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    Make a mess of your contacts with Business Card Reader Free

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    OCR - Optical Character Recognition is a very difficult thing to do right. Scanning pages of text can now be done fairly successfully, but business cards have always been a mess. Some are loaded with design elements, weird fonts, and non-standard placement of information. Business Card Reader Free is another attempt to do what might seem to be simple: use your iPhone's camera to easily import business card information into your contacts. The app requires iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. I tested it on iPhone 6 running iOS 8.02. The application is free, but limited and includes displays adds (and they're rather intrusive).

    I have a love/hate relationship with business cards. On one hand they can be beautiful and in the past, back when they were expensive to produce, they were a sign of credibility. Now anyone can print off a few hundred cards they designed for a few bucks. On the other hand business cards are annoying little slips of paper that seem to breed and multiply. I use to have binders full of cards, physical Rolodexs, and other file systems.

    I bought one of the first Palm devices (still called the "Palm Pilot" at that time), to try and organize my growing stack of business cards. Later I worked for a calendar and contact management software company and looked at a lot of scanning solutions. Very few proved to be any improvement or provide any time savings over simply keying them in yourself.

    Think about it. It might seem like scanning should save you time, but in fact there is really very little information on a business card. It doesn't take that long to just key one in. It's when you have a stack it seems intimidating.

    I tested out Business Card Reader Free on a variety of cards. I was unsurprised to find that it had difficulty with even the most basic of cards. When I scanned in a clean, simply designed card it still required that I edit the scanned text, an act that takes longer than simply typing it in. On the more exotic cards (and far too many people have ugly, over designed business cards) it couldn't make much sense out of the card at all.

    Business Card Reader Free
    The app does have links to the built in Maps app, can send the imported data to Contacts, and can look to Facebook and Twitter for additional information. That's all nice, but if you can't manage the initial scanning, there's no point in the other features.

    Beyond that, the free version is severely crippled. You can purchase an "unlimited" one month trial for $2.99 per month or $19.99 per year. The paid premium account gives you unlimited scanning, gets rid of the adds, allows you to synchronize to card databases, and exports to Salesforce. You can also buy "recognitions" in lots for 50 for $4.99. You can also disable the adds for 99 cents.

    Don't waste your time with Business Card Reader Free. Just set aside your stack of cards and when you have a few minutes, type a few directly into your selected contact manager. You'll save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache.

    In this article: business card, contact, OCR, review, scan, scanner
    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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