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

The Government of India announced in 2021 that they will be using QR codes to deliver E-RUPI digital vouchers to beneficiaries1

On a completely different side of the spectrum, news had circulated some time ago that a bar code helped police forces catch a murder culprit recently2.

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 barcodes and QR codes seems indistinguishable. 

In some cases, it actually is! (Exhibit A: Japan’s rMQR code3)

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. 

QR Code

Difference Between Barcodes And QR Codes

A barcode helps in storing and transmitting data related to consumer products or customers. So, for instance, when customers go grocery shopping, the POS terminals scan these barcodes. 

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 helps in facilitating online payments as well. 

So, 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 two types – Two-dimensional codes and Three-dimensional codes Ideally, it is of two types – Two-dimensional codes and 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
Barcodes Vs QR Codes

What Is A Barcode?

A barcode is a machine-readable label ideally consisting of a pattern of –

  • Lines of varying lengths
  • Numeric values
  • Alpha-numeric values

…or a combination of all. 

Therefore, merchants from various industries use these coded labels 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, various industries use hundreds of different types of barcode configurations 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?

QR code meaning is a Quick Response code and technically speaking, it is 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. 

Cashfree Payments

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. Thus, 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 in use 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 UPI 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 logos to make them recognizable and more reliable
  • They’re also easy to generate and one can save them 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. 

On The Basis of Dimensions

2D QR Codes

Since these are two-dimensional in nature, users usually print them on a flat surface like paper or signage. 

Moreover, users can print them using a regular printer. Hence, they are convenient for both 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 usually, manufacturers or warehouses use them that need such capabilities.  

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?

We already covered the difference between a barcode and a QR code. And now let’s understand how they differ from 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

Barcode Vs QR Code – Which Is Better?

When we compare and talk about the difference between barcodes and QR codes, it is questionable – which one is better.

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 barcodes will, in the coming future, get restricted to certain industries and segments only.