During Apple’s keynote at this year’s WWDC 2017, Craig Federighi announced iOS 11 support for the oft-forgotten quick response (QR) codes. While users stateside may not use QR codes regularly, for many in China it has become somewhat of a norm.
Onstage, Federighi announced the QR support as part of “some features of special interest to our customers in China.” Coming in iOS 11, the native camera will have built-in support for QR codes. No longer needing third-party apps to scan them, QR code adoption may see a bump in usage over the coming years.
Native support for QR codes in iOS 11 will open the doors for some interesting mobile interactions. With official support for HomeKit and some third-party app flexibility in iOS, let’s take a look at which QR code types are compatible with Apple’s upcoming iOS.
Be sure to scan any of the codes seen on the page here to test it on your own iOS 11 device.
Normally when configuring HomeKit accessories, users have to rely on scanning small stickers with codes on the compatible devices. In Apple’s What’s new in HomeKit session, HomeKit engineers explained that these accessories sometimes have their codes hidden or inaccessible once the devices are plugged in.
To mitigate this problem, Apple has introduced both QR code and NFC support for HomeKit accessories. The QR codes can be as small as 10 mm x 10 mm and still be scannable for the initial HomeKit setup.
One of the more obvious uses for QR codes is adding contact information. When scanning a contact card QR code in iOS 11, you’ll now be offered to save those details directly into your phone.
iOS 11 also supports adding calendar events through QR codes. A real world example could be event fliers or schedules where you’ll want to quickly add a list of dates and times to your device.
QR codes can even be used to send emails with pre-defined addresses and messages. This could be great for quick contact options and for businesses that want to run promotions through specific email addresses.
Support for Maps with QR codes is another great area for business owners. Instead of having a customer fill in address details, or hopelessly search, they can simply scan a QR code on a flier.
Address locations within QR codes are GPS coordinate specific. This allows for some creative live scavenger hunts where pin-point accurate locations are needed.
iOS 11 also supports sending SMS messages after scanning a QR code. This could help when customers look to subscribe to an SMS-only marketing list.
Possibly the most useful use of QR codes will be in connecting to a new WiFi network. Coffee shops and small businesses could display a QR code near counters, making it easier for customers to get connected.
Of course, if other iOS 11 devices are in the vicinity they could also offer to share the password.
iOS 11 scanned QR codes can also quickly dial an outgoing call instead of having to enter it manually.
When scanning a QR code with an embedded URL, iOS 11 will offer to open that webpage. This is a simple use of QR codes, but its power on iOS comes into practice when you begin using callback-URLs…
This is the area where QR codes can be a lot of fun on iOS 11. A lot of iOS apps support a little-known feature named callback-URLs. Callback-URLs allow users and third-party apps to craft specialized URLs that launch specific areas of an app. These URLs are how apps like Launch Center Pro and Workflow can create automated services that launch into third-party apps.
By creating a QR code with a callback-URL, a user would be able to scan a code and immediately launch an app on their phone to a specific location. For example, a user could scan a QR code configured for Twitter that jumps directly into searching for a specific user.
In the above examples we’ve used Twitter and Tweetbot, but any app that supports callback-URLs should work. The only difficulty here is discovering supported apps and their specific callback-URLs.
If a payment app like Coinbase added exposed callback-URLs, you could technically scan a Bitcoin address and immediately launch to the send/receive view of the app.
How to make your own iOS 11 compatible QR codes
All the codes created here were made on QRStuff.com. We ran into some issues with other generators, but weren’t sure if they were iOS 11 bugs or otherwise.
Many other generators injected their own short URLs, conflicting with iOS 11’s own QR code parser.
What’s next for QR codes and iOS 11?
QR codes aren’t limited to being scanned with the camera either. If you come across a QR code on iOS 11 and press-and-hold to save the image, iOS will detect the code’s contents and offer to act on it similar to the native camera app.
Although QR code adoption over the past few years may have been lackluster, Apple’s native support of it in iOS 11 could give it a bump into the mainstream. Although QR codes have some advantages in the real world, applying them creatively and appropriately will be the challenge.
How do you think you’ll be using QR codes once iOS 11 is out?