Barcode vs QR Code 101: The Ultimate Head to Head | Blog

Barcode vs QR Code 101: The Ultimate Head to Head

Barcode vs QR code. Both offer great functionalities and have embedded themselves in our everyday life —from business applications to personal use.

But what are the main differences and applications? What are the advantages when it comes down to choosing one over the other? Are QR codes going to replace barcodes?

Let’s take a look at both codes to answer these and other questions in this exciting duel!

Table of Contents

What is a Barcode

According to Denzo Wave, a barcode is a machine-readable representation of numerals and characters. It comprises bars and spaces of varying widths that can be read with optical barcode readers.

Joe Woodland invented the barcode in the early 1950s and it was based on Morse code. Ever since it flooded nearly every aspect of industry and modern life. It’s used as a control and identification method for products.

There are one-dimensional barcodes and others are two-dimensional. The former can be scanned with any laser scanner, and the latter with an imager only.

Barcode’s main components include:

  • Quiet zone (blank margin located at either end of a barcode.
  • Barcode symbol
  • Start character (the first character in the sequence below the bars)
  • Data message (the following three characters)
  • Check digit (the penultimate character)
  • Stop character (there last character in the sequence)

There are several types of barcodes, each one with symbol variations.

  1. EAN (JAN): They display only numerals (0 to 9) and are the most commonly used for products. Compativle with EAN in Europe and UPC in EE.UU.
  2. Interleaved 2 of 5: They also use numerals (0 to 9) and are the standard distribution code. Very common in logistics.
  3. Codabar (NW-7): It uses numerals (0 to 9), symbols, and start-stop characters (a to d). It can be easily printed and is mainly used for shipping labels, envelopes, and laboratory samples.
  4. CODE 39: It comprises numerals, symbols, alphabetical letters, and start-stop characters. They are commonly used in factory automation.
  5. CODE 128: These codes use all 128 ASCII characters, 3 start characters and 1 stop character, 4 non-data function characters, and 4 code setting selection characters. Mostly used for electronic part management.

Barcode Use

Barcodes have several applications.

  • Logistics: From tracking, shipping, and storage, barcodes help industries keep track of their products and inventories.
  • Retail: This industry uses barcodes to identify products in storage and during payments.
  • Healthcare: Hospitals use barcodes to identify patients and medical treatments.
  • Airline luggage: Carriers use barcodes to help track and identify luggage.

Key Benefits

  • One system to identify products.
  • Traceability of items along the supply chain.
  • One quick scan and no typing of product information.

What is a QR Code

QR codes are basically 2D codes and their name means “quick response code.” They appear in 1994 as an evolution of the traditional barcode. Only one QR code can store several pieces of information in almost every format —text, video, sound, URLs, and much more.

The information is available via a QR code scanner, such as a mobile application or a phone’s main camera. Static QR codes can store multimedia data, which can never be edited or deleted; meanwhile, the information contained in a dynamic QR code can be edited as many times as needed.

People can create QR codes for several uses with QR code generators like These codes can be customized and offer a myriad of possibilities to share content such as social media profiles, review forms, YouTube videos, MP3 maps, locations, PDF files, and much more.

QR Code Use

QR codes are very versatile and can be used in many ways:

  • Share links: With a multiple links QR code, people can create codes to share any URL —for a website, a social media profile, a document’s link, etc.
  • Send emails: With just one scan, you can send an email with a QR code for email and get in contact with e.g. customer support.
  • Make phone calls: Just as easy as scanning a code that redirects to a phone number that you can dial.
  • Send SMS: QR codes are absolutely convenient to send preset text messages so no one has to type it manually!
  • Share WhatsApp contacts: You don’t want people to have to type in your number, save it, and then open it on WhatsApp? A WhatsApp QR code will open the chat window in one scan,
  • Connect to Wifi: QR codes allow users to connect to internet networks without the need to search for the name and ask for the password.
  • Share PDF files: From a business presentation to a restaurant menu, QR codes connect users with a versatile document format.
  • Share images: With just one scan, people can access whole image galleries that can later be saved on their mobile devices.
  • App downloads: Developers can promote their apps by allowing potential users to download them instantly with just one scan.
  • Share MP3 files: Promote your music or share that track that you like via a QR code.

Differences Between Barcodes and QR Codes

Barcode and QR code differences are pretty significant:

  1. QR codes have more storage capacity when compared to barcodes.
  2. Barcode use is limited to industry and business applications, while QR codes have both industrial and personal applications.
  3. Anyone can create QR codes, while barcodes need special software.
  4. QR codes can be customizable and editable —if they are dynamic. By creating an account in, you can access personalize and edit the dynamic code as many times as you want.
  5. QR codes can be up to 10 times smaller than barcodes and still be scannable. This means a smaller size and more information.
  6. Barcodes are harder to read with a barcode scanner, while QR codes can be scanned from different angles.
  7. QR codes are more resistant and can continue to work even when they’re broken to some extent.
  8. Storing data: Barcodes store data in parallel lines, while QR codes store information both vertically and horizontally

How to Scan Barcodes

You must use machines that read barcode data representation, or barcode scanners. You must aim the red laser at the barcodes and press the scanner’s button.

When using a flat scanner, just swipe the barcode across the flat scanner’s surface. Most scanners will beep once your scan has been registered.

How to Scan QR Codes

Use a QR scanner —a QR scanning app or a smartphone camera— and point to the QR code. A frame will appear around the corners of the QR code, followed by a banner, which you would want to tap. Once you do this, the information will appear on the screen.


Will QR codes replace barcodes?

The sheer convenience, versatility, and storage capacity of QR codes will continue to gradually push aside the barcode. However, barcodes are unlikely to disappear since they’re perfect to store simple information.

Which is faster to read barcode vs QR code?

Since QR codes are easier to scan by being 2D in nature, they are faster than barcodes. QR codes rely on short URL technology, which makes the information load way faster in comparison


Barcodes are part of our everyday life but we don’t notice it. However, QR codes are flooding the world and we are aware of their presence nearly every day, in every interaction with people and businesses.

Although barcodes are yet to disappear, QR codes pack much more punch and are so accessible that you only need to use a QR code generator and create codes yourself!

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Manage Your QR Code Campaigns lets you generate fully customized QR Codes, with color & shape, logo and keep track of how many people scan your QR Codes, from where and on what date.


Cristian Bustos

Cristian is Senior Content Manager for He is an experienced and versatile writer with a demonstrated history of working in journalism, public relations, and B2B marketing.