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.

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ScanBizCards

Android: Free version; $0.99 full version

iOS: Free version; $0.99 full version

ScanBizCards Business Card Reader starts out with a clear, easy-to-understand opening screen, but unfortunately the rest of the app doesn't carry out that promise.

Aside from the app's opening screen's prompts, I found the interface to be convoluted, requiring extra steps to get anything done. In fact, the old-school interface feels like a throwback to Android 1.6 Donut; for example, a bunch of confusing options are buried under a single button labeled Card Actions.

Want to edit a field? First tap on the arrow to open the field, then you can edit the text. The full view of the card appears, so if you're trying to finesse something, you're out of luck -- you can't zoom into the area scanned for that field. The app ignores fields it doesn't recognize, and lets you choose to edit them, assign a field name from a lengthy existing list or add a field if you need to. There are no pre-existing fields for social media.

After you edit the card, you can save the edits to the app and then, if you want, to Google Contacts. Alternatively, ScanBizCards has an unusual transcribe option where the company's staff will manually edit entries for you. However, to use this you must first sign up for WebSync ($10 for the year, $0.99 for a month) -- a cloud storage service -- and then you need to buy "credits" for the various transcriptions.

Incidentally, there is a free version, but that has an advertising banner, lacks some features and only lets you save three scans a week to your contacts. That means all but casual users will want the paid version, which gets rid of the advertising and opens it up to unlimited scans.

One benefit of ScanBizCards is that you can export to Salesforce, SugarCRM, LinkedIn, Jigsaw (now Data.com Connect), and Zoho CRM. The services will prompt you for the log-in, then add the contact. These exports are the most compelling reason to consider this app.

Another reason: If you're an existing user of Dymo's venerable CardScan software, this app and its WebSync service let you use your existing CardScan database in sync with the Web database of ScanBizCards.

Test results

You will need to edit. Of all the apps I tested, this app struggled most with my test suite of cards, showing major OCR errors in all scans. Among the errors: The scan engine ignored a company name, and it couldn't auto-detect text orientation on a landscape card.

Bottom line

If you use a sales-based CRM or are a long-term user of CardScan, you might want to try this app. Beyond that, there are better options out there.

WorldCard Mobile

Android: Free version; $6.99 full version

iOS: $6.99 full version

WorldCard Mobile truly tries to be a global app, if the evidence in the Google Play store is any indication. The app has nine versions, several of which are localized versions in Korean, Chinese and Japanese. Indeed, the app did well with scanning my international cards, not surprising given the local language support. For English speakers, however, there are two versions to be aware of: The free WorldCard Mobile Lite and the for-pay WorldCard Mobile. The paid version lets you save more than 50 cards and export your data, among other features.

As with most of these card-scanning apps, you tap to take a photo, the app scans it and then pops the info into the appropriate fields. I found the app reasonably friendly to use, but didn't like that if a field wasn't recognized, you had to first tap the plus sign to reveal the line to add data to. The free version is limited: You can save only five scans in the first week, and one per week thereafter.

I liked how this app could import an email signature file into a record. (The iOS version also supports importing via QR code.) Once scanned, I could view cards alphabetically by all, by favorites, unfiled, or unverified; or I could create a custom group.

Test results

The app missed some things in the scans. On one card, it entirely missed the company name and address, for example. It struggled on cards with more design elements, though it accurately translated the fancy "&" character that other apps translated as a "6" or "8." And it did well on the inverse card and on a glossy, high-design card.

It also handled my other international cards well; the scans weren't flawless, but they were better than most. I could easily switch to a Portuguese dictionary -- one of seven languages on-board -- which yielded my most accurate scans of that card.

The text OCR was inconsistent, at best. Some of the transcriptions were accurate, others not so much. Cards can be saved to your phone contact list, or to a VCF or CSV file.

Bottom line

Reasonably attractive design and decent OCR handling make WorldMobile a good choice -- particularly if you need international language support.

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