Reconsidering QR Codes in 2019

by | May 16, 2019

It's being said that 2019 may be the year of QR codes, even though they were declared "dead" 5-6 years ago. Is it worth a second look at this technology? Are there good reasons to use it on your packaging or your labels now?

The Stats

In 2011-2013, when QR codes were introduced to the general public, there were barriers to good QR experiences.

  • Those who had a mobile phone didn't necessarily have a smartphone.
  • If they did have a smartphone, they had to download, install, and open an app to read QR codes.
  • Many codes were placed in “dead zones” without wifi or phone connectivity.
  • Codes were frivolous or not useful to customers.
  • Product packaging already had a UPC code; why add a QR code?

In 2018-2019, things have changed.

  • 39% of the world’s population has a smartphone (77% in the US)
  • iPhones came equipped with QR code readers in in late 2017; Android phones in early 2019
  • In addition, many common apps (SnapChat, Pinterest, Bing Search, WeChat, etc.) now include a QR code reader.
  • 90% of the world’s population will have access to high-speed internet by 2020 (currently at ~62%)

Technological Advances

Smartphone screen size in 2019

Smartphone screens are bigger. Before 2011, nearly every phone screen on the market measured between 2.5 and 4 inches. Just a small increase in diagonal screen size can nearly double total display area, and there’s been more than a small increase.

In 2019, 305 million smartphones with a screen size of 5" to 5.5" are forecast to be shipped worldwide.  Per DeviceAtlas, the most common screen size worldwide currently is 4.7 inches, followed closely by 5.5 inches. Phones with screen sizes between 5 and 6 inches account for 55% of the market.

According to Global Web Index, over the past three years, there's been a significant increase in people reporting that they’ve scanned a QR code in the past month. Twice as many respondents in Europe and North America scanned a QR code in 2018 than in 2015. The use of these codes is also gradually increasing in the Middle East and Africa, from a low of 12% in early 2017 to 18% in late 2018.

Other Driving Forces

The incorporation of code readers in SnapChat and other social media apps is partially driving these changes. Another driver is the huge Asian market, where mobile payments via QR codes have steadily increased.

Juniper Research predicts that the use of QR codes for electronic payments will surge by 300% or more over the next five years. In China, the collective total of mobile payments surpassed $5.5 trillion dollars last year, with most of that figure coming from QR code payments on the WeChat and Alipay apps.

QR payment codes are more secure than than traditional systems because merchants don't store the data.  When you retain your payment information on your own device, and "push" the payment to the merchant's bank, your risk of having that information compromised by fraud or a security breach is greatly reduced.

Code Changes

QR codes themselves are better, more colorful and attractive. And while static codes are most common, you can also make them dynamic. Even after the code is printed and disseminated, you can modify or fine-tune your "code campaign." You can create a static QR code using any number of online QR code creators, usually for free, and sometime with colors and/or your logo. There is generally a fee for more complicated designs, or for dynamic codes, given the need to be able to change these on the fly.


In addition to payments, QR codes can be used to:

  • Provide additional information: Packaging or labeling may be limited in terms of space. QR codes allow you to expand that space. 
  • Drive traffic: Share contact information or location coordinates; send a preset text or email message; call a number.
  • Generate customer interest: Reveal special discounts or coupon codes; direct customers to a website or social media page.
  • Engage & interact: Add an event to the user’s calendar along with a reminder; follow a social media profile; download an app; connect to a store’s Wi-Fi; access an image gallery or YouTube tutorials/videos; review a product.
  • Authenticate products and even validate parking!

Give Them a Try

We think - given the leap forward in technology and the increase in QR code usage around the world - that it's worth looking at how these codes could work for you and your products. Use QR codes in 2019 on business card stickers, product labels, custom wine labels, heck, maybe even bumper stickers and see what happens!

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QR codes in 2019 - is this their year?


If you are interested, there are a number of resources available online. These include online QR generators (many more than the three listed below), as well as designers and data sources.

Create QR Codes

Infographic Sources

Other Resources

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