One of the primary goals of BarcodePublicity.com is to educate consumers in the United States of QR scanning “apps” available for their phone.
We focus on this aspect for three primary reasons:
1. The majority of mobile phone subscribers in the United States still do not realize that their phones can be used as mobile barcode readers.
2. Some apps available may work for some types of 2D barcodes (UPC codes), but are not intended for the reading more detailed QR codes.
3. Some apps are available only through overseas carriers. I’ve downloaded a couple of programs that appeared to be for the Blackberry Curve, only to see them fail because they are not intended for use on US mobile devices.
In terms of the Blackberry Curve (which I’ve had for nearly 2 years… GASP!), there are really only two quality applications available for free download: BBM 5.0 and Scan Life. This review will focus on BBM 5.0’s built in barcode scanning software and I will focus the next review on Scan Life.
This past fall, Blackberry introduced a new feature to its Blackberry Messenger instant messaging application. They assigned a QR barcode to each user, based upon his or her BBM PIN Number. This barcode was accessible / viewable on one users screen and could be scanned by a friend/colleague with the same App to pull the associated contact information into his/her BBM contacts.
No longer would users have to key a friend’s PIN into his/her BBM Contacts, not only saving time but also the potential for user entry error: (eg: is that a zero or an O???).
It is interesting that RIM did not decide to include the BBM scanning software as a tool that could be selected from its camera menu features. I’m not sure whether RIM simply did not recognize the uses for barcodes outside of communications, or, more likely, they were happy to let other firms pay them to design apps for additional uses. In either case, the BBM 5.0 software is a robust solution for scanning QR barcodes.
The BBM 5.0 software is the only app that I have found for the Blackberry Curve that actually scans for a barcode. Other solutions seem to take a picture of the barcode and then process it. In the case of BBM, the user goes into his/her BBM application, selects “Scan a Group Barcode” from the Blackberry Menu, and the scanner is automatically turned on.
This “scanner” versus “image processer” acts as both a positive and negative feature for the software platform for marketing uses.
On the positive side, I personally feel more comfortable when the phone is doing the “scanning.” It is making the effort of taking the picture for me when it is clear… capturing image many times while trying to decode it. Applications that force users to take a picture of the barcode before processing it results in the potential for unclear/out of focus picture that cannot be processed; forcing the user to try again or give up.
There are two benefits to taking a picture and then having your app process it. One is the ability to bring a barcode you scanned previously back on your screen for you to process at a later time. The other is that, if you can bring a barcode up on your screen you can also allow a friend to scan it.
Someday soon, barcode scanning software will be preloaded on phones, most likely as an option within the phone’s existing camera menu. An even more interesting possibility would be a setting to allow the barcode scanner to be automatically “on” as soon as a user turns his/her camera on. The phone will automatically scan for a barcode, but if there is no barcode present after 10 seconds or if the user takes a picture first, it will ignore the feature.
The BBM 5.0 scanning feature’s only other drawback is in terms of the size of the barcode it is capable of scanning. The QR Codes generated by BBM 5.0 take up the entirety of the Curve’s screen (2.5″). This made the most sense to RIM, because the larger the image, the easier it is to be scanned by another user’s phone. While it is unlikely that marketers will be using codes much smaller than this, and the quality of the BBM scanner will only improve with time, this is worth noting in terms of comparing various barcode scanning app software.
In sum, Blackberry provided a very useful tool by building a QR scanner directly into its BBM 5.0 software. Although RIM’s focus was clearly on improving communications and the transfer of contact information from one Blackberry to another, its potential applications for interactive mobile marketing are clear.
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