Advantages and disadvantages of a barcode reader

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Did you know that the first-ever barcode appeared on a pack of chewing gum in 1974? In the half-century since, barcode technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. Today, barcode readers are a familiar sight in grocery stores, warehouses, airports, and hospitals. 

However, just like every other technology, barcode readers come with their own set of pros and cons. Let’s now explore the advantages and disadvantages of barcode readers – and how the latter can be overcome. 


Companies typically use barcoding and barcode readers to save time, reduce cost, and minimize errors. Ultimately, this increases business efficiency. More recently, developers are including barcode features in customer-facing apps to add value and improve the customer experience.

Saves time

Barcode readers are a rapid and effective means of data extraction and entry, and so speed up a range of workflows. They deliver major time savings compared to human data entry, that is, typing or writing down data. 

Because a barcode reader can instantly collect and decode data in just a simple scan, businesses can streamline operations like inventory management, product identification, and pricing lookup. 

Increases accuracy

Scanning barcodes with a barcode reader is far more accurate than entering data manually. 

On average, a human makes a mistake every 100 characters. In comparison, barcode readers only make one mistake in every 70 million scanned characters.[1]

Companies can avoid manual input errors by integrating barcode scanners into their workflows.

Improves productivity

Keeping track of all the assets that move through your organization takes time and effort. Implementing a barcoding system is an excellent solution to the problem of tracking valuable items and goods. It removes a lot of administrative overhead – and allows businesses to react to changes and inquiries more quickly.

Companies also use barcode scanning to easily record order entry, shipping, and receiving, or a product passing quality control. Barcoding also sees use in access control, document handling, and project management. It provides a real-time company-wide connection that allows enterprises to increase their productivity and operational efficiency.

Reduces cost

By increasing productivity, accuracy, and efficiency across a variety of organizational activities, barcode scanners can reduce expenses considerably. Here are just some examples:

Supply chain management: These tools increase overall efficiency while reducing errors to optimize the supply chain. 

Back-office: Barcode scanners simplify inventory management and do away with the requirement for paper-based processes. Additionally, they eliminate the risk of manual data entry errors. 

Retail: They also speed up the checkout procedure, cutting down on wait time and improving client satisfaction. 

Barcode scanners are an excellent investment for companies seeking to improve their bottom line: The higher operational efficiency and lower error rate can unlock large cost savings.

As technology advances, handheld scanners are increasingly replaced by software-based scanners. Software barcode scanners are often not only more convenient and less costly, but also provide advanced features, making them the tool of choice for many businesses.

Discover how our clients saved time and money with the Scanbot Barcode Scanner SDK

Origimed enabled 1-second medication verification

Rimi Baltic reduced its Scan & Go costs by 90%

Carelogic scans 100k barcodes per day


Before we delve further into the merits of these cutting-edge software solutions, it is essential to consider some disadvantages of traditional handheld scanners.

Connectivity constraints

Even high-end handheld barcode scanners frequently have very limited connectivity options. Some devices only offer a wired connection, others need a dedicated base station. This constraint can affect the usability and integration of the barcode reader with other systems or devices.

Limited range

Handheld barcode readers typically have a very short scan range, meaning the user has to hold them very close to the barcode to read it correctly. This limitation poses a significant challenge when the barcode is located in an inaccessible or hard-to-reach spot. 

Lack of support of different barcode types

While useful for some applications, hardware-based barcode scanners often do not cover a wide range of barcode symbologies. Unlike software-based scanners, they often struggle with decoding complex barcodes. Software-based scanners excel in versatility, accommodating various barcode types and meeting diverse scanning needs. Their flexibility enables them to decode a wide range of codes effectively. In terms of barcode compatibility, software scanners outperform handheld devices, since the number of supported barcode formats can be extended at any time via an update.

Limited features

Software scanners showcase an extensive range of capabilities that their handheld counterparts cannot match. The inclusion of features like zooming in and out, diverse filters, and the capacity to extract structured data grants users effortless access to high-quality results.  The seamless integration of these advanced functionalities into mobile devices provides users with superior scanning capabilities at their fingertips.

How do smartphone-based barcode scanners solve these problems?

Smartphone-based scanning software is superior to handheld scanners in multiple areas.

Firstly, smartphones are portable and ubiquitous, ensuring easy access to barcode scanning by downloading an app. This can be a dedicated app, but scanning features can also easily be integrated into an existing company application thanks to tailored scanning solutions. 

Secondly, they are less expensive. By implementing a bring-your-own-device policy (BYOD), companies can eliminate the need to invest in hardware-based scanning solutions altogether – and simultaneously enable scanning on the go. For companies that decide against BYOD, smartphones are typically still a cheaper solution than hardware scanners.

Thirdly, these software solutions can scan various barcode types, including QR Codes and Data Matrix Codes – and more efficiently. They can, for instance, scan them in batches too, which saves additional time and effort.

Additionally, smartphone-based scanning applications often come with user-friendly interfaces. These not only make the scanning process easy for users of all levels of experience, but they also largely eliminate lengthy, costly training.

Scanbot SDK – the solution for your barcode scanning needs

The Scanbot Barcode Scanner SDK transforms any mobile device into a powerful scanner without the need for expensive hardware. It supports a large range of 1D and 2D barcode symbologies and excels at scanning damaged or blurry barcodes. 

Using computer vision and machine learning technology, the SDK guarantees lightning-fast and accurate detection with 98.7% accuracy and a scan time of just 0.2 seconds per barcode. Our barcode scanning solution can handle challenging situations such as dim lighting and scanning from distances over one meter and also supports scanning barcodes in batches.

The SDK operates offline, ensuring that it can be used anywhere – while also safeguarding data security and privacy. 

Did we raise your interest? Learn everything you need to know about buying an SDK in our free Stakeholder Guide.



How does the use of smartphone-based barcode scanners impact employee training compared to traditional handheld scanners?

Smartphone-based barcode scanners reduce the need for extensive training, as employees are already familiar with smartphone usage, streamlining the adaptation process compared to learning to operate traditional scanners.

Can smartphone-based barcode scanning solutions be easily customized for specific industry needs, such as retail or healthcare?

Yes, smartphone-based scanning solutions offer customization flexibility, allowing them to be tailored to specific industry requirements, including retail and healthcare, through app development and integration.

What are the environmental implications of switching from hardware-based to software-based barcode scanning solutions?

Transitioning to software-based scanning reduces the environmental impact by minimizing the manufacturing, shipping, and disposal of physical hardware scanners, contributing to a more sustainable approach to barcode scanning.

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