QR Codes For Android Applications

Ever since the first PDA was made the challenge has been to provide a reliable and easy method for inputting information on mobile devices. The Newton OS did handwriting recognition that did not work good enough for most people. Palm improved on handwriting recognition by introducing character recognition, Microsoft provided both handwriting and character recognition, and both Palm and Microsoft provided on-screen keyboards that required you to use a stylus to tap the buttons on the keyboard.

Apple dropped stylus-based input and improved on-screen keyboards by introducing technology that enables one to touch the keys on the keyboard with your finger rather than a stylus, and that is the only input method for the iPhone. What I really like about what Google is doing with Android is that they are providing multiple input methods. Android has an on-screen keyboard like the iPhone, but it also uses the phone’s camera as an input device for either image recognition in Google Goggles, or barcode recognition. If you have a phone with Android 2.x you can also use voice recognition to input information in any text field, bringing Android’s input methods to three.

QR codes (QR stands for Quick Response) are image-based links to information. Because there are several QR code readers for Android, many Android web sites provide QR codes to applications in the Android Market. For example, here is a QR code for the Android Evernote application:

Start Barcode Scanner on your Android phone and point the camera at the image above.

You can create QR codes for any web site by entering a URL on this web page. The page provides HTML for an embedded image, or you can save the resulting image to your PC and then upload it to a web server. If you have an application on your Android phone that you want to share the link with someone else, you can display the QR codes to the Market link on the phone’s screen, and the other person can then use an application like the Barcode Scanner to scan the code on your phone and open the link in Market.

Barcode Scanner includes the ability to display QR codes on the screen for any application on the device, in addition to using the phone’s camera to scan barcodes. Another application, called App Referrer also displays QR codes but can also send the Market links via e-mail, SMS, or Twitter. When someone clicks the link on an Android phone they can open it in Market, but the links do not work in a desktop web browser. The Twitter functionality of App Referrer requires either the Twidroid, TwidroidPro, or Twidget twitter clients on the phone. Another feature of App Referrer that I like is that it has an option to e-mail the links to all of the applications installed on a phone, which can be handy when migrating to a new Android phone as you can then just open the e-mail on the new phone and tap the links to install each application. (Android Market keeps track of the paid applications you bought, so you can just open Market on a new phone and see the paid applications in the Downloads section, but it does not track free applications.)

You will find App Referrer in the Android Market, and to install it on your Android phone, point your phone’s camera at the following QR code: