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FAQ# 1069:

Can I scan barcodes directly from a cell phone or similar device?


Can I scan barcodes directly from a cell phone or similar device?


There are many factors to consider when asking whether or not a particular barcode scanner will be able to scan barcodes directly from a cell phone screen. The first point of consideration is whether the scanner is a laser scanner or imager. Laser scanners, without exception, will be unable to scan barcodes from LCDs (LED, OLED, or otherwise) or similar screens. Why? It has to do with the way in which the different types of barcode scanners function. For more information about that, see our FAQ on the subject, but, in short, laser scanners fail for one of two reasons: First, the screen may fail to reflect sufficient light (as with a desktop computer's LCD monitor); second, the screen may reflect excessive light, such that the scanner sees a clear red line reflected back (as with a cell phone screen).


If the scanner in question is an imager, there could still be issues scanning directly from an electronic screen. Imagers work like small, low-resolution cameras; consider what happens when you take a photograph through a window while using the flash on your camera. What happens? The image looks washed out, or the reflection of the flash overwhelms the image, and you are unable to see what is through the window clearly. The same is happening to your barcode scanner: When it sends out its beam of red light, too much of that red light is reflected back at the imager from the screen of your cell phone, and the scanner has difficulty recognizing what is behind the reflected light.


Certain barcode scanners are better than others at scanning from cell phone screens and other electronic devices. Typically, scanners designed to read worn or damaged barcodes are more likely to successfully scan images from even the most reflective screens.


For more information, including specific recommendations to meet your needs, please give our sales staff a call at 1-800-903-6571.

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