Smart phones, mobile shopping apps, bar code scanning apps, and other new technologies are rapidly changing the game for business owners and shoppers alike. QR Pal, a new QR code scanning app, stands out as one of those tools worthy of review. It makes QR codes easy to scan, save, and share, and also provides some unusual features such as the ability to send or receive PayPal payments, a “safe browsing” feature, and even a point-based reward system for using the app.
I quickly found QR Pal on the Android market and downloaded it to my phone. It opened to a pleasantly appealing interface. It does require you to create an account (a process which was fairly quick and painless), in order to save and back-up your codes and keep track of your reward points. The main screen shows four icons, the Scanner, My Wallet (where scans are saved), Payments (where you can send and receive payments via PayPal), and QR News (a news feed about QR codes, including feed from our sister site, The Bar Code News).
A menu always stays along the bottom of your screen as you use the app, making it easy to navigate between functions, see your account and change your settings. There are also “back” and “home” buttons at the top to make navigating that much easier. You never feel lost when using this app. I was surprised at how many options there are under Settings that allow you to optimize the app for your own preferences. For example, you can change the home screen t so the app opens right to the scanner app or your wallet or another part of the app. You can also turn the “safe browsing” feature (which warns you about potentially unsafe urls) on or off. Overall, I found the interface easy-to-use, intuitive, and pleasant.
I started scanning bar codes right away. The scanner was quick and accurate. There are two buttons on the Scanner screen to toggle between the QR scanner and the traditional bar code scanner. The app automatically saves your scans to your Wallet, and organizes them in to 15 different categories ( links, vCards, maps, SMS, calendar, phone number, email, products, music, videos, etc.). If you open one of your scans, you can easily make edits, such as giving it a name to help identify it, or switching the category if the app didn’t get it quite right. I found this very appealing, to be able to go back and see which codes I had scanned, revisit them, and make sure they were labeled for easy retrieval. The wallet also has a search feature which is nice. To try it out, I typed “Best Buy” into the search box, and it instantly pulled up the QR code I had scanned from my Best Buy flier, out of the 20 or so that I had already scanned and stored.
QR Pal makes it very easy to share your scans with friends through MMS or email, or through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, if you authorize the app to connect with your accounts. Autotweet and autopost can be turned on or off, according to your preferences. Having the ability to share codes with friends or family is a great (and what I would consider almost necessary) feature, and QR Pal makes it incredibly simple.
Another nice touch is that QR Pal backs your account up online, where you can log in, see your scans, organize and edit them, etc. This feature is especially nice to know about in case you happen to lose your phone. Going into my online account allowed me to delete unwanted scans (something I could not figure out how to do from my phone). To me the option to trash old scans seems important, because while the wallet is something I will definitely use, I’d prefer to keep it uncluttered of codes that were not helpful or that I don’t need any more.
The PayPal feature seemed unique to me, and Adam Leese, Head of Marketing for QR Pal, explained that it was one of the main inspirations for developing the app. They knew how powerful and useful QR codes could be, and thought giving users to option to send or receive payments with a QR code made a lot of sense. I tried this feature out to, having my husband download the app and request a payment of five dollars. He created the code, saved it, and emailed it to me (although there many methods to send or share it). I scanned the code from the email and arrived right at the payment page on PayPal, where I simply typed in my password and made the payment. The app saves these payment codes in a separate place, in Payment History accessed from the Payments icon. Although it took a minute to find this (I first looked in my wallet), it was nice to see that it stored that information for future reference. The PayPal feature could come in handy for all kinds of purposes, getting paid back from a friend who doesn’t have change on them, paying a babysitter, or other day to day encounters. But it seems they could potentially be used somehow at the point of sale for functions that are outside or in an unusual environment. Nonprofits could use them to make it easy for people to donate, etc. It opens the door for some creative applications.
QR Pal also rewards points to users for scanning and sharing codes. Points can earn prizes of course, which should motivate people to keep using and exploring the app. Adam Leese said that knowing how great QR codes are, they really wanted to encourage users to appreciate them and have fun with them. Rewards and prizes, as well as “Scanny” (the cute little robot-looking app animation) definitely add a fun factor to this app, which should appeal to more than just the savvy smartphone users. Part of QR Pal's mission is to encourage the acceptance, use, and common knowledge of how QR codes work and how they can benefit everyone.
Anthony J Wilson, CEO at QR Pay Ltd. says, "We are all really excited about the launch of QR Pal and the response and feedback so far in these early stages has been extremely encouraging. The long term strategy of the business is to reach mass Market and help drive QR Code usage. QR Pal currently incorporates a payment feature via PayPal - however we plan to incorporate QR Pay's own payment processing facility which is currently in development. With the growth of QR Code usage, Mobile payments and discount/loyalty schemes, QR Pal will combine these sectors nicely adding real value to the end user. That is why we are now looking for 1st stage investment to take the business to the next level."
Presently, the app is available for Android users, and can be accessed from the QR Pal website, or the Android Market. An iPhone version should be available by the end of the month, as well as versions for other platforms in the near future.
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