Using QR codes for sharing contact info

I have recently started looking for a career change and I have been networking more than usual. I quickly realized that, for most of us, it is still a bit tedious to exchange contact information via our smartphones. Technologies like Android beam would not work, given the mix of iPhones and Android phones in use. I decided to look into QR codes as a way of easing this pain. It seems QR codes had a bit of “wow factor” when they first appeared but they seem to have moved into the sidelines. However they still make sense when they assist in something that is contextually important.

A bit of online searching resulted in a reasonably straightforward way to do this. Some of you may react with – “I knew that”. However I have not yet come across anybody actually using it in this way. This method has clearly not spread too far. So I figure it is worth describing what I figured out, after perusing a few websites and experimenting a bit. After I lay out the steps, I will include a couple of assumptions and caveats for those who like such things.

  1. Go to a website which generates QR codes and supports meCard format (more on format below). I found qrstuff.com good enough for my purpose.
  2. Select “Contact Details” under Data Type.
  3. Enter your contact info under “Content”
  4. Select black (000000 Hex) as your foreground color
  5. You can now preview and download the QR code image.
  6. Store it on your smartphone and optionally print it on a card to carry around.

To read the QR code, the recipient will have to get an app for their phone. For Android I found that QR Droid and Barcode Scanner were free and well-rated. I am using QR Droid. I hope to hear from iPhone users about what works for them. 

In my quick tests, both Android and iPhone scanners recognized the information and offered to save it in “contacts”.

Here is a sample you can scan. You should get my sfbaywildlife email address.

QR code

 

For this to work painlessly, most of your contacts need to have a QR code reader app. How far do you think we are from achieving that? Is there a better way? What QR reader would you recommend for iPhone? Please leave comments or send feedback about the usability and feasibility of this method of exchanging contact information.

 

  • There are a couple of prevalent standards for encoding contact information, I recommend meCard because it seems to have a wider acceptance.
  • There is some caution around making the information too dense. For smaller QR code images, it might be best to limit the amount of information you encode. This is something you can experiment with.
  • Another way to use QR codes is by encoding a URL to a landing page which has a link to a file with the contact details  in “.vcf” format. This requires more clicks on the recipient’s part but has the advantage that you can change the contact information without changing the QR code.