2D Barcode vs QR Code: What’s the Difference?

Artificial Intelligence

If you make the checkout process difficult for your customers, you’re going to lose money. Countless businesses have an inefficient checkout experience, which results in lost sales. And where do those customers go? To your competitors. 

Whether you’re creating custom products and selling them in-store, or are launching an app and want people to download it, the purchasing process needs to be fast and easy. 

That’s why business owners will often use different types of barcodes, to make it simple to gather information about a particular product.

2D barcode vs QR code, what’s the difference between these two seemingly simple technologies, and which one is better suited for your business? That’s exactly what we discuss below. Keep reading to learn the differences between a QR code vs barcode label. 

When Were Barcodes Invented?

Before barcodes existed, making a purchase from a local market was a time-consuming process. If a business used a cash register, then they would’ve had to memorize the pricing of their products, to ensure they charge the correct amount.

If they had too many products to remember, they would’ve had a piece of paper with a list of products and their prices, for employees to add up and calculate a total.

In either instance, checking out at the grocer took time, especially if a line had formed.

But in the 1970s, we saw the release of new technology that would forever change how we purchase products from physical stores.

What Is a 1D Barcode?

The first effective barcode (there with other attempts before this) came about in the late 1970s when IBM first released the UPC (Universal Product Code), thanks to the help of George Laurer. 

This is the bar code that we are all familiar with. It’s what you’ll find on every product at a grocery store or other physical retailer.

The vertical lines, with varying thicknesses and spacing between the lines, contain enough information to connect a physical product with a product number in a database. The store’s database will pull up the item and pricing information automatically upon scanning the barcode.

This drastically improves speed and efficiency in any retail environment. And due to the simplicity of the design, with flat layers, these are one-dimensional barcodes and have serious limitations when considering use cases outside of a grocery store. 

What Is a QR Code?

QR codes (Quick Response codes) are similar to barcodes but contain much more information than a simple product number. They look more like a checkboard than a standard barcode and are square-shaped rather than rectangular. 

QR codes can do much more than barcodes. Whereas barcodes can only be read by specialized scanners, your smartphone can read QR codes.

Most QR codes contain a link to a website, an app to download on your device, or some other type of information online. You can use a smartphone’s camera to read the QR code and be directed, in your web browser, to the corresponding information. 

But businesses can also use QR codes to lead customers to a payment portal. That means it is easier for customers to pay you for a product or service without having to deal with long, physical interactions.

Since QR codes are often included on product packaging or other types of labels, they are almost always mass printed. And this requires a decent investment. 

The last thing you want is to spend a bunch of money on packaging, only for the QR code, or 1D barcode not to work. You can read about barcode inspections here to ensure this doesn’t happen to you when printing your codes. 

2D Barcode vs QR Code

So are all QR codes considered 2D, or two-dimensional codes? Not necessarily. QR codes can actually be either 2D codes or 3D codes.

2D codes are any QR code that is printed on a piece of paper, signage, stickers, or other flat objects. When a QR is printed, it can be read on your scanner or smartphone from any angle. It can also read it upside down without any issues.

These are the most common types of QR codes used for regular business operations and consumer-based activity since any ink printer can print a functional QR code. 

3D QR codes are those that are multidimensional. They are printed with a traditional ink printer. They can either be printed on a 3D printer, that can print an object with multiple layers. Or they can be etched using specialized technology.

Because 3D codes have additional layers, they can store much more information. However, a standard smartphone camera or scanner won’t be able to read them.

They are usually used in manufacturing or automotive businesses where the need for more information is required. They have invested in specialty scanners in order to handle larger amounts of information. 

Data Matrix Code vs QR Code

But wait, there are other codes that often confuse business owners looking for the right scanning technology to use. What are data matrix codes?

At first glance, data matrix codes and QR codes look the same. But take a closer look. There are distinct characteristics of each code on the outer edges of the square.

A data matrix code has an L-shaped border along the outer edges of the code. This tells scanners what type of code it is, and helps them to process the information accordingly. 

QR codes don’t have that border but do have square boxes in three of the corners of the code telling the scanner what type of code it is.

Each type of code can contain a certain amount of characters in the space, and thus, a certain amount of information. 

Data matrix codes are able to contain more information in a smaller space. That makes them more suitable for small printing, whereas QR codes have a recommended minimum size for printing, in order for scanners to pick up all of the information. 

Codes for Consumers 

2D barcode vs QR code, now you know what a QR code is and how it can be used for different purposes. This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the different types of barcodes. There are many others, but these are the most relevant to business and consumer interactions. 

If you are looking to sell products to an end consumer, then the codes listed above may be just what you need.

Looking for more information? Be sure to check out our blog to find other helpful articles. 

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