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Scan 2.0: QR Codes and Beyond

Scan 2.0 app icon

Scan 2.0 app icon

I’ve certainly seen my fair share of complaints on Twitter, but QR Codes have their place. It’s unnecessary in advertising and definitely silly on T-Shirts, but I’ve found QR Codes save me heaps of time for things like importing contact information from business cards. Like it or not, these bit-by-bit squares of data are likely here to stay.

The QR Code itself necessarily isn’t the problem. It’s convenient shorthand for linking something physical to something digital. (I’d rather scan than open a web browser and type in a short URL.) The biggest point of friction, in my opinion, is the tool used to scan these codes. Likely, it’s an app on a smartphone. As I’ve said before, these scanners need to be effortless to use. Results have to be instant.

A row of iPhones displaying different Scan screenshots

A row of iPhones displaying different Scan screenshots

Last August, Scan earned my pick as the App Store’s best scanner. Over a year later, I’ll say it still holds that title. Starting with a remarkably easy to use iOS app, Scan is now a complete web service. Scan offers businesses a way to generate and manage codes and get analytics. QR Codes can be generated that instantly Like something on Facebook or Follow a business on Twitter (with your permission of course). And Scan makes available Scan Pages, which hosts a short bio and links to your various online profiles. For the rest of us, Scan's app alone fulfills the simple role of getting scanning codes quickly. No longer just a simple scanner, Scan is a complete service that goes beyond the QR Code. There's something for everyone.

Yesterday I spoke with Garrett Gee, founder of Scan, regarding the latest updates to his app. I made note that Scan has remained incredibly simple, despite the powerful additions made to the service. “We’re a small team so SIMPLE is our game,” Garrett told me over Google Chat. “A lot of devs try to buff up their numbers by getting users to stick in the their app as long as possible… We’ve always had the mindset that we want to deliver as much value as possible as quickly as possible.”

Scan Screenshots (Camera and History)

Scan Screenshots (Camera and History)

Scan 2.0 doesn’t simply add a layer of pretty paint on top of an already speedy application. It’s a complete scanning tool that not only scans QR Codes, but UPCs, EANs, and ISBNs as well. Scanning different codes will yield different results; Scanning an ISBN for example brought up a list of price comparisons that could potentially save shoppers lots of money. The best part — scans are saved to history so you can recall them later. If you allow Scan to grab your location, Scan also pins where you scanned a code on a map (especially useful for city dwellers if you remember where you scanned something, but not what you scanned).

Impressed, I asked Garrett what the magic was behind all of this voodoo — specifically regarding the price comparisons. On the backend, Scan looks at a bunch of retailers including Amazon and gives customers a chance to find the best prices. Garrett says that while it’s not 100%, it’s a solid foundation. While I’m accustomed to Google Shopping for comparing prices, I was impressed with Scan’s results.

Scan 2.0 is interesting in that there’s Facebook and Twitter integration. Up top, I mentioned that users can scan special QR Codes that let’s people Like something or Follow someone. Scan 2.0 prompts people to log in with either a Facebook, Twitter, or email account, but can be skipped altogether. The benefit of logging into the app? It lets history sync between devices and your web account, while Facebook and Twitter integration makes Likes and Follows that much easier. “You can share stuff from within our app, but we never post on your behalf,” Garrett assures me. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about Scan automatically posting to your wall or feed here.

Additionally, adding your Facebook and Twitter info lets Scan automatically fill out some information for you. “For example, if you Scan a QR code that takes you to a survey, we will fill out the personal information for you if you confirm that you want us to do so.” If you sign in with just your email, you can fill out this information yourself in the settings. Information you can enter boils down to your full name, email, zip code, and phone number. Garrett says that Scan doesn’t do anything with your private information — the fields are simply there to make your life easier if you want to take advantage of it.

The app itself remains fast and fluid. The previous screenshot you might have seen on MacStories shows a drastic improvement in capturing codes. A flashlight button, a library icon to import pictures or snapshots of codes, and a focus button now accompany the familiar crosshairs. The camera is the forefront of the app — you simply tap the app icon on your home screen and take a snapshot to get your near instant result. If you pay attention, you may notice the neat animation as Scan launches: the buttons are overlaid on the camera view with Path-like detail.

Scan Screenshots (Settings and Favorites)

Scan Screenshots (Settings and Favorites)

Behind the gear button, however, are small tweaks and settings that let you customize your experience. You can manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts, update your user information, quickly contact the developers for support, and even get a list of the company's favorite apps.

Curious, I asked Garrett if the list of favorite apps in Scan integrated with the app or if it was simply a kind gesture towards the iOS community. “It really is just our way of saying, ‘We work hard to make great apps and we value those who do the same.’”

There’s lots of love put behind Scan. For something as simple as handling barcodes, Garrett and his team have created something that delivers exactly the kind of experience I look for in a scanner. With 25 million downloads under its belt, Scan is deservedly one of the most popular scanners on the App Store. Not just an app, Scan’s website gives both people and companies look to connect with customers a solid assortment of tools to generate and capture QR Codes.

My initial impression remains unchanged. Scan 2.0 for iOS is the scanner to have on your iPhone or iPod touch. The app is universal, so you can expect the performance and ease of use on the iPad and iPad mini. Definitely recommended — download it from the App Store.

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