How Do You Scan a QR Code on An iPhone? A Step by Step Guide

Quick Response (QR) codes offer a revolutionary way to instantly open web links, download apps, add contacts, and more just by scanning a barcode-like square with your iPhone camera. But if you‘re new to using these black and white pixelated blocks, you may be wondering — how exactly does QR code scanning work on an iPhone?

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know, from a brief history of QR codes to step-by-step instructions for scanning using different iPhone apps. You‘ll also learn some best practices for creating scannable QR codes and how to avoid security risks.

So whether you‘re a QR code novice or a seasoned scanning pro, read on to boost your iPhone QR skills!

A Brief History of QR Codes

QR codes have been around since the 1990s, when a subsidiary of Toyota created them to track vehicle parts during manufacturing. The squares could hold 100 times more information than standard UPC barcodes, making them useful for all types of industries.

When smartphones with cameras became ubiquitous in the late 2000s, QR codes began appearing in advertising and packaging. Instead of manually typing in a web URL, people could just launch their phone‘s camera app and scan the code to instantly visit a website.

Over the past decade, QR codes have become increasingly popular across the globe. A 2021 Deloitte study found that 91% of US consumers have scanned a QR code with their phone‘s camera. The versatile technology now enables everything from contactless restaurant menus and mobile payments to school attendance tracking and Scavenger Hunt games.

Key Benefits of Scanning QR Codes

QR codes offer several advantages over typing URLs or retrieving files manually:

  • Convenience: Scanning a code takes just seconds and prevents typing errors
  • Direct access: QR codes take users exactly where intended, without risk of mistyping a link
  • Space savings: Codes condense lots of information into a small symbol
  • Tracking: QR Code analytics provide user scans and location data

Businesses have also found QR codes useful during the pandemic to facilitate contactless engagement. Museums can have codes next to exhibits that link to more content. Performing arts venues put codes on seats so patrons can order food without handing over paper menus covered in germs.

The possibilities are endless when you can bridge the physical and digital worlds with a quick iPhone scan!

Security Considerations When Scanning QR Codes

Of course, increased use of scannable codes also provides creative opportunities for cyber criminals. Security experts have noticed a rise in QR code exploits over the past few years.

Common hazards include:

  • Phishing sites that steal login credentials and personal information
  • Redirects to malware downloads that can infect your device
  • Links to financial scams like fake deals and giveaways
  • Codes engineered with tracking scripts to monitor your activity

The key is being vigilant about only scanning codes from trusted sources. Vous should also have protective software installed on your iPhone, like comprehensive antivirus and a VPN.

When in doubt, type the URL out manually in your mobile browser instead of scanning. It takes a few extra seconds but could save you from issues down the road.

Okay, now that you know the basics of QR code safety and security, let‘s get scanning!

How to Scan a QR Code Using Your iPhone Camera

The native camera app on iPhones running iOS 11 and above has built-in QR scanning capabilities. That means you can instantaneously read QR codes without downloading any extra software.

Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Open your iPhone‘s pre-installed Camera app. You can find it on your home screen, in the app library search, or swipe right from the lock screen.

  2. Select the rear facing camera. You‘ll see a live view of what‘s in front of your iPhone.

  3. Position your phone so the entire QR code fits inside the camera frame. It‘s easier to do this with the phone in landscape orientation.

  4. Hold the camera steady and wait 2-3 seconds. Once detected, a yellow notification box will appear around the code.

  5. Tap the banner to open the link or execute the QR code action.

That‘s all there is to it! The native camera scanner works great as long as the code itself is crisp, unobstructed, and made to open instantly.

Check out this 40 second video walkthrough showcasing the process:

Now let‘s review what to do if the default scanning tool has issues detecting your QR code or simply won‘t work at all on your iPhone model.

Troubleshooting iPhone QR Code Scanning Issues

Sometimes the native camera app struggles to scan QR codes cleanly. Smudges, scratches, folds, glare, busy backgrounds, and other variables can interfere with readability.

Small and overly complex QR codes also give the built-in scanner trouble occasionally.

If you‘re having issues, first make sure your iPhone meets the minimum requirements:

  • Running iOS 11 or above
  • Rear facing camera intact
  • QR code scanning enabled in Settings

You may also want to optimize the code itself and scanning environment:

  • Favor large, simple QR codes with only 1-2 actions
  • Print codes in high resolution
  • Display codes against blank, non-reflective backgrounds
  • Clean smudges off code if printed
  • Improve lighting conditions. Avoid shadows covering code.

Occasionally a process kill can reset glitchy apps too. You can force quit the native camera app and restart your iPhone if scanning fails multiple times under ideal conditions.

Still not working? Then installing a dedicated QR reading app from the App Store can provide enhanced scanning capabilities.

