Do smartphone apps promise an end to business cards?

Business cards rock. No wait, they suck. I mean, they rock when you need a quick way to give someone your contact info, but they suck when you have a stack of cards you need to transcribe. So it was with great relief that I accepted an invitation from Dymo to try out a CardScan iPhone app. I really want to recycle that stack.

The idea is simple: Fire up the app, aim your cameraphone at the card, snap away, and the app does the rest. Using OCR software and a little common sense, CardScan extracts the info and puts it in Outlook-friendly fields, which you can then export to your Contacts list. Whether the card is vertical, oddly sized, or has white type on a dark background, the app can handle it. You'll need network connectivity to use it, however, since the scans are actually processed remotely.

CardScan is far from perfect, often getting a (sometimes critical) character or two wrong, and it has a few annoying habits — like having a hard time discerning between email addresses and URLs. For the price ($10), I would expect more, but after trying out the free versions of various card-scanning apps out there, CardScan does seem to be one of the better ones. (Nothing can beat CardMunch's human-verified scans, though that app has microcharges for every card you scan; CardScan only makes you pay once).

Dymo's app works decently enough, though one thing keeps me from recommending it: there's no way to automatically send scanned cards to a specific group in my Contacts list. If I'm going to have this app actually replace keeping business cards altogether, I need to be able to put those card contacts in a place separate from my Mom and Dad. Until then, the stack remains.


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