QR codes (it stands for quick response, if you’re curious) are those square barcode-looking things you might have seen that, when scanned by your Android smartphone or iPhone, can send you straight to a particular webpage or to download an app, all without having to type in a complicated URL. While they used to be fairly rare to see, many businesses — especially restaurants — adopted them during the pandemic as a way of giving easy access to information like menus, without you having to touch anything.
They can be great time-savers, but they’re not always obvious in how to use them, particularly if you have an older Android phone. Here’s what you need to know.
New Android phone? Your camera might scan them automatically
As QR codes have become more common, more manufacturers have built QR scanners directly into the default camera app. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 will read them, as will the Pixel 7 Pro, but other phones — particularly older models — may not.
You can easily find out if your phone does this by opening the camera and pointing it at the QR code above (load this article later on a different device if you’re reading this on your phone). If your camera supports it by default, a small link will appear on screen to take you to CNET.com.
If not, you’ll need to download a QR code scanner.
While there are loads of QR scanners available for free in the Google Play store, the best option is Google’s own Google Lens, which offers a variety of text scanning and translation tools but also has a QR scanner. Download and install the app (if it isn’t already a default app on your phone) and when you open it, grant permission to use the camera.
Then, point it at your QR code and the app will reveal the hidden information, be it a website link or whatever. Keep the scanner app in a location you’ll remember as you’ll need to use it whenever you want to scan a QR code.