The good folks over at Readdle (makers of my favorite PDF App for iPad – PDF Expert) have released a business card scanner App for iDevices. As a public presenter I get my fair share of business cards handed to me at events. When I get back to my hotel room or home if I don't deal with them right then and there I will have no idea later why I even have that person's card. I'm a Contacts freak! I'm always maintaining and updating my Contacts on a regular basis (one of the keys to my success). However, I hate manual data entry. I've used other business card reading Apps in the past (my past favorite being Business Card Reader). While I was content with my past choice, I decided to give the Readdle App a try since they did such a good job with their PDF apps. You start the process by taking a picture of the business card with your iDevice camera. Then you decide if the picture is good enough or retake it. Next your tap the process button to begin the OCR.
Accuracy is the key
The card above needed a correction to one digit in the phone number and a dot added in the email address. This is likely due to the small italicized type on the card.
Let me start this off by saying that NO BUSINESS CARD READING APP IS PERFECT at reading all business cards. Some cards will scan 100% accurate (rare), most will need minor tweaks/corrections and some will be easier just to enter by hand. It all depends on the source card. Cards with clean easy to read type will work best. Cards with fancy or photographic backgrounds will be the hardest. Card Scanner Pro uses the ABBYY OCR engine, which is well known for its accuracy. This helps, but again it will depend on the source card.
Garbage in, Garbage out!
The card above is an example of one that just won't work well with these Apps.
Card Scanner Pro offers the ability to choose your Language up front. This helps when dealing with International contacts. Once you get the card scanned in and made any corrections that needed to be made, the next thing will what you can do with the card? Card Scanner Pro offers the ability to store the card in its internal card holder as well as send it to your Contacts on your iDevice. If you're syncing with your computer/MobileMe/iCloud then your New Contact (business card) will end up in your Address Book on your computer too. I also like the fact that Card Scanner Pro offers the ability to add the contact to one of your pre-defined Groups too. A must for me! While these are the features I'd expect, I actually would like to see a few more. I'd like to see a Universal version for iPad too. Granted this App will work on an iPad 2 with a camera, but I'd like to see it in the native size. It would also make doing corrections easier with the larger screen, keyboard, etc. It would also be nice to see some social networking tie ins such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ etc. to lookup and compare info with.
The Bottom Line
Card Scanner Pro is definitely a contender. It's stable (haven't had a single crash, which isn't always the case with Apps in this category), and does a good job at what it does. I like that it can show you the original card on demand when you're editing a particular entry and can't tell what the OCR was trying to read. This is great for not having to keep the paper card. If you don't have a business card reader App or not happy with your current one, Card Scanner Pro is worth a look.