The genius of laser scanning is finally being outsmarted by smartphones. iPhones and Androids aren’t what they used to be, but instead better. Meanwhile mobile scanners are still pretty much what they’ve always been. Smartphones are at the cusp of finally having the scanning speed to add to the other advantages they had over the most advanced models of handheld barcode scanners.
Barcode guns use a laser to capture barcodes and QR-codes. What’s amazing about the little red light is that it will scan correctly in no matter the amount of light or dark in the environment around it. Furthermore, the actual scanning action of the scanner is known as being incomparably faster than anything else, including phone cameras. Laser scanners can do around 1,300 scans per second.
One of the weaker points of a scanner though used to be how big and clunky the mobile versions were. However, in recent years they’ve evolved to look and feel much more like a smartphone. In general, that’s good news, as far as scanning devices go. On the other hand, in retrospect, a person begins to realize that perhaps the fact that scanner manufactured investing in redesigning their hardware to look and feel more like smartphones might’ve been a bad omen for scanners. They were adapting to the new smartphone world of touchscreens and they did away with their buttons. They even starting using the operating systems of smartphones. You can now buy android powered mobile scanners. There’s a distinct picture of one camp leading the other. But barcode guns were able to hang on because of the laser feature. Its speed could not be beaten. At least not then, when iPhones were on in earlier versions of iOS. That’s all changing now.
Smartphones do not have the envied laser feature. All they have is the camera with which they can scan, that is, once the barcode/QR-code is placed in good lighting and had time for the camera to focus it’s lens enough to read the characters. The camera compared to the laser used to be seconds slower per scan. This rendered the idea of using a smartphone as the scanner for receiving, transferring, and picking inventory too impractical. Managers might not have loved the idea of spending thousands of dollars on new hardware to go along with the cost of their new inventory software, but they saw it as the best option.
But notice how I keep saying “used to’ as if this was all in the past. That is because, well, let just ask you this question: Have you tried using the Flowtrac app on your iPhone recently? I have. It shocked me how fast it was. The barcode guns actually take longer now! The smartphone operating systems are now so powerful, and the cameras so advanced, there aren’t many reasons left to “stick to your guns” in the matter of using barcode guns.
All the other perks of using smartphone can now be taken advantage of. First, everyone has one. Companies sometimes even issue smartphones or tablets to their employees. So now companies could consider foregoing the cost of barcode guns. Secondly, smartphones have data plans, so they’re never offline. This makes it better than some traditional scanner that only use Wifi thus have to store scan locally instead of staying fully synced with the cloud-based inventory system. And to name a few more perks, smartphones automatically receive updates to the operating system, they’re more secure, their batteries last a long time, and they even scan better long range because of the camera’s ability to zoom. Finally, since we are all familiar with them already, less training is needed to begin using them for inventory management.