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How to scan a QR code on your phone

Key Takeaways

  • Scanning QR codes can be done directly through the camera app on iPhones and Android phones.
  • iPhones also have a built-in Code Scanner function in Control Center for scanning QR codes.
  • Google Lens can be used on Android phones to scan QR codes, including screenshots and digital files.

You’ve likely seen a QR code before. It’s a black and white matrix-style bar code that contains some information that you’re supposed to access from a phone, tablet, or anything with a camera attached to it.

Once scanned, a QR code will impart its information to your phone and you can then choose what to do with it. QR codes are used for things like payments, menus, websites, and even rental agencies use them to rent out equipment, like scooters.

Of course, you’re likely here to learn how to scan and use these little guys.

The vast majority of them are perfectly safe, although the FTC does warn against scanning QR codes in odd locations. For example, con artists may put QR codes on parking meters to direct people to a website to pay for fake parking tickets. Just be careful and only scan QR codes in trustworthy environments.

In any case, here is how to scan a QR code without an app on both iPhones and Android devices.

David Dvořáček on Unsplash

How to scan QR codes on iPhone

For most folks, all you need is to open the camera app. The native camera app on all modern iPhones and even iPads can scan a QR code directly, so there is no need for a third-party app.


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However, if you want to use a dedicated tool for the process, iPhones also have a Code Scanner function built into the Control Center, but it isn’t immediately visible. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Go into your iPhone settings and navigate to Control Center.
  2. Find Code Scanner in the menu and tap the + (plus) button to add it to your control center.
  3. From here, you can open Control Center on your iPhone, tap Code Scanner, and position the iPhone, so it sees the QR code.

The nice thing about the Code Reader is that it lets you independently activate the flashlight function to brighten QR codes in dim environments. These are the two best methods to scan QR codes and we don’t recommend resorting to third-party apps.


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How to scan QR codes on Android phones

Android phones have the same powers as iPhones. The vast majority of modern smartphones, including all modern models from Google, Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus, Sony, and other phone makers either natively scan QR codes or have native integration with Google Lens, which can scan QR codes.


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If you’re using a phone with Google Lens integration, here’s how it works.

  1. Point your camera at the QR code.
  2. Tap the Google Lens icon in your camera viewfinder. This may be in different locations depending on the OEM.
  3. Google Lens will read the QR code and give you options depending on what kind of QR code it is.
  4. Note – You generally need to be in auto mode rather than pro mode for this to work. Some OEMs, like OnePlus, may require you to tick an additional setting in the camera settings before it can read QR codes.

For the rest, you shouldn’t need to do anything fancy. Just point and wait for the phone to recognize the QR code.

How to scan a QR code from a screenshot

You now know how to scan a QR code in real life, or IRL in Internet parlance. What happens if you find one on a website or social media post on your phone? You can technically use one phone to scan a QR code on another phone, but that isn’t very practical. As it turns out, Google Lens can do it.

How to scan a QR code photo 2

How to scan a QR code screenshot on Android

If you’re using an Android smartphone then the easiest way to scan a QR code is still with Google Lens. If you have a screenshot or a digital file with a QR code on it, here’s how to read it.

  1. Download Google Lens if you don’t have it already and open it.
  2. Click on the image gallery icon on the bottom left of the app.
  3. Click to allow Google Lens access to your images.
  4. Click through the options to find where the image is saved (if it’s a screenshot select screenshots).
  5. Tap on the image and the app will automatically scan.
  6. You can then click on the link generated from the QR code.

Another way to do this is to find the relevant file in your phone’s folders. Click the share option and from there select the Google Lens app. This sharing will then open the QR code file in the Lens app and allow you to scan it.

How to scan a QR code photo 3

Scan a QR code with Google Chrome

It is also possible to scan a QR code from your browser on your PC or Mac, assuming, of course, that you have Google Chrome. Chrome has Google Lens built-in, so you can operate it here as well.


What is Google Lens and what can it do?

Everything you need to know about the Google Lens app, including what it can do and how to use it.

  1. Right-click the QR code and select Search image with Google Lens.
  2. The Google Lens options will pop up on the right-side of the browser.
  3. From there, just click the link to whatever the QR code sent you.

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