Are we selling QR codes?

The most frequent argument we are getting in presentation discussions about ScreenTag is ‘Why would we buy contact QR codes that we can get elsewhere for free?’.

Truth is that anyone can actually create a contact QR code with various on-line apps, although this ‘free’ feature is half of the truth about what you get. Having experimented with such codes during the early stages of ScreenTag development, we’d like to share the whole truth about those free contact QR codes.

First off, with QR codes supporting only ASCII latin characters, it is impossible to have those QR codes displaying contact info correctly to the recipient in any other language than English. And often the alternative characters diplayed are only Chinese (we never figured out why this happens). In our 3.0 version of ScreenTag, contact information may be in any left-to-right language (French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian etc.) with all accent characters retained intact.

Another huge problem with contact QR codes is that they are getting increasingly complex with every single character added in the contact info entry. The simplest form of information encoded in such format like ‘John Doe’ would require 29 lines of square code and that’s before any other information is added. Adding a phone number and an e-mail address may easily increase the number of lines required to 60 or 72, making such a code needing to take up 6-7 cm. of space in order to make it readable, even with good resolution cameras – even if the recipient manages to hold his hand stable enough to have this information processed. There is no comparison of that with the 2.6 cm of space required with ScreenTag.

And if any of the contact details encoded in the contact QR code need to be changed, since the contact info are embedded in the code on-the-fly, this simply means that changes in information embeded, lead to changes in the contact QR code itself – or to put it simply, regeneration of the code. ScreenTag QR codes are static, since the principle in our contact exchange philosophy is that a single file stored in a server would contain all contact information of each user.

Moreover, a contact QR code scanned multiple times would be added multiple times in the recipent’s address book, while ScreenTag files contain a unique ID number causing a single entry in the recipent’s address book no matter how many times the code is scanned.

And last but not least, contact QR codes cannot be automatically updated whenever the contact details are changed. With ScreenTag files hosted on a server – provided that the recipent’s address book supports contact updates – each contact details are updated whenever the recipient taps or opens the contact in his phone.

Thus, ScreenTag subscriptions cover our cost for storage space and data transfers to the recipient phone, plus any updates in the information contained in that file, not just the generation of a messy contact QR code.


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