In this blog, we’ll talk about the basic difference between barcode and QR code. We’ll also cover their distinguishing features, types, and advantages. 

The Government of India recently announced that they will be using QR codes to deliver E-RUPI digital vouchers to beneficiaries. 

On a completely different side of the spectrum, a bar code helped police forces catch a murder culprit recently. 

Both of these statements seem quite disjointed, don’t they? 

However, here is something that DOES connect them. 

In both of these cases, scannable codes helped facilitate government agencies. Whether it be payments or well, crime solving! 

Now, On the face of it, the difference between a barcode and QR code seems indistinguishable. 

In some cases, it actually is! (Exhibit A: Japan’s rMQR code)

Nevertheless, if you look closely, you’ll see that Barcodes and QR codes are quite different. In this blog, we’ve tried to clear the air with as many examples as possible. 

What is the Difference Between a Barcode And QR Code?

A barcode helps in storing and transmitting data related to consumer products or customers. So, for instance, when a customers goes grocery shopping, a bar code is scanned on the POS terminal. 

On the other hand, a QR code helps in storing and transmitting various types of information including, text, images, contacts, music, etc. Most importantly, it can be used for facilitating online payments as well. For instance, when you 

Let’s now take a holistic look at the difference between a barcode and a QR code.

DifferentiationBarcodeQR Code
RepresentationA vertical arrangement of parallel linesAn arrangement of dots of various sizes on a square or rectangle grid
Year of DevelopmentDeveloped in 1952 by Norman Joseph WoodlandDeveloped in 1994 by Masahiro Hara
TypesIdeally, it is of three types,Numeric codesAlpha-numeric codesTwo-dimensional codes Ideally, it is of two types,Two-dimensional codes Three-dimensional codes 
Information storageStores lesser customer-centric information compared to QR codesStores more customer-centric information as compared to barcodes
Identification uniquenessCommon for similar products. For example, every 20gm pack of chips by a particular company will have the same barcodeUnique in nature. QR codes give a unique identifier to every asset, such as a product, a web page, or any other asset linked to it 
Ease of scanningDifficult to scan sometimes and have to be entered manually into the system Easy to scan even when scanned upside-down or in a damaged state

What Is A Barcode?

A barcode is a machine-readable label ideally made up of a pattern of:

  • lines of varying lengths
  • numeric values
  • alpha-numeric values

…or a combination of all. 

These coded labels are used by merchants across various industries to track assets and inventory throughout the entire supply chain.   

How a barcode works

Moreover, when applied with thought and planning, barcodes have proven to be excellent tools to,

  • Manage inventory costs 
  • Reduce errors
  • Provide visibility to the supply chain 
  • Save time and effort to update inventory 

Types Of Barcodes

Potentially hundreds of different types of barcode configurations are being used across various industries today. 

However, they’re built on three standard types of barcodes.

  • Numeric-only barcodes 
  • Alpha-numeric barcodes
  • 2-dimensional barcodes

Numeric-only barcodes are those that consist of only numbers. Meanwhile, alpha-numeric barcodes are a combination of numbers and alphabets. 

These two types of barcodes are usually categorized as one-dimensional or 1D barcodes.

one dimensional barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes or 2D barcodes are typically square or rectangular in shape. They’re made of a series of small dots arranged in a particular pattern.

two dimensional barcodes

Compared to 1D barcodes, 2D barcodes can hold much larger quantities of data in a smaller amount of space. 

Moreover, they’re readable even when printed or inscribed on a product in a very small size. 

What Is A QR Code?

Technically speaking, QR codes or Quick Response codes are a form of a 2D barcode. They’re checkerboard-like scannable squares that have grown much in popularity in recent years. 

Unlike a barcode, a QR code is backed by a link that when scanned, takes the scanner to a webpage, an app, or in many cases, a payment portal. They can also be easily scanned using a smartphone camera.  

Nowadays, QR code payments are becoming a necessity for merchants accepting payments today. 

Even small and medium business owners, from Kirana stores to online businesses, are starting to accept payments through QR codes. 

Interestingly, QR codes can help turn Cash on Delivery orders into online payments. This can help e-commerce businesses move toward a digital-first payment ecosystem.

Advantages Of QR Codes

QR codes have come a long way from being just regular inventory management tools. Today, they’re being extensively used across various sectors for multiple day-to-day activities. 

To give you an example, many restaurants now ask customers to scan QR codes to access the restaurant’s menu and even place orders. 

This helps reduce the counter line by enabling quick payments.

Meanwhile, thanks to companies like Paytm, BharatPe, PhonePe, etc., consumers can now scan QR codes at a merchant site and quickly make payments against their purchases. 

QR code scan and pay

Other advantages of QR codes are as follows. 

  • They’re quick and error-free payments
  • Comparatively, they enable merchants to access more customer information
  • They can be embedded with business logo to make them recognizable and more reliable
  • They’re easy to generate, and can be saved in the form of an image
  • They’re readable even in a damaged state
  • Customers can easily scan QR codes using their smartphone’s camera or any UPI app

What are the Types Of QR Codes?

QR codes can be differentiated on the basis of dimensions or their usage. 

Types of QR Codes: On The Basis of Dimensions

2D QR Codes

Since these are two-dimensional in nature, they’re usually printed on a flat surface like paper or signage. 

Moreover, they can be printed using a regular printer, and hence, are convenient for both the merchants and customers.  

3D QR Codes 

Although they look exactly like 2D QR Codes, 3D QR Codes are created using dedicated 3D printers. 

Unlike 2D QR codes that have squares, 3D ones have boxes. Moreover, the latter can hold more information and is usually used by manufacturers or warehouses that need such capabilities.  

Types of QR Codes: On The Basis of Usage

Besides the above-mentioned two types of QR codes, they can also be classified as static and dynamic QR codes. 

A static QR code is the same for every customer. So, once they scan the code, they need to enter their 

  1. payment amount 
  2. payment details
  3. Name and payment description, if needed

On the other hand, a dynamic QR code is unique to every customer. On scanning, they just need to enter their payment details and nothing else.

Apart from this, there are certain other differences between the two.

static vs dynamic qr codes

What Is The Difference Between A Barcode, QR Code, And RFID?

RFID or radio-frequency identification is a unique technology which, similar to scannable codes, inscribes information in tags. 

It requires a reader to access the information and complete the necessary process. 

FASTag is a classic example of RFID. It utilizes the technology to make toll payments directly from the user’s prepared FASTag card to the respective authorities. 

Unlike a scannable code, RFID makes use of electromagnetic fields. Here’s how it works.

  • An RFID tag contains some basic information, which could be, for instance, an inventory number
  • An RFID reader releases some interrogation pulse in the form of radio signals and indicates the reader to read the encoded information

Which Is Better, Barcode Or QR Code?

Every old technology is someday replaced by a newer innovation. The same is the case with barcodes vs QR codes. 

Introduced in 1952, barcodes helped businesses streamline their inventory and other similar processes. QR codes just helped them diversify into innovative directions. 

Where barcodes have been sincerely encoding simple information for merchant understanding for many decades now. QR codes are helping simplify the old, complex inventory management system into a simpler module. 

In fact, with the rate at which QR codes are being innovated and used across various vertices, it’s no surprise that the usage of barcode will, in the coming future, get restricted to certain industries and segments only.