Scan Bar Codes With Your Tablet: A Review of Popular Apps

tablet_man_holdingIt used to be that only businesses with specialized scanners could use bar code technology. Now, tablets, smart phones and other consumer devices enable the ordinary person to easily scan bar codes and QR codes.

Most tablets are equipped with built-in cameras, and there are many bar code scanning tablet apps available that work with the camera to scan and decode bar codes.

The biggest advantage of tablet apps for scanning bar codes and QR codes is how easily they allow you to access digital information on your tablet. Unlike computers, which have regular keyboards, it is more challenging and time-consuming to type with a tablet.

Scanning bar codes and QR codes offers a more convenient way to access data on your tablet--simply point your built-in camera at the code. The tablet app then uses image processing techniques to decode the bar code or QR code. You can even use bar codes and QR codes to pass information from a tablet to another tablet or device by scanning a bar code from the screen.

Most products, such as grocery items, books, CDs, DVDs, have had bar codes for quite some time. The bar codes were primarily used by staff for tracking inventory and for checking out items at the point of sale.

Now, consumers are using bar code scanning apps to easily compare prices and reviews. Scanning grocery items allows consumers access to nutrition information, coupons and integration with shopping lists and grocery management software. Scanning personal property and receipts can also be used for insurance purposes or in personal finance software.

Thanks to tablets and smart phones, QR codes are also becoming more ubiquitous, especially in advertising via posters, post cards, catalogs, brochures as well as business cards. QR codes usually contain links to the website, calendar events, plain text, phone numbers and other contact information, making it simple for consumers to obtain more information about products, events and businesses.

Bar code scanning is increasingly used in enterprise applications, such as access control at gates, inventory reporting and asset tracking.

Here are a few of the best bar code scanning tablet apps on the market.

Barcode Scanner by the ZXing Team

Barcode Scanner is a tablet app by the ZXing Team and is one of the most popular bar code scanner apps for Android tablets. It has been installed around 50 million times and has an average rating of 4.3 in the Android market.


This barcode scanning tablet app is very easy to use. You can quickly scan 1D bar codes (such as UPC and EAN) as well as 2D formats (such as data matrix and QR codes) using your tablet.

Just use the camera on your tablet and place the code inside the rectangle, filling the entire viewfinder. The red line blinks as the app automatically focuses and analyzes the code. It beeps once it successfully scans the code and gives you options depending on the item.

Scanning a QR code shows the embedded information and allows you to choose between web search, share via email or share via SMS. Bar codes on books, CDs and other products connect to Google Product Search and Web Search, letting you view and compare prices and reviews.

Data Matrix and QR codes allow you to quickly add, update and share applications, bookmarks, geographic locations and website addresses. Scanning a contact gives you the option to merge to an existing contact or create a new one.

Aside from printed bar codes, you can also scan codes from the screen of your tablet, phone or computer. If a book is available in Google Books, you can even search for words in the book. Additional features include improved QR code decoding, contact sharing and Chinese translation.

The Barcode Scanner tablet app is very basic and does not have some of the features that other apps have, such as saving the history of your previous searches. But it is free, light-weight, fast and straightforward to use.

This bar code scanner tablet app is powered by ZXing (pronounced “zebra crossing”), an open-source library that processes multi-format 1D/2D bar code images using the built-in camera on mobile phones, tablets and other devices with or without communicating with a server.

ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner by Big in Japan Inc.

As the name implies, ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner is a tablet app for the smart shopper who wants to save money and get the best deal when shopping.

ShopSavvy allows you to scan a product you like and find the cheapest prices online and in local brick-and-mortar stores. You can either buy directly online or find the address of a local merchant. You can also read reviews from other consumers. This tablet app is available for the iPad, Android and Windows tablets.


The ShopSavvy tablet app is also simple to use. Once it opens, you can see the best deals from stores close to you.

To scan a bar code, aim the camera at a bar code until it beeps. If the scanning does not work, you can also search by keywords by typing in the name of the product or enter bar codes manually.

Once the information is scanned or entered, ShopSavvy will give you online and local prices. The prices are from direct feeds and FTP uploads from retailers as well as their proprietary web scraping engine. Once you find the best price, you can buy it online or save your search so you can buy later.

The app also includes ShopSavvy Wallet which allows you to add your credit card and buy with one 'slide' from stores like Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble and

The ShopSavvy tablet app has additional features for shopping and price comparison.

After scanning an item, you might see coupon codes, shipping promotions, special offers, rebates, weekend sales and other ways to save money on the item. You can also participate in contests and view your Groupon offer for the day.

A price match feature lets you see price match policies of different stores. Set up alerts to notify you when a product drops below a certain price.

The ShopSavvy tablet app lets you organize your searches into lists. You can share the lists, prices and products you find through Facebook, Twitter or email. You can also export your list and scan history to CSV or Excel format. If you don't find a product, you have the option add your own product description and write your own reviews.

The ShopSavvy tablet app is also the basis for other retailer applications such as Sam's Club, Experian/PriceGrabber, Consumer Reports and CBS Interactive/CNET. The older version of this app has been renamed as GoCart.

This app is made by the Dallas, Texas-based company Big in Japan, Inc.

QuickMark Barcode Scanner by SimpleAct Inc.

QuickMark Barcode is a full-featured, easy-to-use tablet app by SimpleAct Inc, and probably the most sophisticated of the three apps in this review. It is a selected partner for Favorite Places on Google and is Google's recommended bar code reader.

The mobile app runs $0.99 for the iPhone and free for Windows, Android tablets and other devices.


QuickMark lets you scan 1D and 2d bar code formats by pointing your tablet's camera at the code. It has auto decode which lets you scan codes without having to press a button for each read, which is useful especially when scanning several products.

You can also scan codes to your tablet by dragging and dropping an image file or through screen capture. If a bar code is not readable, the app lets you manually type in bar codes.

After scanning a bar code or QR code, your options are to do a web search, add a phone contact, access a website, send an email, or simply view the information as plain text. You can also add the event to a calendar, navigate to the location on a map and check in to a location.

The QuickMark tablet app automatically saves your history so you can easily view your past searches. The history is categorized by contacts, application, bookmarks, phone, SMS, e-mail, location, calendar, clipboard, text and business card.

Aside from scanning codes, QuickMark also allows you to create your own codes through a simple interface in order to share information such as URLs, contact info, location and messages with other people. Making your own codes can be handy if you want to be able to quickly access links, contacts, or map navigation.

The QuickMark tablet app makes it easy to share bar codes from one tablet to another, or to share data through social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. It also allows you to Facebook Like and Check In.

Advanced features of the QuickMark tablet app include the ability to preview web links and maps, and the ability to cloud sync scanned and created bar codes. You can also decode bar code images from Photo album, share contacts via Bluetooth and results via Wi-Fi or LAN. This tablet app works with the free Chrome browser extension by QuickMark.

There is also a Lite version which has less permission requirements. This tablet app is created by SimpleAct Inc.

These are a few of the most popular barcode scanning tablet apps on the market.  Give them a try and let us know what you think, or let us know if you have your own favorite tablet app for barcode scanning!

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