If you’ve been using smartphones for a while, you may know about QR codes, the random assortment of black squares in a white background that is used to efficiently store key data like a website address, product labels, digital tickets, login authorization, account information for making payments, and more. Although its popularity wore off since it first started appearing a decade ago, QR codes are now back in action as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into contactless interactions.
QR codes are now everywhere; restaurants, gas stations, and shops are now using QR codes to make sure everything you do is on your phone so that you keep yourself uncontaminated from things that would otherwise be touched by so many others.
Most Android phones come with a dedicated Google Lens app that can scan QR codes and display the embedded information instantly but how would you do that on an iPhone? In this post, we’ll teach you three ways you can scan a QR code directly on your iPhone without needing to rely on a third-party app.
Prerequisite: Enable QR code scanning on your iPhone
The ability to scan QR codes is enabled by default on all iPhones that run iOS 11. So, you need to ensure that your iPhone is updated to the latest available version, at least iOS 11 to be able to scan QR codes natively.
Before you proceed to follow any of the methods below, you must make sure the feature is enabled on your iPhone. You can enable QR code scanning on your iPhone by opening the Settings app and tapping on the ‘Camera’ section.
On the next screen, enable the ‘Scan QR Codes’ toggle.
This should turn on the feature so that you can scan and extract information from a QR code using any of the methods below.
How to scan QR codes on an iPhone
There are several ways you can scan QR codes using your iPhone. In this section, we’ll explain some of them using apps that are natively installed on iOS as well as third-party apps that you may often use with your iPhone.
Method #1: Using the Camera app on iOS
The easiest way to scan a QR code on iOS is by using the inbuilt Camera app that you usually use to capture pictures on your iPhone. Before you go ahead and use the app to scan a QR code, make sure the QR code is visible to your camera’s viewfinder. This method wouldn’t work if you have a QR code image saved to your phone’s library. If you have a digital copy of a QR code, transfer it to another device like a computer or phone, and open the image on that device to scan it using your iPhone.
When the QR code you want to scan is visible in front of you, open the Camera app on your iPhone.
Once the Camera app loads up, point the lens toward the QR code that you need to scan. When doing so, make sure that the entire QR code is visible inside the camera’s viewfinder.
The Camera app will now look for any data in the QR code and when it finds one, you’ll see a snippet inside a yellow box just below the code on your viewfinder. You can tap on this snippet to see more info. In this instance, the QR code displays a link inside the snippet.
Tapping on this snippet will load the webpage that’s linked to the QR code inside the Safari app.
Since the Camera app is something we regularly use, this is the easiest method to scan QR codes on your iPhone.
Method #2: Using Control Centre
There’s also a built-in dedicated QR code scanner on iOS that can be accessed from the Control Center. To use this, however, you will need to add the Code Scanner shortcut to the Control Center. In case you have not, you can add the Code Scanner shortcut by first opening the Settings app.
Inside Settings, tap on ‘Control Centre’.
Check if you can see the Code Scanner shortcut under ‘Included Controls’ on the next screen. If not, scroll down and you should find the Code Scanner shortcut under ‘More Controls’. When you find it, tap on the ‘+’ icon on the left side of the Code Scanner icon.
When you do that, the Code Scanner shortcut will move to the ‘Included Controls’ section.
You’re now ready to use this shortcut inside iOS to scan QR codes.
Note: You won’t need to perform the above steps when you have enabled the Code Scanner shortcut once.
For this, launch the Control Centre on your iPhone by following these steps:
- On iPhones without Home Button: Swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen.
- On iPhones with a Home Button: Swipe up from the bottom edge of any screen.
When the Control Centre appears, you should see the Code Scanner shortcut (a button that resembles a QR code) inside this screen. Tap on this shortcut.
On the next screen, you will see a square box and a torch icon at the bottom. To get all the info from the code, point your camera toward the QR code and make sure it stays within the constraints of the square box.
Code Scanner will now scan your viewfinder and detect a code itself when it finds one. The Code Scanner shortcut will directly open the action that’s relevant to the QR code that you scanned.
For instance, scanning a QR code to a URL will open the webpage automatically within Safari. This way, you’re not required to take action or decide what to do with a QR code when you spot one.
Method #3: Using the Wallet app
Besides the two methods mentioned above, iPhones also offer the ability to scan QR codes using the Wallet app. Apple lets you store various information in the form of “passes” through the Wallet app. These passes may include your credit, debit, or prepaid card info, shopping cards, boarding passes for a flight, movie tickets, rewards, student IDs, coupons, and any other digital piece of info.
Although some of these “passes” will be QR codes, the Wallet app won’t be able to extract info from any QR codes; so keep this option as a last resort when scanning QR codes on your iPhone.
