Print & Mobile Phones: QR Codes, NFC Square Off

And, in this corner…before QR (quick response) codes and NFC (near field communications) officially square off; the masses have already dubbed NFC “The QR Killer.” Google instigated the matter in March 2011 when it announced it no longer would be supporting QR codes in Google Places and would be using NFC instead. Since then, the hype has escalated with commentary in forums, blogs and the like with headlines such as “Goodbye QR” and “QR Rest in Peace.”

In reality, this is a fight neither side asked for—it has been conjured in the minds of many due to fear, which is instilled when a large corporation like Google merely mentions it is progressing in another direction. Neither QR nor NFC is fully prepared to fight the other just yet and they most likely will become collaborators rather than adversaries.

Each technology is a type of mobile trigger—both QR codes and NFC tags are programmed to deliver specific content, such as directing a user to a landing page, playing a video or providing a means for mobile payment. However, the method by which the information is programmed is uniquely different between the two. One is printed with ink; the other is a printed circuit.

QR codes and other 2D scan codes are two-
dimensional barcodes. Using a (free) QR generator, binary information is encoded, resulting in the arrangement of black-and-white squares. The codes can be printed on paper or other printable objects. To trigger the event, the user launches an app, takes a picture of the QR code and the software app decodes the information.

NFC requires communication between two computer chips—an initiator and a receiver. The receiver chip has data written to it, and it is typically applied to the back of a sticker. The initiator chip in a smart phone, or other device, generates an active NFC field. If your phone is embedded with an NFC chip, all you have to do is wave your phone over an NFC tag or sticker to trigger an event.

Related Content
  • TonyVassiliev

    Chris, I too was overwhelming by all the "QR code is dead" headlines. Many rush to offer their opinions without properly understanding either technology. Which leads to a lot of misleading information on the web that confuses marketers and consumers alike. I think NFC will take over in many implementations but in print the QR code will reign supreme. Here is my 2 cents on this battle:

    As a side note I have heard of companies attempting to print NFC tags using silicone.

  • Brando


    I’m not sure I follow you about the intangibles comments about QR codes. I think these are becoming widely accepted because of the previlence of smart phones with QR scan capabilites. I don’t known anyone who doesn’t like QR codes once they understand them. I see a place for both technolgies long term and not necessarily competing for the same apps.