The iPhone gets a business card reader app…and it works! (just about)

The iPhone gets a business card reader app…and it works! (just about)

Picture 4If you’re anything like me, you’ve got drawers, bags and pockets full of business cards – and they don’t belong to you.

Business cards are in fact still a very broken element of business yet are unfortunately still around because we’ve yet to discover a decent alternative. We need a standard, with any luck something virtually every mobile phone manufacturer can agree to run with that will put an end to the entire card handover process. Until then, there a number of companies out there (E, Cloud Contacts) attempting to make life easier for you, a new one on the block is Business Card Reader, an iPhone application developed by Shape Services (makers of IM+).

It should now come as no surprise to you what the application attempts to do, scan business cards and add them as contacts. As I’m sure many of you have, I’ve tried a whole bunch of business card scanning gadgets , none have been portable or reliable enough for me to use with any frequency. Therefore, when I came upon this application, I naturally kept much of that skepticism and didn’t think it would amount to too much…I was wrong and impressed.

Business Card Reader works surprisingly well, with the iPhone 3GS at least. The application makes a heavy point of warning you that if you are using an iPhone 3G you’ll need another gadget to improve on the camera’s quality (it recommends Griffin Clarifi). If you’re an iPhone 3GS user however, you’re in luck, the camera quality is good enough.

Picture 5So once you’ve got the application running and taken your first photo, what are the results you ask? Well, impressively good. The number and name scanning were close to perfect. I say close to perfect because it ignored a couple of phone numbers, and ignores the brackets often found in telephone numbers which means the number simply won’t work. Additionally, if you don’t take the photos in bright clear light, you’ll find the application simply won’t be able to perform as described. I found the best way to take photos of cards is by placing them up-right, by doing so your hand shadow rarely gets in the way.

Once its taken the photo, it performs a neat scanning like effect and voila the contact details are there for to save into your address book or add to an existing contact. Wonderfully, the application manages to enter the data into appropriate fields of the iPhone address book too, a big plus.

Additionally, with its built-in browser, you can perform a quick LinkedIn search of a scanned contact and read their LinkedIn profile without having to leaving the application itself.

If you come across new business cards more than once a week, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Get it.

The application costs £3.49 and can be downloaded here (app store).

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