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

Barcode vs QR Code 101: The Ultimate Head to Head

Both types of codes 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 between the barcode and the QR code system!

Table of Contents

What is a Barcode

According to Denzo Wave, a barcode —not “bar code”— is a machine-readable representation of numerals and characters. It comprises parallel lines 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 barcode 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.

What Are Barcodes Mostly Used For?

Barcodes have several applications.

  • Logistics: From tracking, shipping, and storage, barcodes help industries keep track of their products and are often used for inventory management.
  • 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.

What Are the Advantages of Barcodes?

Accuracy: As barcodes prevent human mistakes, which can happen when manually entering data, they offer a high level of accuracy in data collection.

Speed: Because barcode scanning is quick and effective, a large number of transactions may be handled without delay.

Cost-effective: Barcodes are a cost-effective solution for companies of all sizes since they are easy to create and use. Barcodes give organizations the ability to track their inventory levels in real time, which lowers the danger of stock shortages and overstocking. This results in improved inventory control.

Improved customer service: Businesses can more easily provide tailored service by using barcodes to instantly obtain consumer information.

What Are the Disadvantages of Barcodes?

Restricted data: Barcodes normally only hold a few pieces of data, like a serial number or a product code. Additional labels or tags may be needed for information that is more specific.

Damage-prone: Scratches or damage to barcodes can render them illegible, which can compromise the accuracy of data collecting.

Technology dependency: Barcodes need specialized hardware, like a barcode scanner or mobile device, which may not be accessible or compatible with all systems.

Barcodes are easily copied, thus if they aren’t properly secured, they could be used for fraud or counterfeiting.

Environmental impact: Non-biodegradable materials, which are frequently used to make barcodes, can add to trash and pollution if improperly disposed of.

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, etc.

The information is available via a QR code reader, 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 dynamic QR codes can be edited as many times as needed.

Dynamic and Static QR code differences

People can create both 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. The uses in marketing campaigns are almost endless!

QR Code Use

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


Quick and simple: Without the need for manual data entry or typing, consumers can access information via QR codes swiftly and simply.

Large capacity: QR codes are beneficial for a variety of applications since they can hold a lot more data than standard barcodes.

Versatility: QR codes are used in many contexts, including product labeling, promotional materials, event tickets, and more.

Trackable: Marketing and business analytics may benefit from the ability to track user behavior and customer interaction using QR codes.

Enhancing the consumer experience: QR codes can be used to give clients more information about goods or services, as well as to offer discounts and exclusive promotions.

Cost-effective: QR codes can be generated and printed inexpensively, making them a cost-effective way to provide additional information to customers.

Contactless: Scanning QR codes can be done from a distance, reducing the need for physical contact and improving hygiene and safety in public settings.


Limited adoption: Despite their widespread use in some countries, QR codes are not yet universally adopted. This limits their usefulness in some markets or regions.

Required technology: QR codes require a smartphone or other device with a camera and a QR code scanning app, which not all users may have.

Dependence on Internet connectivity: QR codes often require Internet connectivity to access the information they contain, which can be a problem in areas with poor or no network coverage.

Potential misuse: Like any other technology, QR codes can be used to direct users to inappropriate or offensive content, which can be a concern for businesses and organizations using them in marketing campaigns.

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 on, you can access, personalize, and edit the dynamic QR 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 push aside the barcode gradually. However, barcodes are unlikely to disappear since they’re perfect to store simple information.

Barcodes and QR codes: Which is faster to read?

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.