How to Scan Documents with Your Cell Phone

If you’re one of the millions of hard-working people too busy to breathe, then you’re probably not always able to access your scanner. So what other options do you have? Thanks to modern technology, there are ways to scan documents directly from your cell phone.

Can’t You Just Take a Picture?

Of course, you could always just snap a picture of the document, but not only is that unprofessional, it’s also a surefire way to make sure the courts in a few districts won’t accept the document if your phone has the ability to edit images.

How it Works

Scanning directly from a smartphone typically requires some kind of app. Fortunately, one of the two most commonly used scanning apps (Notes for iPhone) comes with the iPhone, and the other (Google Drive) comes with Android smartphones.

In Notes, simply press the plus button in the middle of the banner across the bottom of the screen. Then tap “Scan Document.” The process works very much the same for Google Drive as well. The video below walks you through the steps.

Is it the Same as a Bonafide Scanner?

The answer to that question is a definite no. Many scanners come with a technology known as optical character recognition (for short: OCR). What OCR software does is enable the scanner to optically recognize the characters as actual text and send that information to the receiving device.

However, when you scan through Notes or Google Drive, neither iOS nor Android is OCR-enabled.

Essentially the difference is that you will be able to select pieces of text in documents scanned from a scanner, whereas documents scanned from one of these two devices will not recognize any text as text and will thus treat it as a PDF of an image.


While official scanners are far and beyond superior to the scanning capabilities of the iPhone and Android apps, not everybody has the luxury of always having a scanner nearby. Sometimes that document just can’t wait for you to walk into the office after a 3-day weekend.