8 business card apps for smartphones: Scan 'em and store 'em

Tired of losing business cards? With these apps, your smartphone can do the heavy lifting.

Business Card Reader

Android: No longer available

iOS: $6.99 full version

BlackBerry: $9.99 full version

Business Card Reader has an intuitive, purposeful interface -- this clearly named app has a skeuomorphic interface that riffs off of a physical business card case, with its cards in place. (The iOS version does look cleaner than the prosaic field-based Android version.) Plus, it has capable scanning and OCR skills.

business card reader Shape AG

Scanning and processing a card were reasonably quick. The app automatically snaps the picture, which took some getting used to. This also meant that, for a few cards, the autofocus didn't kick in properly.

Oddly, when you're done scanning, your choices are less clear. They include Done, Merge Contact (for merging that info with an already-existing contact in the database), LinkedIn (to download information about that contact from LinkedIn), or View as Text. You can later view and search the card and your fields from the Card Holder, but I couldn't get the edit card feature to work on Android (when I tried it on iOS, it worked fine).

There are no fields for social media info, and in fact most social media entries were ignored during the scan. Multilingual support is comparatively weak in the Android app: The app recognizes English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with the extended paid version adding Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

The iOS version of the app is more visual and more functional, with a wider array of features, and adds Danish, Dutch, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and Turkish. The iOS app also exports to Salesforce and Evernote, though it requires a complicated export with its own PDF documentation.

Test results

Perhaps because of the occasional problems with the autofocus, results were inconsistent. The app successfully converted the verbose layout of a doctor's card, the inverse text card and a high-design glossy card from a gaming company. But on another card, one that was plainer than most, the text was incorrectly OCR'd and in the wrong places.

Bottom line

This app looks better on iOS than Android, and is good for those who prefer a visual prompt and handholding during scans. But other apps offer greater flexibility and accuracy.

CamCard

[No longer available]

Android: Free trial version; $0.99 full version

iOS: Free version; $0.99 full version; $7.99 iPad version

BlackBerry: $9.99 full version

CamCard was the first of these apps I tested, and it immediately set a very high bar for the rest of the competition, one that only ABBYY Business Card Reader approached. This app stands out for its excellent interface, reasonable accuracy and cross-platform and cloud accessibility.

CamCard
CamCard Click to view larger image.

With versions for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and even Windows Phone 8, CamCard is available in some form for whatever mobile device you have now (or you choose to move to). Only the iOS and Android versions offer the premium version, which unlocks a handful of non-essential features and removes the advertising banner that's in the free version. All versions of the app will sync to a cloud account that's accessible via the Web, too.

CamCard offers a clean and intuitive interface, providing a logical flow to the capture and edit process without introducing extra flicks or taps. The app optimizes the card's image by brightening the exposure and improving the card's alignment. These steps helped CamCard return some of the better results I saw in my tests.

Test results

The optical character recognition processing was fast, and did a great job. Still, not everything was flawless: The OCR engine tripped up on some fancy characters (a stylized "&" became an "8") and not-so-fancy characters ("College" became "Col/ege"). On a card that had the phone and fax on the same line, the software put both into the same field. It failed to translate a doctor's card (complete with hospital department info), stumbled on a high-design card with non-standard formatting and had issues with inverse text, struggling to recognize the letters. The app also struggled with a line of Portuguese, which listed one person's title.

But for all those OCR issues, enough was right with the scans that editing wasn't too much of a chore, especially as compared with some of the other apps. And CamCard is easy to edit, thanks to a visual excerpt of the original card that shows the area that the particular field was translated from. You can also add fields for instant messaging services and social media accounts -- but when someone had a Twitter handle, the app didn't detect the @name or automatically add it to a different field.

Cards are automatically saved to the app's Card Holder view and to your contact listing (you can save simultaneously to multiple contact lists). In the Card Holder view, you can search for cards, open a contact's card and initiate calls and messages to a contact.

Bottom line

The overall flexibility of CamCard, coupled with the Web component, make this app a compelling choice for your business card library.

Presto BizCard

[This software is no longer available for mobile devices.]

NewSoft America has a long history of providing scanning software for Windows, but its mobile app efforts with Presto BizCard appear to have stalled at the gate.

Presto BizCard
Presto BizCard Click to view larger image.

Neither version has been updated in over a year, which might explain why I had several crashes while trying to capture a business card. I had better luck importing cards from an already existing picture of a business card -- in those cases, the OCR was adequate. But even then, I wasn't pleased with the interface: There is no way to organize contacts or use BizCard for viewing contacts and initiating communication. Instead, you get a search field, and that's it.

NewSoft says it is still developing this app, and it's working on the bug fixes for the paid version; it had no comment on the issues I had with the free version, which is the same as the paid but only recognizes a total of 10 cards.

Test results

The app behaves similarly in function and design to CamCard; it even shows the original's scanned area in a close-up image as you edit a specific field. But OCR accuracy was hit and miss: The app messed up part of an address import, but did fine with elements other apps missed. On the Portuguese card, the app ignored the person's title, in Portuguese, but correctly entered the English translation of that title in the Title field.

Once scanned, you can search in contacts, or export to your phone's contacts or to Salesforce.

Bottom line

Presto BizCard offers compatibility with Salesforce, but until the app's bugs are fixed there are better options out there.

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