We live in a practically paperless, digital age, but there’s one paper product that just won’t die: the business card. Business cards are pretty much a necessity for networking, but what do you do with 800 business cards when you get home from a tradeshow?
Let me guess – leave them in your bag and forget about them until the next tradeshow rolls around. Not such an effective networking tool after all.
Good news: there are plenty of apps that will help you stay on top of your business card stash by (quickly) digitising them and adding the relevant information to your virtual Rolodex (your Contacts list). We tried out five to find out which one makes the best business card butler.
CamCard (free version and US$3 premium version) is a classic. It’s quick, accurate and cheap, with two versions to suit different needs – its entry-level free version offers full functionality, but limits your card-scanning to 200, where its premium version offers unlimited scanning. CamCard’s optical character reader (OCR) can read and digest card information in 17 different languages, including English, traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Swedish and Russian.
CamCard is one of the fastest apps we tried – it snaps card photos automatically and flattens the photo into a readable image. It also offers a batch mode, where you can take successive snaps of multiple cards. This app is fairly accurate at translating card data to contact information, and it can read multiple layouts (though it frequently mixes up company, department and job title). It can automatically translate phone numbers with extensions into a phone-readable format (with commas), and it can decipher social media handles. The app has a robust web interface, where you can manage contacts (categorise or delete them, or merge duplicate cards) efficiently.
On the downside,this app has trouble recognising all-black cards and extremely glossy cards; for these cards you will need to manually snap a photo and there’s no guarantee the OCR will read them correctly.
Overall, CamCard is a solid app with minor, understandable flaws. The app features a cloud-based database that can be synced across devices, and you can also upload all contact information into your local Contacts list. CamCard also lets you upload your own card and add augmented reality features, such as a headshot or a video introduction, which other CamCard users will be able to see, should they ever scan your card. The app does let you share your card digitally with users via QR (quick response) code or through its Card Radar, a feature that alerts you to nearby CamCard users.
FoxCard (free with in-app purchases) is a straightforward, easy-to-use business card scanning app that can recognise cards in nine different languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish and Danish).
FoxCard is just a business card scanner, not a social networking tool, so there’s no way to add digital features to your current business card or share your business card digitally with other FoxCard users. The scanner function is automatic – the app will automatically snap a photo of a card once it’s positioned correctly – and features a batch mode for snapping multiple cards. We found that FoxCard’s scanner is better at recognising all-black and glossy cards, though its overall scanning speed is slightly slower than CamCard’s. This app also offers better in-app management tools: you can mass- categorise, email, text, share or delete contacts from within the app itself.
While the app’s OCR is good, it’s not excellent. It frequently messes up addresses (it almost never separates the street from the city) and it occasionally places periods where there should be none. The app’s batch mode also had a few quirks – information from some cards bled into other cards (for example, I found an address on a card where no address was listed – it was from a different card) in multiple tests.
FoxCard isn’t perfect, but it is completely free. The app does feature a cloud-based database that lets you sync your contacts across multiple devices, and it also lets you save contact information directly to your device’s local Contacts list.
WorldCard Mobile (free lite version and US$7 premium version) is aptly-named – this business card scanner recognises the most languages (21) of any of the apps we tested, including simplified and traditional Chinese, Czech, Slovak and Arabic, though you will need to manually select the language of each card before you scan it. The app comes in two versions: a free version that allows you to save one contact per week, and a premium version that allows you to save unlimited contacts.
Like CamCard and FoxCard, WorldCard Mobile has its own cloud-based database that can sync across multiple platforms. It can also save contacts directly to your local Contacts list and sync with Gmail/Google contacts – a handy feature for Gmail users.
Unfortunately, WorldCard Mobile does not have a batch mode for snapping pictures of multiple cards at once, nor does the camera automatically take a photo when a card is properly positioned. These may seem like insignificant features, but they make a big difference when you have hundreds of business cards to digitise. At US$7, the premium version of this app (and, realistically, the only usable version) is more expensive than the other apps we tested.
WorldCard Mobile is perfect for international businesspeople who like to keep their Gmail contacts up-to-date, but for everyone else it’s slower and pricier than the competition.
SamCard (free lite version and US$4 premium version) is a simple, straightforward business card reader that scans cards and saves them to your iPhone’s local Contacts list. The app comes in two versions: SamCard Lite, which allows you to save up to three new cards to your Contacts list each week, and the premium version, which allows you to save unlimited cards to your Contacts list.
The app is simple and easy to use. Unlike the other apps in this round-up, SamCard doesn’t bother with a cloud-syncing database – you don’t have to create an account, nor do you need to worry about which contacts list(s) to save your data to. Instead, SamCard saves all of your scanned cards directly to your iPhone’s local Contacts list, and that’s it. The app also offers relatively good OCR technology that can recognise a business card’s orientation, though in testing it did have some trouble with non-traditional layouts. The camera does not offer a batch mode or automatic picture-taking, but it does work very quickly.
However, because SamCard doesn’t offer a cloud-based database, you won’t be able to sync your contacts across platforms (unless you sync your iPhone contacts across platforms). The app is also perhaps a little too simple – it doesn’t offer a batch mode, nor does it allow you to quickly manage multiple contacts at once (you’re at the mercy of Apple’s contact management system). One plus: it checks for repetition of contact names in your contacts list.
SamCard isn’t the most robust business card reader, but its simplicity is appealing. If you’re just looking to quickly add people to your Contacts list, SamCard’s camera is the snappiest (even without batch mode or automatic snapping).
ScanBizCards (free lite version, US$1 premium version, and enterprise version) is a business card scanning app from CircleBack that offers unlimited scanning in its free app (but limited contact list syncs), as well as some other features such as manual card transcriptions and calendar integrations. The app comes in three versions: a Lite version, which is free and lets you scan unlimited business cards; a premium version for $1, which offers unlimited business card scanning, unlimited address book syncs, and unlimited calendar integrations; and an enterprise version, which is priced based on your company’s needs and offers features like batch scanning, custom contact fields, and unlimited free manual card transcriptions.
Of the apps we tested, ScanBizCards has the best OCR technology. This app was consistently accurate in its card-reading capabilities; it did occasionally get tripped up on non-traditional layouts and glossy/black cards. Although the free and premium versions of the app do not offer batch mode for processing multiple cards, the OCR is accurate enough that we were still able to breeze through many cards fairly quickly. The free version of ScanBizCards also offers unlimited card scanning, so if you’re looking for a quality business card scanner (and you’re not particularly interested in a synced-up cloud-based database or manual card transcriptions) then the free version of ScanBizCards is an excellent tool.
Some of the features you’ll see in free or paid versions of other apps are enterprise-only in ScanBizCards. There is no batch photo mode, nor does the camera automatically snap a photo when a business card is in range.
ScanBizCards has a lot of features that many people may never use, including the ability to export contacts to Salesforce, Excel and Evernote, and manual transcription services for cards that the scanner can’t read. But having so many features makes the app a little difficult to navigate, because so many of the features have non-intuitive jargonised names (e.g. ‘WebSync’ and ‘CircleBack’). The app can scan cards in 21 different languages, though, including Hungarian, Lithuanian, Turkish, Serbian and Vietnamese.