Why you shouldn’t use your smartphone as a barcode scanner

It’s no surprise that smartphone ownership has increased drastically in recent years, with more than 15.3 million people in Australia owning a smartphone.

As smartphones can be useful in managing most areas in your life, it may be logical to assume that your trusty iPhone or Samsung will be able to double as a barcode scanner. Even though there are plenty of apps available to get your smartphone to serve your barcode scanning needs, it’s important to understand that scanning with your smartphone will not necessarily be the most efficient and secure option.

Before you use your smartphone as a scanner, here are some factors you should take into consideration:


Unlike smartphones, barcode scanners offer greater security as they are not designed to share data. They have a very specific purpose, to perform inventory management tasks. Connection to the outside world through social media apps is non-existent or restricted. Therefore the risk of data breach is unlikely. If a scanner is removed from the site data is secure as it is stored on the server.

Smartphones on the other hand, can be altered through downloading apps or jailbreaking and compromise data integrity and security. If you’re concerned about security, a purpose built scanner will, undoubtedly, give you more control than a smartphone.

Cost Efficiency

Purpose built barcode scanners are designed for a specific task which means they will out perform smartphones in inventory management.

While a smartphone will have a wider variety of uses, smartphones are regularly updated, meaning technology can be out of date within years and some cases, months. If you utilise a smartphone for scanning, it’s likely you will need to upgrade in a relatively short period of time, which can be an expensive endeavour considering the average smartphones costs around $1,000.

In addition, smartphones are often susceptible to cracks and broken screens which can be expensive to replace. Not only that, but if you break your device before you have transferred the data to your inventory management system, you will need to rescan everything which can reduce productivity.

Rugged barcode scanners are designed to withstand drops, dust and water. There are many rugged handheld devices available, with the ability to withstand temperatures between -20oC and +60oC, water and dust resistance (IP65, IEC 60529) and are shockproof.

Speed and Reliability

While smartphones are designed to perform multiple tasks at once, a barcode scanner has a single purpose- making it more efficient and reliable than a smartphone.

Since a smartphone does not have a scan engine, the read range is determined by the size of the barcode. The smaller the barcode, the closer your phone has to be to read it. If you need to scan a barcode from a distance, you will require a long-range scanner which is an additional cost to the overall solution.

Battery Life

Compared to scanners, smartphones have a shorter battery life as they run the operating system as well as multiple apps.

As most barcode scanners only use power when you pull the trigger or actually read a barcode, battery life will almost certainly outlast a smartphone.

Most smartphone batteries are not user replaceable. This means that you cannot charge a spare battery and quickly replace it, if your smartphone battery dies on you.


Besides maintaining a long battery life, handheld scanners are ergonomically designed for their sole purpose of scanning.

Unlike smartphones, most scanners are built to minimise wrist movement and encourage productivity.

While smartphones offer basic scanning functionality, they do not compare to the ease of use, efficiency and security of utilising a wireless barcode scanner. While a barcode scanning app may be sufficient for certain uses, a barcode scanner is worth investing in.

Software Updates

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a purpose built barcode scanner is the stability of the software build. Unlike smartphone operating systems, the barcode scanner’s operating system is locked down to a version which is rigorously tested. Updates are not deployed unless there is a fault as determined by you. Smartphone’s operating system is updated regardless of the practicality of the update for your environment. The impact of this in the production environment could be catastrophic introducing downtime and possibly data loss which affects productivity and ultimately adding costs to the business.