To scan QR codes using this method, open the Wallet app on iOS.
Now tap on the ‘Get’ button.
This will pop up a menu from the bottom of the screen. Here, select the ‘Scan Code’ option.
The Wallet app will load the Camera on your iPhone and you can scan the code from the viewfinder and add a pass that can be saved onto the Wallet app.
Method #4: Using the Photos app on iOS
If you wish to access information from a QR code at a later time, you can capture a picture of the code for now and scan it afterward. This can be helpful if you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to access and save information that’s embedded inside a QR code. For this, open the Camera app on your iPhone.
Inside Camera, point your iPhone’s main camera at the QR code that you want to scan and then tap on the Shutter button at the bottom to capture a picture.
The image will now be captured and will be saved inside your camera roll. When you wish to scan this code, open the Photos app on your iPhone.
Inside Photos, tap on the picture where you scanned the QR code.
When the image opens in full screen, tap on the scan icon (the one marked by square brackets and horizontal lines).
This scan icon will now be highlighted with a blue background. Now, tap on the QR code that’s visible inside the captured image.
The app will now show you various options depending on the information embedded inside the code.
In this instance, the Photos app reveals an overflow menu that shows a link present on the QR code and additional options to open the link in Safari, copy it, share it, and add the webpage to your Safari Reading List.
Method #5: Using the Google app
If you’re someone who often uses the Google app to search for stuff on the internet, you can also use it to scan QR codes set in front of you. In case you don’t already use it, you can download the Google app from this App Store link.
Once it’s installed, open the Google app on your iPhone.
When the app opens, make sure you’re on the app’s home page by taping on the Home tab at the bottom left corner.
On this screen, tap on the Camera icon on the right-hand side of the search bar at the top.
This will open Google Lens which is part of the Google app available for iOS. You do not need to install the Google Lens app again to use this feature. Inside the Google Lens screen, tap on the camera button at the top.
Google will now use your camera to show you the in-app viewfinder with large square brackets.
When this screen appears, point your iPhone’s camera at the QR code you wish to scan. You need to make sure that your camera is pointed in such a way that the code appears inside the square brackets.
When the Google app detects the code from the camera, it will reveal the information available on the code in a small snippet on top of the code. In this instance, the code shows a link that’s embedded in it. You can open this link by tapping on the snippet.
If the app fails to detect the QR code from the viewfinder, tap on the Search button at the bottom to allow the app to search the whole screen.
When a code has a link in it, the webpage will be opened in the in-app browser available inside the Google app.
Method #6: Using Google Chrome, Firefox, and other web browsers
If you prefer using a web browser other than Safari, you may be able to use it to scan a QR code right within the web browser apps. You can scan QR codes using Google Chrome, Firefox, Brave, and a few other web browsers and the option to scan them may be accessible with a long tap on the app’s icon.
In this example, we’re using the Firefox app. To scan a QR code using Firefox, tap and hold on the Firefox icon on your home screen or App Library.
When the overflow menu appears, tap on Scan QR Code. The option should be similarly named on other web browsers.
If you haven’t granted Firefox access to your iPhone’s camera, you will be prompted to approve this access. In this prompt, tap on Ok to allow Firefox to use your camera.
You will now see the Scan QR Code screen inside Firefox with blue square brackets where you need to position the QR code you wish to scan.
Point your iPhone’s main camera at the QR code and make sure this code appears inside the blue square brackets.
When Firefox detects the QR code, it will open the embedded information within the browser.
In this instance, the code we scanned opens the webpage that was linked to the code. The process is similar on Google Chrome, Brave, and other browsers.
Why can’t I scan QR codes on my iPhone? How to fix
Scanning information within a QR code is pretty easy on iPhones but if you’re unable to use it, it could be due to a number of reasons. First things first, before you go ahead and open scan a code using the Camera app or Control Center, make sure you have the Scan QR Codes option toggled on.
This is important as leaving the feature turned off will prevent your iPhone’s camera from reading a code you’re pointing at. This step would only be necessary if you use methods #1, #2, and #3. If you’re using any of the other methods listed here, you wouldn’t be required to turn on the Scan QR codes option inside your iPhone’s camera settings.
While QR codes may be easily detected on your iPhone, it’s important to know where and how to point your camera during the scanning process. For best results, make sure that the code you’re about to scan is positioned at the center of the screen where the scanner’s square brackets are visible and that the entire code is visible inside these square brackets.
Your iPhone may not be able to scan the code if it’s too far or too close to the code, so make sure the scanner’s square brackets are aligned with the square layout of the QR code.
If you’re still unable to scan a QR code using your device’s camera, we’d recommend you first save the QR code as an image on your iPhone and then detect its embedded info using the Photos app or Google app.
That’s all you need to know about scanning QR codes on an iPhone.