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I'm building an app that allows users to exchange pieces of writing (i.e. short stories) that they have written with each other. The idea is for the app to be very quick, so you find another user and bam your writing is shared. I would also like for there to be no Internet connection required. My question is: would it be faster to use QR codes to transfer the information (in which the app encodes the text into a QR code that the other user must scan), or should I use Bluetooth?

Also, the word limit is 500 words, so the QR codes will not be unreadable.

  • Why no internet connection? What about a server in the local network to exchange data (e.g. Wi-Fi)? – CodeManX Jul 20 '15 at 19:58
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For sharing multiple stories Bluetooth is better. For sharing a single story (or maybe an experience) a QR code is better.

A user isn't going to want to repeat the photo->import->verify process for more than a story or two. Especially not while the other user is patiently waiting and holding their phone steady or queueing up the next code. So Bluetooth is probably the winner if users simply want to swap collections. You might be able to get away with low power Bluetooth and broadcast your collection to strangers you pass by (whether users want this is another question).

On the other hand, how committed are you to users only reading the story in your app? You could let the users print QR codes on paper, with a note at the top with the title and author and saying they were generated from your app and then users can post them anywhere they want. Then anyone with a QR reader can enjoy a (surprise) short story, and readers can download your app if they are intrigued.

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  • Either really. It's more of a technical consideration with how you are building your app and if you expect users to want to pair and swap collections or broadcast data to listening devices in range. – Nathan Rabe Jul 20 '15 at 20:21
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A complete short story may not fit into the limited amount of data that can be stored within a standard 2D matrix barcode. According to Wikipedia, that’s a maximum of few thousand characters for QR codes and Data Matrix. Therefore, speed and ease-of-use may not be the decisive factors here and you have to use some wireless technology like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (Direct).

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  • Please see my edits. There is a word limit on the text so the QR code size will not be an issue. – Someone Jul 20 '15 at 20:00
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In this particular case I believe you'd be limited more so by the technology than the UX design. According to this page http://qrcode.meetheed.com/question3.php a QR code can store a maximum of 4,296 characters. Which is likely 500-700 words (greatly varies of course). So if you intend to allow your users to have larger stories than that then QR codes are already ruled out.

EDIT: Ok now that you edited to say there is a 500 word limit then QR codes are in play again. So here is my new evaluation. Bluetooth is not great in UX because you have to manually go through both phones settings and pair them to each other. This break in the application flow and multiple setup steps can drive away users. So I would suggest either using QR to transfer the text OR look into NFC communication http://www.nearfieldcommunication.org/bluetooth.html. It is apparently a much easier handshake to connect the two phones so the user interaction will be much simpler. The downside is low transfer rate (~400kb/s) and less than 10cm range. But since you would have to get close enough to scan with QR anyway, and your text is only 500words it might be a viable option to look at.

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  • Whoops, forgot to mention that in the question. The limit is 500 words. See edit. – Someone Jul 20 '15 at 19:53
  • Ok I edited to maybe supply some ideas. – DasBeasto Jul 20 '15 at 20:20
  • But if I were to use Bluetooth I wouldn't necessarily have to have the users switch out of the app...I could just build in a list of discoverable devices within the app, no? – Someone Jul 20 '15 at 20:25
  • I'm not entirely sure of the implementation of bluetooth discoverable devices, if it is possible to keep it in-app then yes that would certainly be ideal, I have just read in a couple places that bluetooth pairing was painful for the user. – DasBeasto Jul 21 '15 at 14:17

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