QR codes and NFC chips are fundamentally different technologies.
A QR code is a kind of 2 dimensional barcode made of black squares inside a larger white square. It can store a certain amount of data that can be recognized by an application which will trigger actions like opening a link to a website, connecting to a wifi network, add a virtual business card (vCard) to your contact list and many more.
It is easy to implement. Once you have generated your QR code, which you can do on specialized websites for example, all you need is to broadcast it through prints or online.
Today, QR codes are a norm and can be read on any smartphone. To do so, all you need is a dedicated app capable of reading and interpreting QR codes.
Some camera apps (on the iPhone for example) are capable of reading a QR code natively.
NFC (Near Field Communication) is a chip technology based on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) which allows the exchange of data between two devices by simply getting them near one another. This is referred commonly as “contactless”. It is quick and pairing between the two devices is not required. NFC chips are autonomous and don’t require an internal power source. They are powered by the magnetic field of the NFC capable device using them (like a smartphone).
Like QR codes, NFC chips can store data. They are used in many ways: contactless payment, transit cards, loyalty cards, opening URL to a predefined website…
They are really easy to use and do not require any additional application. All you need is a NFC capable device.
While both technologies have the same goal, their implementation and use are very different.
The QR Code as of now has better compatibility than NFC. Any smartphone can read a QR Code.
However, NFC technology is constantly progressing and most current smartphones are compatible.
The QR Code must be visible by means of a print on a support or diffusion on a screen.
For the NFC solution, there are several types of NFC media such as stickers, cards (credit card format), key rings, etc. You can choose the media that best suits your needs.
For the QR Code, you must use an application that can read and interpret it. It is possible to read a QR Code several meters away, depending on its size.
For an NFC chip, the range is much shorter. Only a few centimeters (2 cm on average). You must approach your smartphone near the chip to be able to read it.
Pros and cons:
The advantages of the QR Code are that it is very simple and inexpensive to set up and that it is possible to flash it easily from several meters away. In addition, it is now a standard well known to users.
However, the QR Code must be clearly visible in good light and not damaged (scratch, bend, etc.). It is also necessary to have a dedicated application to read and interpret it.
This system is not suitable for the use of secure data.
NFC chips have the advantage of being extremely easy to use, requiring no special application to read it as long as your smartphone is NFC compatible.
On the other hand, its implementation is a little more expensive than the QR Code because you have to use NFC chips. Also, the technology being more recent, the compatibility is not yet complete. But it is quickly gaining ground due to its strong demand from users who prefer this technology.
This system is ideal for secure data if you choose the right type of chip.
To conclude, each technology has its strengths and weaknesses, but from a practical point of view, NFC is preferable.
A good practice today is to offer both technologies so that everyone can have the information according to their current equipment. Like for example an NFC business card with a QR Code printed on the card.