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Our Review by Billy Miller on April 17th, 2009
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: AVERAGE
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In a couple of the cases I was genuinely surprised how well the software worked. Text that I could barely make out was interpreted perfectly. Conversely, perfectly legible text in standard fonts was not transferred at all.

Developer: Beach House Software
Price: $9.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

iPhone Integration [rating:4/5]
User Interface [rating:4/5]
Reliability [rating:2/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4/5]

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

In our current focus on the world of online social networking, it's easy to forget that some of the most important contacts we make are face to face. When a potential contact is running low on cards, it's natural to resort to a notepad or some other way of recording that data. This often leaves one with a lot of data to enter into their contact list when they return home or to the office. Cardsnap is a new application that was designed for those less than perfect situations and promises to send those contacts directly to your iPhone.

CardSnap is a business card reader that uses the iPhone camera for capture and proprietary software to read and send contact data back to your contact list. The entire process starts with taking a photo of a prospective contact's business card. The developers provide tips on taking the picture with the unaided iPhone camera. They suggest taking the picture from 8-10 inches away, then zooming in and checking for clarity before confirming that you wish to use this picture. If this doesn't result in a usable image, they suggest retrying until you succeed. They also highly recommend the Griffin Clarifi case. Once you have taken a successful photo, you should be prepared to wait up to 24 hours for processing. In testing, the entire process usually took between 6 and 14 hours. When finished, the app automatically sends the new contact to your address book.

Cardsnap does a good job keeping things simple. There are only three panes in the application. The first is the camera section, the second shows the progress of your submitted cards (and does allow editing) and the third is a help document. Everything else is designed to happen in the background. It's nice to see a productivity app that doesn't think it has to complicate a workflow in order to be taken seriously.

I submitted about six business cards via the application. These were captured using the methods they suggested. The first four were taken with an unassisted iPhone camera and the last two with a Griffin Clarifi lens. The results were a mixed bag. In a couple of the cases I was genuinely surprised how well the software worked. Text that I could barely make out was interpreted perfectly. Conversely, perfectly legible text in standard fonts was not transferred at all. More troubling was that not a single email address was successfully transferred. I don't mean that the results were incorrect, rather that no data was sent whatsoever. In most cases the data was there, just with a few digits or letters mis-interpreted. The Clarifi lens makes a huge difference, and anyone planning on snapping business cards with or without Cardsnap should definitely make the purchase. I'm not sure how many people without that solution will be willing to queue up for a ten dollar program that has mixed results even when the pictures are clear.

In addition, the program seems to have a problem with cards that are made for businesses, not individuals at those businesses. I submitted a card from Cartridge World, for example, and while it found all of the info correctly (except, as noted, emails) it refused to transfer the card to my address book. Or, at least, I think it refused. I'm really hoping it didn't send information with no title as some sort of invisible contact that's sitting there in my iPhone.

There are few other smaller issues. First, the help page seems to be in pdf document that's formatted for as a letter-sized page. This means zooming in and swiping left to right in order to read each line of the document. Formatting for the iphone's screen would be a much better idea and would encourage people to actually read the guide. Informed customers would likely be much more happy with the software and more likely to recommend it. The second issue is time. Business people are going to be a lot more receptive to a 4-6 hour wait than an entire day. Many times these sort of contacts need a response that day. This wouldn't be an issue but the app itself doesn't allow zooming on the original image, and people with less than perfect eyesight will find even a clear image hard to read without a bit of zoom. The app also does not allow you to transfer the pictures to your camera roll, which would be useful for times when you need to quickly parse the image yourself on your computer screen while Cardsnap processes it.

At this point, some may feel that a few of these complaints are irrelevant. That may be true. It really depends on how CardSnap wants to position itself in the market. If they want to market themselves as an accurate solution that takes some time, then the results need to be very accurate and there need to be features in place that will allow users to get the information themselves when there's an emergency. The user really needs to be able to trust their software. At the moment, I really can't trust this at all. If it's only a solution to enter the data when you already have secured a card and it's still not terribly accurate, then the price really needs to drop.

This is one of those situations where people say, "Fast, accurate or cheap. Pick two." Consumers will probably be fine with fast, accurate and expensive. They'd even settle for fast, cheap and inaccurate. For the moment, Cardsnap fits neither of those segments at the moment. I'd be willing to recommend it fairly highly if I saw a high degree of accuracy, regardless of the price or speed. Unfortunately, their process still needs a little work. The best business apps for the iPhone do justify higher pricetags because they do two things. They assure that my data is easily accessible if I leave the platform while they convince me to never consider it. Card Snap does the first with nice Contacts integration, but, in the end, it doesn't really change the way I live.

iPhone Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

CardSnap Business Card Scanner screenshot 1 CardSnap Business Card Scanner screenshot 2 CardSnap Business Card Scanner screenshot 3 CardSnap Business Card Scanner screenshot 4 CardSnap Business Card Scanner screenshot 5
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