On 2D barcodes 18:33 on Wednesday

I’m with Joel on this one: 2D barcodes don’t work. I will start believing in them once it’s as easy as pointing your phone/camera towards a bar code, the device automatically recognizes it is looking at a barcode, and lets me retrieve the linked information with a single click of a thumb.

8 Responses to “On 2D barcodes”


  1. Tina Says:

    That is how UpCodes work now. If you’ve got the UpCode app on your phone, when you see an UpCode you open the app, point your camera at the code, and it automatically recognizes it and takes you to the appropriate site. So one click, a few seconds of waiting, then point.

    However, the usefulness of this (as opposed to just typing in a web address) is still debateable.

  2. Niko Says:

    And how many clicks was it to open the app? Let me guess.. on S60 that’s maybe seven plus 10 seconds waiting for the app to launch? ;)

  3. Jukka Eklund Says:

    Niko, it’s easy to be cynical if you haven’t tried it yourself. N95 etc. have a reader app (like UpCode) it built-in. But I do agree that it needs to be integrated with the main camera so there is no need to activate a separete application.

  4. Niko Says:

    It’s easy to be cynical, I agree. It’s also easy for us geeks to be enthusiastic about stuff that normal people would never use. And things like upcode need normal users to gain any significant traction.

    All I’m saying is that the “cost to benefit ratio” of 2d barcodes isn’t there yet. The cost after spotting a barcode: find your phone in your pocket, unlock and find the correct application, launch app and wait, point camera and click, wait for browser to start up, wait for page to load, look for relevant information on the loaded page. The benefit: potentially useful information. The more times the resulting page does not deliver useful information, the more the cost weights against the benefit.

    So I’ll add another point: for 2d barcodes to take off, we need easier barcode scanning plus extra care and emphasis needs to be put into the result pages to make it apparent for users that there is a benefit.

    Does this make sense? ;)

  5. daniel.shugrue Says:

    I agree that the cost to benefit ratio isn’t there yet, for the reasons Niko states. I wonder what are the factors in Japan that allowed this to take off? Was is the reader built into the cameras over there or do they still have to launch a separate app? Is it simply a network effect of having enough devices and enough codes out there to use? Is the content behind the codes somehow better in Japan? What do we have to do/promote in order to make this a useful technology?

  6. Tina Says:

    @Niko: It takes you one click to open the app if you’ve made it a standby app. Which, I admit, requires more S60 knowledge than the average user is going to have. Plus a few seconds for the app to launch. And if you’ve got a N73 like me, remembering to slide open the camera lens cover before opening the app. :)

    Also yeah, what content is so vital that it’s worth digging your phone out to browse the dinky mobile web for? Tram delays, perhaps. But even so, that’s a lot of tinkering and set up to get that occasional benefit on a snowy day.

  7. Phil Wilson Says:

    Niko, given Joel’s post, surely the comparison should be with using QR codes would be seeing a URL on a poster. Your comment about the long mobile phone experience seems like a straw man:

    The cost after spotting a url: find your laptop in your bag, get it out, boot it up, find your browser, launch app and wait, hope you have a net connection, focus address bar, type URL and hit “go”, wait for page to load, look for relevant information on the loaded page. The benefit: potentially useful information.

    It doesn’t really seem that streamlined to me ;) Presumably the QR code process can only get better from here on out (and it’s definitely not perfect now!), but in the wild it takes me no more than ten seconds to go from seeing a QR code to looking at the resulting page. It takes me that long just to get halfway through typing a URL on my N95. :)

  8. Niko Says:

    Phil, you’re correct about the benefits of QR codes compared to writing a url on the phone.

    My point was not the relative difficulty of going to a web address using various technology, but that it is still too cumbersome to open a url using QR codes or any technology for that matter.