The problem with QR codes in the past was that iPhones couldn't scan them on their own: you had to download and open an app, and who could be bothered with that? But these days, thanks to a feature added in iOS 11, all you need to do is hold up the iPhone camera. It's so easy we might finally start using them.

In this article we show how to use an iPhone to scan a QR code, Spotify code, Facebook Messenger Code or Snapcode. For related advice, take a look at How to scan documents and photos using your iPhone.

How to scan a QR code with an iPhone

  1. Make sure your iPhone is running iOS 11. (Here's how to update iOS.)
  2. Open the Camera app on your iPhone and point it at the code.
  3. Make sure the QR code is in focus and clearly visible on your screen.
  4. When your iPhone recognises the QR code you will see a notification which reveals the information hidden within the QR code. For example, you may see a preview of the link that the code leads to.
  5. If you don't see this notification, try zooming in or tapping on the QR code to focus better.
  6. Tap the notification to go to the web page, ring the phone number, or email the contact.

We found it to be a bit unreliable - we got our best results when we zoomed in on the QR code.

Try scanning this QR code to open the Macworld website:

How to scan a QR code with an iPhone: Macworld website

What are QR codes?

QR codes contain information including links to websites, email addresses, phone numbers, tickets, passes and coupons. They provide a shortcut so you don't have to enter the information that will get you to where you need to be (or reveal the information that the marketing person who set up the code wants you to see).

QR codes have been making a bit of a comeback: you will see them tied into augmented reality, and in the form of Snapcodes, Spotify codes and Facebook Messenger Codes. Here's how to unlock some of those:

How to scan Facebook Messenger Codes

You may have noticed that your profile picture in Facebook Messenger is surrounded by dots and dashes.

This is a Messenger code, and it's a little like a QR code in that it contains data that you can unlock with the iPhone app.

  1. To add a new contact in Messenger using their code, open Messenger.
  2. Tap on People.
  3. Tap on Scan Code.
  4. Hold the Messenger camera over the code so it fits in the circle. It will scan it and add them as a contact.

To see someone's Messenger Code, ask them to tap on their icon in the top-left corner of FaceBook Messenger, or tap on People > Scan Code > My Code.

How to scan a QR code with an iPhone: Facebook Messenger Codes

How to scan Snapcodes with the iPhone

Snapcodes arrived in 2015 and can be used to add someone as a friend on Snapchat. Even the White House (when Obama was president) made a Snapcode.

  1. To add a person to Snapchat via their Snapcode, you need to point your Snapchat camera at the code.
  2. Tap on the code to scan it.
  3. Snapchat will add your new friend's details to your Snapchat contacts.

How to scan a QR code with an iPhone: Snapcodes

How to scan Spotify codes with the iPhone

Spotify also uses scannable images to make sharing music easier.

  1. To scan a Spotify code, open Spotify.
  2. Scan the code using the Spotify search camera.