What are the differences between a QR code and an NFC Tag? Both have their use cases in which they are perfectly suited. Therefore, QR Code vs NFC is more of a draw.
What is an QR Code?
The QR code was invented by a Japanese automotive company called Denso Wave in 1994. Nowadays, however, QR codes are more commonly known in connection with smartphones. The original idea of attaching QR codes to devices or components to mark them with machine-readable information is still being implemented, but nowadays, a different focus prevails. You can find QR codes everywhere that contain, for example, website addresses or email addresses. You can find more uses for QR codes in another article on our blog.
Since iOS 11 and higher iPhones support QR codes by default, thus the installation of an app is superfluous on these devices. This should make the use of QR codes even easier for the end user. But in the end, of course, you always need a device with a camera for a QR code. In the meantime, even the cheap devices should no longer have any problems with large QR codes. If you also want to cover the case that a user does not have the possibility to scan a QR code, it is still advisable to simply print the information under the QR code. With short URLs, this can be done relatively easily without affecting the appearance.
Now that we know how to use a QR code, the question remains: how much can a QR code actually store? For example, is there a limit to the number of characters a QR code can store, can you store text of any length and thus build QR codes of any size?
The standard for QR codes sets a limit of 3kb of data. This is a QR code that is 177×177 fields in size. This could theoretically store, 4296 alphanumeric characters. However, you reach a point much sooner, where scanning the QR Code becomes difficult. The following image, for example, shows a QR code with 1000 characters and may cause problems in certain situations. Many QR code generators even allow significantly fewer characters. If you need such large QR codes, however, it is also advisable to consider other solutions.
What is an NFC Tag?
Now that we have clarified what a QR code can be used for and what its limitations are, let’s take a look at NFC or NFC tags. NFC itself stands for near-fiel communication and describes only a communication standard, as a fixed protocol with which data can be exchanged. NFC itself is based on RFID technology. RFID and NFC are therefore not two different technologies, but one is a technology and NFC is a way of using this technology that has been agreed upon internationally. If you look at an NFC tag, it is a device that uses RFID and can communicate with other devices via the NFC protocol.
Most people are probably familiar with NFC and NFC tags just like QR codes through their smartphone. Most smartphones that are currently manufactured have the possibility to communicate via NFC. This is necessary, for example, for contactless payment with a smartphone or smartwatch. However, one must distinguish that a smartphone and payment terminal at a checkout actively communicate via NFC, while NFC tags only communicate passively. NFC tags cannot transmit data in this sense, but only respond if, for example, a smartphone in their vicinity transmits data.
However, the parallels between a QR code and an NFC tag become clear quite quickly. Instead of printing a QR code, one could simply write information on an NFC tag. In both cases, any other device could then read the data, provided it has a camera or an active NFC chip. In principle, you can also write the same data on an NFC tag, as you can also store simple texts there and the possibilities we described in Static vs Dynamic QR Codes are therefore also given for NFC tags.
As with QR codes, the question with NFC tags is how much data can be stored on an NFC tag. Similar to QR codes, the answer depends on the type of NFC tag. There are currently 5 different types of NFC tags, and the data volume for most of them is less than 2kb. This means a little less memory than QR codes, but there are also NFC tags with 32kb and more. However, their use is still a little more complicated at the moment. [BlueBite]
Before we conclude with the description of NFC tags, it remains to be said that NFC tags, unlike QR codes, can be rewritten. Once a QR code is printed, it is fixed. This is not always the case with NFC tags. With most tags, the user can decide whether he wants to set the tag in read-only mode or whether he wants to retain the option of changing the content later.
QR Code vs NFC – When to use what?
At the beginning of this article, we pointed out that there are some limitations for the amount of data a QR code can store. In fact, there are also limits for NFC tags. With NFC tags it is possible to store significantly more data, but the price per NFC tag increases. While printing a QR code leads to lower costs in any case. When it comes to usability, QR codes are probably not far ahead, as most phones support NFC these days. So here, too, the differences have become small. However, the effort required to print many thousands of QR codes should be significantly less than writing many thousands of NFC tags.
Actually, the most interesting point is the distance that the user must have to the QR code or NFC tag. QR codes are also popular on large advertising billboards because they can be scanned by a smartphone camera even from a great distance. Whereas for an NFC tag you may only have a few centimeters distance. However, one should not forget that in certain situations it can also be useful that the distance is kept as small as possible. The best example of this is contactless payment.
In conclusion, QR codes are probably the most relevant for marketing campaigns, but NFC tags can also be used for captivating experiments.