If you believe the technological vision of the future prophesized by some mobile advocates, business cards will soon be a thing of the past. Soon enough we'll all be swapping our contact information by zapping digital bits wirelessly through the air with some sort of slick gadget.
Whether it's a standalone device like the MingleStick, or a smartphone app that makes use of near-field communications (NFC) technology like Bump, contact information is definitely going to be swapped digitally more often. But business cards aren't going to disappear tomorrow either -- they're just too convenient a way to quickly share your contact with anyone, any time.
But the problem with business cards is that you have to type in all that information into the contact fields in your phone's address book or Outlook. After a full day's networking, that task can chew up some serious productivity time that could be better spent doing other things. Wouldn't it be great if you could just take a picture of that card and have all the information input for you? Well, there's an app for that of course. In fact, there's a few of them, and the couple that we're going to compare today are ABBYY BCR (iPhone) and WorldCard Mobile (iPhone, Windows Phone 7 and Android).
Both apps are quite similar in usage. You use an in-app camera view with framing guides to snap a picture of a business card, and then it is analyzed for the text information and the app attempts to drop the correct information into the correct fields. The user is then able to review the captured information and correct any details not properly input before exporting it to your address book.
The cardholder screen in ABBYY BCR.
Both apps offer a cardholder tray that displays the photos you've taken of business cards, and then links to the information that was captured as a result.
ABBYY integrates with several Web services. It gives you the option to share a contact via e-mail or through your social networks, or to search for a person on a social network once you've captured their information. You can also tap on a button to see a contact's address displayed on Google Maps.
WorldCard gives the user more options to fine-tune the information they are combing from the business cards. An image can be rotated (handy for vertical orientation business cards), cropped to exclude distracting graphics or needless text, and converted to high-contrast mode.
Using five business cards with different designs, we compared how effectively these two apps gleaned the available information. Some cards were traditional designs from recognized companies, other cards were startups with funky cards (vertical orientation), and one even had text going in two different directions.
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