What can QR codes do?

We all know that QR codes can be used as physical world hyperlinks, but what other information can they contain?

The codes essentially just encode text, however it is the ability of the readers to detect what type of information that text contains that makes the codes so flexible. Here is a brief list of the types of information recognised by the big readers:

1) Email address

Readers will recognise email addresses by the @ sign. It will then instruct your phone to launch a new blank email to this address.

Example: "mailto: Ben@example.com". Now your qr code should launch a blank email to this address.

A code that fills out the subject and message etc can apparently be done using the NTT DoCoMo MATMSG format (although I haven’t got it to work on my iPhone yet). http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service/imode/make/content/barcode/function/application/mail/index.html

2) Telephone Numbers

To automatically engage the telephone number dialling application on the person's phone, use the tel function. The number does not automatically ring, the user has to give their permission first.

Example: to encode the UK phone number 0207 111 1111 use “tel:00442071111111”. Adding the international dialling code will ensure the code works outside of the UK.

(some people say you can add a “+” instead of the “00” as the international dialing code prefix but I find this does not work on my iPhone).

3) Contact Information

You can use the code to make your phone recognise when text represents the contact details of a person. If permissioned, the information is then automatically added to your phone’s address book.

For example when the correct code is written my iPhone will add the name, email address, website, phone number etc of a person. Very handy.

I have had most success with NTT DoCoMo’s MECARD format. Copy the example below exactly, it will not work if you miss out spaces, semi colons etc.

Example: to encode "Ben Murison, 1 The Street, London, SW1 2TT, 0207 1111111, ben@quikqr.com” I would encode this as

“MECARD:N: Murison, Ben; ADR:1 The Street, London, SW1 2TT; TEL: 02071111111; EMAIL: ben@quikqr.com

Make sure there are semi colons between new types of info and colons after a new instruction e.g. ; TEL: 02071111111. Also make sure you end with a semi colon.

It can be a bit fiddly.

4) SMS

Like the email function, you can tell readers that the text is to be sent as an SMS message. The reader will then launch a new SMS to the phone number specified. The user needs to give their permission before the phone actually sends any message.

Example: to send an SMS to 0207 11111111 then encode:

“smsto:0207 1111111”

5) Geographic Location

QR codes can be used to show geographic locations on your phone. My iPhone shows the location of Google Maps for example. You need to enter the longitude and latitude of the location you want to show in conjunction with the “geo” function.

This website is handy to find the longitude and latitude for where you are trying to home in on: http://itouchmap.com/latlong.html

Example: to show the location of London Bridge, I encode latitude first then longitude second:

“geo: 51.507801,-0.087687”

If you live in an area with Google Street View, then this will give you a link to see the eye level view of the place and give you directions to and from other locations.

Don’t tell me that isn’t cool.

These are probably the main useful ones we have come across.

Let us know if you come across others in the wild.

Ben Murison


  • Hi Ben,

    Saw the link on Facebook - nice one, good luck with this project. We've come over all QR, augmented reality and hi tech wizadry at the ad agency I work at. I'll start linking to you, looks like a really useful application you're building. See you soon.


  • can't find the google app on app store for the iphone.
    i have quickmark and unfortunately it doesn't recognize most of the formats included in this most.

  • You can use:


    to get the plus symbol to work on the iPhone:


  • Can a single QR code trigger two functions?
    I want to have a QR code that would save a calendar event and send an email by scanning the QR code once.

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