Apple's Autoscanning iTunes Card Promo Codes Work via Hidden Font, Can be Replicated by Devs

When you purchase an iTunes gift card and redeem it in the App Store, the camera on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac can scan the code on the card to recognize it automatically, saving you the time of typing the numbers in manually.

Equinux, the company behind Mail Designer Pro 3, dug into how Apple's promo code engine works in an effort to make their own scannable cards, and the results are quite interesting. As it turns out, the scanning feature in the App Store is tuned to recognize two things: a unique, hidden font and the dimensions of the box around it.

itunescardpromocode
Equinux tried the box alone with a range of fonts like Courier and Monaco, and attempted to identify the unique characteristics of the font to find it, but were unsuccessful. Ultimately, the team realized the font that Apple's using is hidden deep within iTunes.

The breakthrough came when we noticed that when you scan a card with your iPhone, the app briefly displays a "scanned" overlay of the code. This means the font must be embedded in the app somewhere. We tried the same with iTunes on macOS. And voila - the iTunes on Mac behaves the same way.

When you look at some of the other folders inside iTunes, we found a tantalizing plugin called "CodeRedeemer." It showed promise. But alas, no font files there either. The app binary does give a hint of where the heavy lifting is being done: "CoreRecognition.framework."

Hidden in the CoreRecognition.framework, there are two fonts: "Scancardium," for entering and recognizing codes, and "Spendcardium," which appears to be for obscuring credit card details as they're entered. The two fonts can be found by going to Finder on a Mac, clicking Go, choosing Go to Folder and pasting the following: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/CoreRecognition.framework/Resources/Fonts/

With a simple double click, the fonts can be installed on a Mac and can be used within different apps. While this is a neat breakdown for end users, it's of particular interest to developers because these fonts can be used to create custom App Store promo code cards that can be scanned in the same way as iTunes gift cards.

appstorepromocodecustom
Equinux outlines the exact font height to use and how to position it within the surrounding box to get Apple's engine to recognize it, details the company uncovered after investing a lot of time in tweaking fonts and the border of the required box.

Equinux even went one step further and created helpful Sketch and Photoshop templates that developers can use to create App Store promo code cards that can be automatically scanned using a device camera and recognized by the App Store.

Related Forum: Mac Apps

Top Rated Comments

linkmaster02 Avatar
86 months ago
Is it legal to use the font in your own promo materials?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ckelley Avatar
86 months ago
Probably the same one that's used for scanning HomeKit keys as well, the font looks similar.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cateye Avatar
86 months ago
There's nothing "secret" about using a font this way. There have been specialty fonts that make for easy and reliable optical character recognition (OCR) via "fuzzy" recognition (e.g. using a photograph) for years. Apple may have developed their own font for whatever reason, but there are literally dozens of speciality typefaces that allow for this. Barcodes work this way as well. Microsoft made a stink at one point how you could hold up a MS gift card in front of a Kinect and have it read similarly quickly. It's a bit of a parlor trick, but does save you from having to type in all those letters and numbers.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Appurushido Avatar
86 months ago
Apple technology, not always the first, but they make sure they always try to make it the best!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TechRemarker Avatar
86 months ago
Since one can only presume that font is licensed by Apple, not sure how developers would be able to use it legally unless Apple some day officially extends the feature to develops and open sources the font.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justperry Avatar
86 months ago
PS: I'm almost certain it doesn't even scan the font but the barcode below it.
I just scanned a Homekit accessory code (It's similar), there wasn't any barcode under it so you are wrong.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
General Apps Messages

Apple Announces 'Groundbreaking' New Security Protocol for iMessage

Wednesday February 21, 2024 6:00 am PST by
Apple today announced a new post-quantum cryptographic protocol for iMessage called PQ3. Apple says this "groundbreaking" and "state-of-the-art" protocol provides "extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks." Apple believes the PQ3 protocol's protections "surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps," according to its blog post:Today we are announcing...
samsung galaxy ring

'Apple Ring' Allegedly in Development to Rival Samsung Galaxy Ring

Tuesday February 20, 2024 2:27 am PST by
Apple is speeding up development of a smart ring that can be worn on the finger to track users' health biometrics, claims a new report coming out of Korea. Teaser image of Samsung Galaxy Ring shown at Galaxy Unpacked in January Apple has toyed with the idea of a ring wearable for several years, as indicated by several patents, but with Samsung preparing to bring its own product to market, the ...
volvo s60 drivers apple maps

iOS 17.4 Beta Adds CarPlay Option to Show Upcoming Maneuvers in Instrument Cluster

Tuesday February 20, 2024 10:47 am PST by
The fourth beta of iOS 17.4 that Apple released today adds a new CarPlay feature, according to the notes that Apple provided to developers. In supported CarPlay vehicles, there's now an Apple Maps option to show information about upcoming maneuvers in the instrument cluster. CarPlay users will be able to swap the display type between the main and instrument cluster by tapping on the map...
m3 macbook pro 14 16

Apple Now Selling Refurbished M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro Models

Monday February 19, 2024 5:04 pm PST by
Apple today began offering refurbished versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chip options, offering the machines at a discount for the first time since their October 2023 release. The release of M3 Pro and M3 Max models on Apple's refurbished store comes almost two weeks after the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro first appeared on the store....
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Said iPhone Driver's Licenses Will Expand to These 8 U.S. States

Monday February 12, 2024 7:51 am PST by
In 2021, Apple introduced a feature that lets residents of participating U.S. states add their driver's license or ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. Unfortunately, states have been slow to adopt the feature since it was first announced in September 2021, with IDs in the Wallet app only available ...
iPad Pro OLED Feature 2

Apple's Upcoming OLED iPad Pro Models Rumored to Be Much Thinner

Tuesday February 20, 2024 1:39 pm PST by
Apple is planning to update the iPad Air and iPad Pro lineups as soon as March, and the new iPad Pro models will be significantly thinner according to dimensions shared by 9to5Mac. Citing sources with knowledge of Apple's plans, the site claims that the larger version will be more than 1mm thinner. The current 12.9-inch iPad Pro measures in at 6.4mm thick, but the new model is said to be 5mm ...