How QR Code Scanning Works in iOS 11

BY Khamosh Pathak

Published 22 Jul 2017

iOS 11 QR code scanning featured

Come fall, sharing information offline is going to get a lot easier. One of iOS 11’s new features integrates QR code functionality right inside the Camera app. And in true Apple spirit, it’s hidden until invoked and it “just works”. Millions of phones and tables across the world will be able to join Wi-Fi networks, open web pages, call a number just by holding up their phone in front of a QR code.

This, of course, is huge for countries like China where QR codes are used for everything from payments to messaging.

How QR Code Scanning Works

Just open the camera app on your iPhone or iPad and hold it up in the way that the QR code is clearly visible in the camera view.

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You don’t need to press the shutter button or do anything else. Depending on what the QR code is about, you’ll see a banner notification on top that will state the type of QR Code you’re scanning (for example, “Website QR Code”), and will tell you what action the QR code can perform (“open in Safari”).

ios 11 QR code scanning 2

If you choose to perform the action, tap on the notification banner and it will happen.

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Apple, of course, has implemented this in a classic Apple way. You get all the important information from the QR code beforehand and nothing actually happens until you tap on the notification.

QR Code Formats That Apple Supports

Apple supports close to a dozen QR code formats.

Wi-Fi Networks: You’ll be able to join Wi-Fi networks just by scanning a code. This will make interactions at public places like cafes and conferences, much smoother.

Phone: You’ll be able to call someone by scanning a QR Code.

Contacts: You’ll be able to import a contact card that’s filled with details like email address and phone number, just by scanning a QR code. When you’re out meeting people at events, this should make the interactions much faster.

Calendar: Scanning a QR code will let you add the event directly to your calendar.

Messages: By scanning a code, you’ll be able to open the Messages app compose window with the number and preselected text already filled in.

Maps: You’ll be able to open a location directly in the Apple Maps app.

Mail: A pre-configured email based QR code opens the compose window in the Mail app, with the address, subject and message text already filled in.

Website: You can directly open specific a specific web page using a QR code. When a page is 4 levels deep on a site or if you’re running a special promotion, this QR code can come in handy.

Callback-URLs: This could potentially be huge for iOS apps. Using callback-URLs, scanning a QR code can open an app or a specific part of an app. So in future, this can be used to open a payment screen in an app.

HomeKit: Apple now supports pairing HomeKit enabled devices using QR Codes.

What Do You Think of This Feature?

In the west, QR codes are seen as an anomaly or a joke. But there are parts of the world like China where this feature would be genuinely useful. And the way Apple has implemented this, it’s a double edged sword.

People who have no use for it can carry on with their life never even thinking or coming across this feature. Where as countries where QR codes are prevalent, Apple will need to spend resources educating users about this feature. Because there’s just no obvious, simple way to discover it.

What do you think? Will this feature be useful for you? Share with us in the comments below.