How to Scan Documents With Your Android or iOS Phone

Use Notes in iOS or Google Drive on Android

What to Know

  • iOS: Open Notes and create a new note. Open Camera and tap Scan Documents. Position the camera over a document to automatically scan.
  • Android: Tap Google Drive > plus sign (+) > Create New > Scan. Position the camera over the document, tap shutter, tap check mark.
  • Use Adobe Scan: Tap screen > Continue. Tap the document’s thumbnail to edit and save.

Updated features in iOS and Google Drive allow you to scan documents for free with your phone or tablet. A program or app performs the scan using your camera and, in many cases, converts it into a PDF automatically. This guide shows you how to do it, whether you own an Apple device with iOS 13 or higher or an Android device with Android 11 or higher.

How to Scan Documents With iOS

The release of iOS 11 added a scanning feature to Notes. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open the Notes app and create a new note.

  2. Tap the Camera icon and select Scan Documents.

    A new note in the iOS Notes app with the Scan Documents option highlighted.
  3. Position the phone camera over the document. Notes automatically focuses and captures an image, but you also can do it manually by tapping the shutter button.

    A scan of a recipe in the iOS Notes app.
  4. After you scan a page, drag the handles to crop the scan. Tap Keep Scan to continue.

    A scanned recipe in the iOS Notes app with the Keep Scan option highlighted.

    To scan the document again, select Retake.

  5. Repeat this process for all the pages you want to scan. When you're finished, select Save.

How to Scan Documents With Android

You need Google Drive installed to scan documents with Android. The app generally comes pre-installed on Android devices; if not, download it from the Google Play store. To scan:

  1. Open Google Drive and tap the + symbol.

  2. Under the Create New tab, select Scan.

  3. Position the phone camera over the document and tap the Shutter button when you're ready to capture the image.

  4. Tap the check mark to keep the scan or the back arrow to retake it.

    You can scan a document using Google Drive.
  5. Tap the + symbol to scan more images, or Save to finish and upload your document to Google Drive. There are also options to crop, scan, or rotate the scan, or adjust its color.

  6. When you finish scanning your documents, enter a file name for your new PDF and choose a folder to save it in. Then, select Save.

    You can add more documents after scanning one in Google Drive.

How to Scan Documents With Adobe Scan

Available scanner apps include Tiny Scanner, Genius Scan, TurboScan, Microsoft Office Lens, CamScanner, and more, but Adobe Scan has all the basics covered in its free version. It's easy to navigate and use without much of a learning curve. If you haven't registered for a free Adobe ID, you need to set one up to use this app.

Adobe Scan offers a paid in-app subscription to access additional features and options. However, the free version includes enough features to cover the needs of most users.

Here's how to scan documents with Adobe Scan:

  1. Open the app and log in with a Google, Facebook, or Adobe ID.

  2. Tap the screen or the shutter button when you're ready to scan the document. The app finds the borders and takes a picture for you.

  3. Drag the handles to adjust the borders if necessary, then tap Continue.

  4. The app automatically takes more scans if necessary. If you don't want to do that, tap the scan's thumbnail to display the editing and saving options. Here, you can rotate it, crop it, change the color, and more. When you're ready, tap Save PDF in the upper-right corner of the screen to save it.

    Scanning a document in Adobe Scan on Android

    After you select Save to PDF, tapping the More icon displays options for the new file. You can choose to save it to Google Drive, copy it to your device, print it, delete it, and more.

What Optical Character Recognition Is

Optical character recognition (OCR), sometimes called text recognition, is a process that makes text within a PDF recognizable, searchable, and readable by other types of programs or apps.

Many scanner apps, such as Adobe Scan, apply it to PDFs automatically, or you can select this option in the preferences. As of the iOS 11 release, the scanning feature in Notes for iPhone doesn't apply OCR to scanned documents, nor does Google Drive.

  • How do I scan QR codes on my iPhone or Android?

    To scan QR codes with your phone, open the Camera app, point it at the QR code, and tap the pop-up notification. On some devices, you'll need to download a third-party QR code reader app.

  • How do I scan documents with my iPad?

    To scan documents with an iPad, download an app like Scanner Pro, SwiftScan, DocScan, or Genius Scan.

  • How do I scan photos on my iPhone or Android?

    To scan color photos on your phone, use a photo scanner app like Google PhotoScan, Photomyne, or Microsoft Lens.

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