Will Apple’s latest iOS release reignite Quick Response marketing?

Attention all iPhone users – there’s an exciting new surprise hidden in the latest iOS update. Yes, Apple has finally built a QR scanner into your smartphone, but it might not be located quite where you expected.

If you’re a bit like me, you react to new iOS releases with a sense of apprehension – you know it’s needed for security updates etc. but you see that little red notification pop-up on the settings icon and instantly think “how much memory will this one swallow up” or “what daily function are they going to change and make impossible to find this time?”

But despite the search bar no longer appearing when you scroll down from the top and now needing to delve deep into your settings to change the ringer volume, we have to congratulate Apple on finally installing a QR scanner directly into the camera.

Yes, that’s right, there’s no need to open an app or scroll up to find it in the iOS Control Centre (as you might have expected) – you simply need to open your camera, hold it over a QR code and a banner appears to instantly click-thru to the website in your Safari browser.

Step 1: Select camera  /  Step 2: Hover over QR code

Step 3: Click banner link  /  Step 4: View website or online content

QR (Quick Response) codes are a type of matrix barcode (or 2D barcode) that were first designed back in 1994 to track vehicle manufacturing in the Japanese automotive industry.

They were then hyped-up to be “the next big thing in marketing” in the 00’s as a means of bridging the void between our online and offline worlds, but despite their use in a few attention grabbing campaigns, their widespread commercial use for customer communications never really took off because of a fundamental flaw in the UX (User Experience).

New York blankets Time Square with giant QR codes, 2010 [image credits: NYC Media]

Basically, smartphone manufacturers have never built the QR scanning technology into their devices before and consumers needed to download a QR scanning app in order to participate.

Everyone working in marketing understands the need to make the CX (Customer Experience) quick and simple in today’s on-demand society and anyone working in the apps market will also tell you how difficult it is to develop a successful app nowadays, with odds like consumers only using 9 apps on a regular basis* immediately stacked against the long-term success of any new app entering the marketplace. Furthermore, people only spend 5% of their mobile app time using 'other' apps** (e.g. apps that don’t fall into a definitive category such as entertainment, gaming or social networking).

Even more importantly, people who like the functionality of QR codes previously needed to pay approx. £3 to download a QR scanner app – not only was the customer journey broken, it would potentially cost your customers their hard earned cash to participate too! People could download a free one, and I imagine many did, but these are layered with advertising all over the interface and the browser being provided to view your online content, disrupting the CX all over again.

Now that Apple has reignited the trend with its native scanner, will this change the rules of marketing all over again?

It’s early days and only time will tell, but the improved UX changes things considerably – seamlessly optimising the real-world and printed media for the digital age. With roughly 700 million iPhone users around the globe, its potential is definitely too big to ignore.

BTW – for those that are still trying to find out how to change their ringer volume, here’s how it’s done: open settings > click on sounds (3 below general) > adjust the volume for ‘ringer and alerts’. :)