Best QR Code Reader Apps for iPhone

The iPhone App Store offers hundreds of customizable QR scanning apps with advanced features like flash toggle, auto-focus, and scanning history.

Here are 5 top-rated choices to consider downloading:

  • QR Code Reader – Very simple, no frills
  • QR & Barcode Scanner – Scans all code types
  • Qrafter – Syncs between devices
  • Scan – Stores scan history
  • NeoReader – Deals with reflections well

Most paid scanner apps cost under $5 and let you scan QR codes not just from the camera but also from your photo gallery and screenshots. Keep reading to learn why this comes in handy!

Scanning QR Codes from Photos in Your Camera Roll

The native iOS camera scanner only works when viewing codes through the actual phone lens. It can‘t read QR codes already captured as photos or screenshots in your camera roll.

This poses an issue if you encounter a code you want to save for later scanning. Thankfully, third party apps provide the solution!

Follow these steps:

  1. Install your preferred QR reader app from the list above (or another quality option with 4+ stars on the App Store)

  2. Open the app and look for the photo gallery icon, often located near the top right.

  3. Select the image containing the QR code. Zoom and crop to fit code in frame if needed.

  4. Tap the scan button.

  5. The app will read the QR code and display the link, text, contact information, or other embedded data.

Being able to pull up older QR scans from your camera roll comes in handy if codes originally failed to read. Just snap a picture as a backup.

This trick also lets friends or family share screenshots of QR codes for you to scan at your convenience rather than having to be in the same physical space as the code.

Okay, ready for another iPhone QR scanning method? The Apple Wallet app offers exclusive functionality for certain QR code types containing passes.

Scanning QR Codes with the Apple Wallet App

Your iPhone‘s pre-installed Wallet app supports scanning QR-based passes like:

  • Boarding passes
  • Event tickets
  • Coupons
  • Customer loyalty/reward cards
  • Student ID cards

For these specific use cases, you should scan the QR code directly in Wallet instead of the Camera app.

Here‘s the process:

  1. Open the Wallet app from your home screen
  2. Select the plus icon at the top right
  3. Choose Scan Code to Add a Pass
  4. Center QR code in viewfinder to scan
  5. The pass will save directly into your Wallet!

If the code contains something other than a scannable pass, the Wallet app won‘t work. Stick with the Camera or third party QR readers for web links, text, phone numbers, social media handles, etc.

Wallet scanning offers smooth integration between finding QR passes out in the real world and storing them securely in your digital wallet.

And for those times when even Wallet struggles, the iPhone Control Center hides yet another QR code trick…

Scan QR Codes from Control Center

You can enable a dedicated QR code reader as part of your iPhone‘s Control Center. It lacks other Camera app functionality but purely focuses on scanning codes.

Enable the Control Center shortcut under your iPhone‘s Settings > Camera > Toggle QR Code Reader to the ON position.

Now when you swipe down from the top right corner of your screen, you‘ll see the QR code icon alongside brightness controls, WiFi toggles, and other quick action buttons.

Tap the icon and center your QR code in the viewfinder that pops up. The Control Center scanner eliminates much of the guesswork associated with finicky built-in camera scanning.

Between your Camera app, third party downloads, Wallet, and Control Panel, you now have endless options for tackling QR codes that stump one method but succumb to another.

Frequently Asked QR Code Scanning Questions

Still hungry for more QR knowledge? Here I‘ll answer some commonly asked questions:

What‘s the difference between QR codes and barcodes?

QR codes present information two-dimensionally as pixels within a square, allowing more dynamic data than 1D barcodes. QR codes also enable actions beyond just looking up product info.

Some QR codes won‘t scan. Why?

Proprietary codes tied to specific apps likely won‘t work in alternate scanners. For example, payment app QR codes need that same app to process successfully. Stick to the native app for any specialized codes.

How can I tell if a QR code is safe to scan?

Vet the source, look for signs of tampering, check URL domain, and run links through malware scanners. When in doubt, manually enter the URL instead of scanning the code.

Can I save a QR code to scan later?

Yes! Snap a photo or screenshot QR codes to rescan anytime. Make sure you use a reader app that permits gallery and camera roll scanning.

Why does my iPhone fail to scan QR codes on the first try?

Fussy autofocus, shadows, glare, smudges, awkward angles, and low light conditions can interfere with reading QR codes. Experiment with positioning and lighting to eventually achieve a successful scan.


As you can see, iPhone QR code scanning is an easy, convenient way to bridge the digital and physical worlds. Master the various methods covered in this guide to get the most out of QR technology!

Just remember to carefully vet codes before scanning to protect your iPhone. Enable antivirus software as an extra precaution too.

Have more questions? Let me know in the comments!

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