes blue) and white bars of varying widths, spacing, and sizes placed inside a square or rectangular frame. The width of the bars and spacing represent different data, which a barcode scanner can decode.

Barcodes are generally accompanied by numbers printed beneath the series of white and black bars. These numbers can be entered manually into the database if the barcode is unreadable.

Components of a Barcode

A barcode has the following components.

  • Quiet Zone (margin) – It is the empty space at either end of a barcode. The minimum quiet zone should be 2.5 mm. If the quiet zone is inadequate, it is difficult for the barcode scanner to read the information.
  • Start/Stop Character – These are characters that represent the beginning and end of the barcode data. The characters vary based on the type of barcode used.
  • Data Characters – These are bar patterns that encode data.
  • Check Digit (Checksum character) – It is used to verify the accuracy of the data encoded in the barcode.

Types of Barcodes

Barcodes are of two types: Linear or One-Dimensional (1D) and Two-Dimensional (2D)

Barcode

Liner or one-dimensional barcodes store data horizontally and are made up of a series of parallel lines of varying widths. These lines represent different data, such as product type, size, and color. Liner or one-dimensional barcodes are commonly called barcodes.

PDF417 Barcode

Two-dimensional barcodes use graphics or patterns like dots, squares, or hexagons to store data in both directions – horizontally and vertically. They can store more data than linear or one-dimensional barcodes. Two-dimensional barcode is also called matrix barcode or micropattern code.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Barcodes

Advantages and Disadvantages of Barcodes
Advantages
Disadvantages
Easy to create and print.
Stores a limited amount of data.
Relatively inexpensive.
Can only be scanned horizontally.
Does not require a lot of space.
Lacks security as barcodes can not be encrypted.
Can be read quickly and efficiently by scanners.
Rarely support mobile devices.
Does not require any special employee training.
Gets damaged easily.
Are universally accepted.

What is a QR Code?

A Simple QR Code

QR Code is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code.

QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes made up of black and white squares arranged in a grid pattern. They store data in both horizontal and vertical directions. The more information a QR code contains, the ‘busier’ it appears.

QR codes generally contain information about a locator, identifier, or tracker that directs to a website or application. They can also store multimedia data such as images, videos, and audio files.

QR codes generally use four standardized encoding modes: Numeric, Alphanumeric, Byte/Binary, and Kanji to store information. They also support a variety of extensions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of QR Codes

Advantages and Disadvantages of QR Codes
Advantages
Disadvantages
Stores more data.
Prone to smudging, tearing, and distortion.
Works even if it gets damaged.
Lack of support if you have older hardwear.
Can be scanned from any angle or orientation.
Must be placed on a static, stationary location.
Can store more valuable data like URLs, product SKUs etc.
Cannot track user journey.
Improved security with encryption.
Can be scanned from mobile devices.

QR Codes vs Barcodes - The Difference

Here’s a table that compares and contrasts barcodes and QR codes.

Difference Between Barcodes and QR Codes
Attributes
Barcodes
QR Codes
History
Barcodes were created and developed by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1951.
QR codes were created and developed by the Japanese automotive company Denso Wave in 1994.
Appearance
Barcodes have a square or rectangular shape with a series of parallel black/blue lines with white spaces.
QR codes have a square or rectangular shape with black and white squares arranged in a grid pattern.
Barcode Type
Liner or 1D barcodes
Two-dimensional or 2D barcodes
Information Retention Capacity
Barcodes have a storage capacity of less than 100 characters.
QR codes have a storage capacity of more than 2500 characters.
Scannability
Barcodes are not scannable if they get damaged.
QR codes have a correction margin of 7-30%. This means QR code works even if they are damaged by 30%.
Data Readability
Barcodes can be scanned only horizontally.
QR can be scanned in any direction and orientation.
Size
Barcodes are smaller.
QR codes can be upto 10 times smaller than barcodes and still carry more information.
Technology Used
Barcodes are represented in the forms of bars with varying widths and spaces.
QR code is based on Morse code.
Security
Barcodes have no security features.
QR codes provide encryption.
Hardware Required
Barcode scanners
Mobile devices or barcode scanners

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is Better, QR Code or Barcode?

The answer to this question depends on your requirements and application.

If you need to store a large amount of data or are looking for asset tracking or inventory control, QR codes would be a better option.

On the other hand, if you need to store fewer data and are looking for product identification, barcodes would suffice.

Can QR Code Replace Barcode?

No, QR codes cannot replace barcodes.

QR codes and barcodes serve different purposes and have their advantages and disadvantages.

Are Bar Code and QR Code the Same?

No, barcodes and QR codes are not the same.

Barcodes store data in a linear or one-dimensional manner, while QR codes store data in two dimensions.

What are the Advantages of QR Codes Over Bar Codes?

QR codes have the following advantages over bar codes.

  • QR codes can hold more data than barcodes.
  • They are less likely to be damaged than barcodes.
  • QR codes can be read from all directions, while barcodes can only be read from one direction.
  • QR codes are easily accessible and can be scanned by a QR code reader. Even mobile devices can scan QR codes.
  • They provide security features.

How Long Does a QR Code Last?

QR codes have no expiration date and can last for as long as you want.

Can I Make My Own QR Code?

Yes, there are many online tools that you can use to generate QR codes for free.

What is Another Name for QR Code?

QR code is also known as Quick Response Code.

How Accurate are QR Codes?

QR Codes have a high degree of accuracy with a 30% margin of error. This means that even if a QR code gets damaged by 30%, it can still be scanned and decoded.

Can Barcode Scanners Read All Barcodes?

No, not all barcode scanners can read all barcodes.

Laser barcode scanners can read linear or one-dimensional barcodes, while camera-based scanners can read both linear and two-dimensional barcodes.

Check out our article on the best barcode scanners to find the suitable scanner for your needs.

The Bottom Line - Which One Should You Use?

As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using barcodes and QR codes. The best way to determine which one is right for you is to consider your needs and the application you are using it for.

It would be best if you think about factors such as:

  • How much data do you need to store?
  • What type of data do you need to store?
  • Do you need to store data in both directions (horizontally and vertically)?
  • Is the space for the code limited?
  • How will the code be used?
  • Do you need to track inventory or people?
  • Do you need to print the code on products or packaging?
  • Will the label get damaged?
  • What type of scanner will be used to read the code?

Once you have considered all of these factors, you should have a better idea of which type of code is right for you.

We hope this article has helped clear up any confusion between a barcode and QR code.

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