Pros and Cons of Each Type of Barcode Scanner
Scanning barcodes can greatly improve the speed and accuracy of data entry when compared to manually entering data. The following are the most common barcode scanning options, including Pros and Cons for each barcode scanner.
Android OS Touch Computers
The mobile computers offered by companies, such as Zebra, Honeywell, or DataLogic generally include special barcode “Imager” hardware for scanning 1D (linear) and 2D barcodes. Notably, the imager scans the barcode directly into the form fields of native and web apps.
Pros: They offer fast, accurate scanning with an aimer. Also, they can scan barcodes at greater distances than cameras and have larger battery life.
Cons: They must be physically deployed to the workforce. Generally, you need mobile device management tools. Also, they don’t include all the features of the latest consumer smartphones. Lastly, it may be difficult to upgrade the Android OS.
USB and Bluetooth Barcode Scanning Accessories
They often have the same or similar Imagers that the Android OS Touch Computers have. In the keyboard emulation mode, they can scan barcode data into the native and web form fields of connected iOS and Android OS smartphones and tablets.
Pros: Generally, they offer the same benefits as Android OS Touch Computers. However, the scanning speed and accuracy can be quite poor with inexpensive models. Therefore, it’s best to avoid low-end devices unless they have positive reviews. The cost is moderate, even for the better models. However, you need to also consider the cost of the data receiving devices, such as smartphones or tablets.
Cons: Likewise, they have the same issues as Android OS touch computers. Typically, the biggest issue is that they can be awkward to use in the field since the app-user must handle two devices. More specifically, users must handle the accessory and the connected device. Nevertheless, the connected device can use the latest smartphone technology.
Barcode Scanning Sleds
iOS and Android OS smartphones and tablets slide into these ‘sleds’, which provide Imagers, protective housings, and integrated batteries. Honeywell (Captuvo), Cognex, and Infinite Peripherals (Linea Pro) offer sleds.
Pros: Typically, they offer the same benefits as Android OS Touch Computers. Additionally, you can select the smartphone you want and upgrade or replace it as needed. Also, you eliminate the awkward handling issue of scanning accessories because you can physically connect the devices to become a single, handheld unit.
Cons: Like Android Touch Computers and barcode scanning accessories, you need to be deploy the devices to your workforce. Most importantly, you need to buy both the sled and the smartphone, which can be expensive.
Smartphone and Tablet Cameras
Apple and Android OS device manufacturers are constantly innovating. Thus, these devices can offer the latest technology for AIDC applications.
Enterprise-grade iOS and Android OS apps for scanning barcodes can exceed the performance of dedicated Imagers.
Pros: “Bring Your Own Device” (BOYD) savings can be huge in terms of hardware costs and device management overhead. This is especially true for applications involving subcontractors and when barcode scanning is only needed periodically.
Cons: When provisioning these devices (i.e. not using the BYOD method), you need to consider the real device cost not only in terms of the purchase price but also the replacement cost if damaged. While most smartphones can scan 1000s of barcodes on a single charge, if your app-user needs to scan all day long, a battery pack accessory with housing might be required.
Webcam Barcode Scanning using PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks
In the past, the webcams on these devices have been quite poor and didn’t include auto-focus. Thus, scanning was slow and inaccurate. However, on newer devices, we’ve found that some webcams can scan quite well. You would need to test with your device(s) to see if the webcam scans to your satisfaction. Alternatively, you can use a connected/paired USB or Bluetooth barcode scanning accessory.
Pros: If the intended application doesn’t require mobility and the device (a PC, Mac or Chromebook) is already at the point of service, you can conveniently use the webcam or barcode scanning accessory.
Cons: If using an Android app, an Android Emulator needs to be installed on the device to be able to download or side load an Android app (APK). The devices are not mobile and the camera is not ideal for scanning complex barcodes.