I just imported a group of photos from my iPhone to Photos in macOS and the application "hiccuped" twice at the point where it read in two images of complicated QR-codes.

"hiccuped" = sort-of flashed another window that was too fast to see, or at least redrew the screen.

If Photos somehow detects a QR code and processes it to store the results for searching or indexing, I suppose that might explain it.

Photos 5.0, macOS 10.15.7

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    Were these QR code images regular photos of QR codes, or generated by QR Code tools? If they were generated, then that generation process is just as likely (compared to the content of the images) to have caused this
    – Ezekiel
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 21:28
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    This seems like a yes / no question. Might you sharpen this with an edit if you want practical advice instead of people giving their opinion on a) performance b) how they might measure hiccups c) how the app works.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 14:06
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    What a great comment. I should have said, there’s no problem or ban on yes/no questions just that most people find them less useful. Plus, there’s always the exception to the rule where one is amazing. I just wanted to see if I could help further and it’s my shortcoming that I don’t get how to help with an answer. You’re all good.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 1:57
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    Also, "Can I sort my photos by QR codes?" is easy to answer actually: "There is no sort or filter option within Photos for QR codes, QR codes are not mentioned in the help pages/online manual either."
    – nohillside
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 9:09
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    I’m voting to close my question because it's not likely to be answered (or answerable) in this site.
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 4:07

1 Answer 1


QR code detection and reading does not involve any sort of "extra window", "screen redrawing" or the like. The fact that many QR code reader apps for example display photos with boxes in bright colors drawn on them, etc. does not mean that such display is actually a necessary part of the process.

I have never heard of Photos having a QR code scanning functionality. It does not use QR codes to index photos.

If you want to read QR codes with your iPhone, you can use the Camera app. It will by default detect and read QR codes.

Maybe you feel that the Photos app is hiding something from you, and that you suspect that QR-codes in your photos are getting "scanned" nefariously?

Your grounds for suspicion for that is that you saw something "flashing" or "redrawn" while importing photos. As mentioned above, QR-code scanning does not require any kind of on screen display, graphics or flashing of any kind.

It is most probably just a random occurence that Photos happened to be a bit slower changing from one photo to the other there. Scanning a QR-code in a photo can be done in milliseconds - it's not something that require Photos to pause between photos. In addition, indexing of photos for searching (i.e. the stuff Photos does to make it possible for you to search for locations, features in photos, etc. - as in for example searching for mountains or cat) happens in the background after photos have been imported.

In addition to this, what would Apple gain by "nefarisouly" scanning your photos for QR-codes - I cannot see anything. I guess you could search for "photos with QR-codes" in them - but besides that, what kind of secret feature would it be for? It simply doesn't make sense.

Yes, it is ofcourse possible that evil programmers at Apple hid a QR-code scanning feature in Photos that extracts all those very interesting QR-codes we all have lying around (like routing information on that UPS packages that was delivered 2 months ago, the link to that web page with video instructions on how to assemble the IKEA furniture you've bought last year, etc) - and seemingly not doing anything with that information. However, there's really no practical way of determining if that is the case.

You could conduct a very thorough analysis of the involved binaries, which includes a enormous code base of system frameworks. It's not practical.

  • I haven't heard of Photos having a QR code functionality either, which is why I've asked here. Is there any way to confirm that it does not use QR codes to index photos beyond "because I said so"? Thanks!
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 21:20
  • No, there's really no practical way of doing that. Can you explain why you're interested in it, it might be able to answer your question from a different angle?
    – jksoegaard
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 22:05
  • Photos already has face recognition capabilities and can index by names of people who it thinks are in the photos, so there is nothing that would fundamentally prevent it from also having far simpler QR code decoding software as well. I'm just asking if it does.
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 22:20
  • I’m well aware that it easy to implement. The implementation is already in the framework that Photos uses. I’m asking why you want to know? … it doesn’t really make sense for Photos to do QR scanning without it being advertised.
    – jksoegaard
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 7:06
  • "there's really no practical way of doing that" and "I’m well aware that it easy to implement" sort of cancel each other out, but that's okay. Anyway your answer is that you have not heard of it. And of course Apple has never put some functionality into its software that it didn't first fully advertise, right?
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 10:15

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