Barcode Scanning: What to Look for in a Scanner

Allen Malapit
July 30, 2015

Barcode scanning can be hugely helpful to wholesale sales reps taking orders during store visits when used in conjunction with mobile order writing software. Just think––rather than filling out a paper order form, sales reps can simply go around the store with their customers, scan products that need to be restocked, and then see those products show up in the order on their smartphone or tablet. This can also be done at trade shows for faster, more efficient order taking. In order to do this kind of barcode scanning, you may be able to simply use the built-in camera on your device. Alternatively, you may want to invest in a bluetooth barcode scanner. For those in the latter category, we’ve put together this post on what to look for in a barcode scanner, as well as a few scanners that could work for your business.

Barcode Scanning: Things to Consider When Choosing A Scanner

1. Handheld vs. Desktop

It’s more than likely that you’re going to be looking for a handheld scanner that you can use on the go. We will be focusing on these handheld options in this post, but take note that there are many desktop options out there if that’s what would work for your business.

2. Device Keyboard Use While Scanning

Most bluetooth scanners act as an external keyboard for your device. In other words, when a barcode is scanned, the barcode is entered into an input field on your device––almost as if someone typed the barcode in very quickly. You may, however, want the option to use your actual device keyboard while using the scanner. If, for example, you’ve scanned a product and then want to make notes or change a quantity, you’ll need your device keyboard to do that. Find a scanner that has a switch function that will allow you to move between the scanner and the mobile device’s keyboard.

3. Multiple Device Use

Figure out if you want the scanner to pair with multiple devices. Some scanners can be paired with multiple devices, connecting via bluetooth to whatever devices they pick up. This is a necessary feature if the device will be shared among several employees. Others require you to pair with one designated device at a time. If you want to pair it with a new device, the scanner will “forget” the old one in order to pair with the new one. This scenario works for individual sales reps who will be using the scanner exclusively.

4. Battery Life

Be sure to look into the average battery life of each scanner you consider. If your reps are going to be on the road for most of the day and going to multiple appointments, they’ll need enough juice to get through the day.

5. Durability

How important is durability? It might be worth it to spend a little more on a scanner that’s solidly built, rather than a cheaper one made with light plastic. Will the scanner still work if dropped? Does it have any external padding to protect it?

6. Warranty

Check out each device’s warranty policy. You don’t want to be left in the lurch if the scanner breaks or malfunctions.

7. Barcode Support

As you already know, there are many different barcode formats out there. Some scanners support more than others. Make sure that the scanner you’re looking at supports the barcodes you use.

8. Customization

What kinds of customizations are important to you? Changing the beep volume, setting an automatic shut-off time? A button scan vs. continuous scan function?

9. Clip-on vs. Separate Unit

Having a barcode scanner that can clip onto your device can be much easier than juggling two devices. However, these clip-on units tend to be a bit pricier than the regular bluetooth scanners. It’s something to consider.

Start Barcode Scanning with These Scanners

1. The Socket MobileCHS-7Ci

The Socket Mobile CHS-7Ci handheld scanner comes in at around $200 each. The scanner has a keyboard switching feature that allows you to temporarily show the on-screen keyboard while the scanner is paired with the device. As mentioned above, this allows you to conveniently add notes, change quantities, etc. while writing the order. With a 19-hour battery life, this scanner will last you a whole day on the road. It also includes a lanyard/belt clip, so that you can keep your hands free when you’re not using it.

2. The TaoTronics TT-BS016

The TaoTronics TT-BS016 Wireless Barcode Scanner is a great choice for those who’re looking for an economical solution. At around $66, this scanner is definitely the cheapest on the list, making it an option for businesses who have to equip large sales teams with these devices. We’ve also found it to be quite reliable in terms of performance. The scanner does have some limitations, however. While barcode scanning, you cannot use the device keyboard. It also doesn’t have a power button, so you’d have to wait for it to turn itself off if you needed the keyboard. On the bright side, however, you can set it to automatically turn off after 30 seconds of inactivity. Another downside is that this scanner will only remember one device at a time. If it needs to be connected to multiple devices, it will need to be re-paired every time (rather than just turning it on and having it automatically connect). If each sales rep is going to be using his or her own scanner exclusively, however, this isn’t a huge issue.

3. The KoamTac KDC410i-OP-R1 Snap-On Scanner

The KoamTac Snap-On Bluetooth Scanner is a great choice for those who want to work with one device. It attaches to your mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet. Instead of having to hold a mobile device and a scanner at the same time, you’ll be holding one all-in-one tool. It also has a built-in 1200 mAh rechargeable battery, which can be used as an external power source for your mobile device. The downside? At around $319, it’s the priciest scanner on this list. Questions about barcode scanning or any of the scanners we’ve included in this post? Let us know in the comments.