Occasionally you will find here some barcodes like the one below. If you saw them already, but as an Android newbie you thought they belong to the supermarkets only ;) then this short guide is for you.

The truth is, these are not exactly “barcodes” but QR codes (bi – dimensional barcode). While the simple barcodes (used on products in the supermarket for example) contains only digits, the QR codes can contain characters, so you can get quite a bit of information.

The QR Codes originally founded by the Toyota car company,  in order to reduce the process time of identifying parts by the employees. But a little later, the rest of the world have realized the potential of it, and two-dimensional bar codes began to appear in all sorts of places.
Today, the QR code is very popular in the cellular world and in the Android in particular, as it can contain links, advertisements, contacts and more…

Any device with a camera can scan the bar-code (regular or bi – dimensional) with the camera of the device and decode the hidden information behind it. Whether it’s a link to a website, a contact, address on the map, a link to app in the market, just text, or a combination of digits (standard bar code) – the device will figure out the information and will present it to you.

So what is it good for? For a lot of things: first and foremost it is convenient. In most of the apps reviews in this website, for example, we will add a QR-code image, so a quick scan with your device will lead you directly to that app in the market. Without unnecessary searches, common typing errors, etc… Just scan the QR code and download the app.

There are a few apps for scanning bar codes, just search ‘barcode scanner’ in the market and choose one. I recommend this simple one but there are not so many differences.

Another common use, but mainly in the U.S., is the price comparison tool – After scanning a barcode (standard) that is embedded on any product, we get a combination of numbers which belongs to that product. Then, using our mobile Internet and Google, we will get a detailed information on all places nearby which sells that product and even which one is cheaper. Then, because we have an Android device, we can use Google maps that will direct us to the chosen store.

How can I make my own barcode? Very simple:

ZXing (short for Zebra Crossing, the guys who brought this project to mobile phones) made a tool in which we can create any kind of QR code we want. Just choose the type of information you want to encode (link, contact, etc …), fill in the fields, enter the barcode size you want, and its ready. Here is the link.
I hope this will help you. If you have questions please ask in the comments and I’ll try to answer.
Go on then, start scanning!