Google Tests QR Code Log-In From iPhones, Android Smartphones

Google completed testing a remote log-in feature that let users test authenticating a Google Gmail session by scanning a QR code with an iPhone or Android handset.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has wrapped up its hush-hush testing of a new authentication feature that lets users log into their Google accounts by scanning QR codes from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone or handsets based on the Android operating system.

The feature allows users to log into their Google accounts from computers that aren't their own. Google set up this "Open Sesame" destination,, from their computer to see a QR code for a special URL generated by Google.

Users could then fire up their QR reader app-such as the Google Goggles visual search application, QR Reader for iPhone or Barcode Scanner for Android-scan the QR code on their phone and type their Google account username and password.

This scan will prompt users to access their Gmail account or iGoogle homepage, launching either automatically on the desktop's browser, according to PCWorld, which discovered the test via Google+ user/programmer Walter Chang.

The process is similar to the two-step verification process Google introduced last February to let users sign into Google with their password and a short code from their smartphone or tablet.

After several media outlets reported this feature, Google took it down and posted this message on the Open Sesame link:

"Hi there-thanks for your interest in our phone-based login experiment," wrote Dirk Balfanz of Google's security team, who also mentioned it on his Google+ page. "While we have concluded this particular experiment, we constantly experiment with new and more secure authentication mechanisms. Stay tuned for something even better!"

Such a remote log-in capability should be a boon for users who like to access their Google accounts from computers other than theirs, such as those located in an Internet caf??«. While fun, users can be targeted by keyloggers looking to capture account credentials they type into the public computer for malicious ends.

Getting a unique identifier for impromptu browsing from the smartphone is a much safer way to access a public computer a user might otherwise not feel comfortable using.

QR code use, overall, is spotty at best. A comScore study on mobile QR and barcode scanning conducted in June 2011 found that 14 million mobile users in the U.S., or 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR or bar code on their mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.

Those who scanned a QR or bar code were more likely to be male and skewed toward ages of 18 to 34. Marketers in particular are looking to leverage barcode scanning for users, enticing them with coupons they may redeem by scanning QR codes in stores.

Google has tested QR codes to help consumers learn more about restaurants and other local businesses.