Dear Aunt TUAW: Help me pick a shopper card app

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Dear Aunt TUAW: Help me pick a shopper card app

Dear Aunt TUAW,

My wallet is full to bursting -- and not with cash. (Don't try pulling a Soupy Sales on this nephew.) I've got too many shopper cards, library cards, etc.

Help me empty my wallet of cards -- and if you don't mind, fill it with cash instead.

Your loving nephew,


Dear Fnulnu, (And, yes, Auntie knows what that stands for.)

Auntie isn't about to send you money, so she's skipping the filling-with-cash part. Cheeky! She does, however sympathize about the shopper cards.

All of us now carry more and more IDs around that stretch our wallets to their limits and our patience as well. She's reminded of a great scene from Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where the hero tried to argue with a ticket agent that an expired driver's license was worthless for driving but perfectly valid for identification purposes. Good book.

Auntie is most familiar with two iPhone Apps, CardStar and Key Ring Reward Cards. Both are free. CardStar is ad-supported, and Key Ring seems to be monetized by referrals. Both are fairly badly designed, with annoying GUI quirks, and Key Ring requires that you register -- so your personal information is almost certainly being used to fund the app.

It is, however, the slicker and easier-to-use of the two. Auntie qualifies "easy to use" because both apps have significant issues. For example, Key Ring never seems to have assumed that you might want to enter a pile of IDs all at once. You have to keep going back to a main menu to get to "Add Card" again.

CardStar (first mentioned here) offers buttons that seem to have been tested on the computer rather than on actual devices -- its Cancel and Next buttons are so close together that Auntie always hits the wrong one. On the iPhone, developers need to remember that the human finger is bigger than a mouse cursor and space items accordingly.

Key Ring is superficially prettier and offers a much more complete set of retailers. Both apps allow you to enter vendor names manually, but CardStar's entry method (you have to edit "Title," halfway down the page, not "Merchant" at the top) is poorly designed. Key Ring also automatically offers you coupons related to your vendors, so it's got some smart marketing happening.

Neither app really wins Auntie's heart. She really would like to see either or both developers hire some good GUI talent and work on their app usability.

In addition to the current functionality, she'd love to see both apps add a rotation lock, so when you present your ID to a retailer, the person working the cash register won't get confused by the iPhone's autorotate feature. She'd also like to be able to snap photos of IDs in addition to just scanning bar codes. (Although the scanning features offered by each app are sweet.)

On the whole, Auntie rather prefers Key Ring, privacy issues aside, because it's somewhat slicker than Card Star. Plus the coupons can be occasionally cool. Both apps are useful enough to keep around on your phone until someone gets around to developing a tighter solution, but both would benefit from interface overhauls -- as well as more explicit privacy statements from inside the app.

If you're looking for a more general keep-track-of-stuff app that can handle loyalty cards and the like , Uncle Mike suggests either the free Evernote (which will take pictures) or the paid 1Password (which will keep things extra secure).


Auntie T

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