The popularity of 2D barcodes has exploded and there are several types of barcodes on the market. The main purpose of 2D barcodes is to store information and allow a scanning device to read everything in the barcode. But how are the different barcodes different? We will examine both the QR code and PDF417 as they are more widely used today and discuss some of their features and benefits. It is important to understand how they differ and when to use which code to maximize their benefits for businesses and consumers.
The QR code stands for quick response and is designed so scanners can decode it at high speed. It is a matrix type barcode consisting of several square matrices in a large rectangle / square. They can store anything from phone numbers, addresses, URLs, and even allow mobile phones to execute various commands.
PDF417 stands for Portable Data File and is displayed as a long, thin rectangle with rows consisting of linearly stacked code words. Its most outstanding feature is its ability to correct errors. It houses built-in error correction capabilities within its high-resolution linear rows, so defacement of these types of barcodes isn’t a big deal.
Because PDF417 barcodes use stacked linear barcode symbols, it requires a much higher resolution when printing these barcodes or displaying them on a device. This is challenging as those using PDF417 barcodes will need to invest in more expensive equipment just to scan these codes. With QR codes, resolution is important, but not as much as PDF417 barcodes, as they use image sensors, not linear scans. Simple mobile apps can easily scan QR codes, but it is more difficult to scan PDF417 barcodes.
It is also very easy to create QR codes compared to PDF417 barcodes. There are many open websites and resources that allow users to freely generate QR codes, and the popularity is much more widespread relative to PDF417. Many PDF417 scanning solutions are private and require a large investment, especially since such codes demand high resolution and quality.
QR codes are known for their reliability as they contain large amounts of data. The table below is a data capacity comparison for both types of barcodes, and their high data density is clearly superior in this regard.
- Numeric: 7098
- Alphanumeric: 4296
- Binary: 2953
- Kanji: 1817
- Numeric: 2710
- Alphanumeric: 1850
- Binary: 1018
- Kanji: 554
*Fountain: Digital lab: a point of view
This comes at a small cost, because the more data it contains, the more space it takes up. These are generally large squares and take up more space than the small, rectangular PDF417. This is something to consider if printing codes or displaying them on a device, as barcodes that take up more space mean less space for other things.
Today, we see that QR codes are widely used in mobile marketing and business, while PDF417 codes are predominantly present in ID cards and transportation applications. Both 2D barcodes are unique and provide features that differ from other barcodes. Ultimately, it is up to the issuing agency or user to decide what information should be encoded, how the barcode will be displayed, and what type of barcode best fits their goals.