Google Now-on-Tap just killed the QR code. Period.

I was a big fan of the QR code when it came out. It was the first time I felt the true synergies of seamless continuity between the physical & the digital. I honestly felt we’d see them everywhere, and being an early mobile marketer, I wanted to see them everywhere. I’ve even contemplated the hyper-nerdy QR code tattoo. But other than at NYC bus stops, I’ve barely found myself using one.

A few stories have tried to explain the demise of the QR code, citing lack of wifi/data and the awkwardness of its usage as the primary reasons for its lack of use. When Shazam embedded a QR code reader into its app last year, I got excited again but that fizzled out quickly as it wouldn’t work with all QR codes and opened a fairly limited webview. Let’s hope the newly launched ‘Shazam for Brands’ works better, but that’s going to take a while to scale.

But with Google’s latest release of Now-on-Tap, I officially proclaim, “The QR code is Dead! Long live the QR code!”. Why? 4 Reasons:

  1. Because Google’s OCR text-recognition has gotten so good
  2. I don’t need to download a new app for it
  3. It opens a Chrome WebView that’s a modern-day browser and will soon support Instant Apps! (can’t wait for this)
  4. It’s just 5 actions (6 Taps) from Unlock on my Nexus 6P. Here’s how you do it:

This is the Papa Johns pizza box I just ordered. A few slices in, I already feel unhealthy so I wanted to check out the ingredients, and also save the promo code they sent for a future purchase.

Alright, let’s do this:

  • Launch Camera via DoubleTap — 2 Taps
  • Launch Now-on-Tap via Long Press — 1 Tap
  • Launch Text Selection Mode — 1 Tap
  • Tap on the URL area — 1 Tap
  • Launch Target Website — 1 Tap (and the last of the 6)
  • And voila…

It works with text, links, email addresses and phone numbers. So, hopefully these Business Card Reader apps should be afraid. It also works pretty well if the text is italicized and at most angles. I can’t wait for it to integrate Translate’s Visual Search too!

So there you have it. I know this is still fairly beta, and it only works on Android M+, but it’s not hard to imagine this coming to Google on iOS as well (though it may need a few more taps).

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