Originally these were held in special wallets and then when they became full stacked in a piles on the window sill!
Now they get put into either my contacts or my CRM system and despite there being huge advances in technology nothing seems to have replaced the good old business card (perhaps we need Apple to reinvent it!).
So I need a good way to quickly and accurately scan these cards without spending a fortune, so that ruled out a dedicated reader. Enter the iPhone. There are at least a couple of apps available on the App Store that allow you to take a picture of a business card and have it scanned for information and then have a contact created. This seemed ideal and so I checked a couple of them out.
WorldCard provide dedicated scanners so they ought to know a thing or two about business card scanning and recognition.
The app is simple to use when taking a picture of a card – you simply press the camera button on the home screen and then line up the card with the guides and click the button to take the picture. You are then shown a view of the card to allow you to rotate it through 90 degrees, change the language etc. before running through the recognition process.
WordCard has two advantages over BC Reader at this card capture stage: first the app changes to accommodate both portrait and landscape cards and secondly it has a button that only takes the picture when there is no shake, thereby increasing the chance of a clear image to scan from.
A real bonus is the option to be able to create a new contact by copy and pasting text in from an email signature (or any other place that has contact details). I already use something similar on the desktop so to have this on my mobile too is great.
But what really counts is the accuracy of the character recognition. In this respect there is very little to choose between the two apps as the recognition is equally as good. On all the sample cards I tried the level of accuracy was the same – even down to making the same mistakes. For example a number of cards have the contact details in the followinf format:
t 01234 5678910
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that in many case the “t” was also scanned and recognised as part of the number.
The only think I didn’t like about WorldCards’ scanning was its insistence on formatting telephone numbers with hyphens between groups of numbers – which is how numbers are formatted in the US but not in the UK. Not all forms of English are the same!
Download from the App Store. (£3.99)
BC Reader is very similar in operation to WorldCard. You take a picture and then it scans the output. The difference really comes down to the bells and whistles on offer. BC Reader offers no anti-shake option so you have to have a steady hand. Also if you want to capture a card that is portrait then you still have to hold the phone in landscape mode which means you can potentially end up missing part of the car and capturing vast quantities of table.
However, on the plus side the level of accuracy is pretty good and the equal of WorldCard. I also like the way that the letters that it is less sure about it shows in a lighter font (see below) giving you a quick visual reference for areas you maybe need to correct. BC Reader also has integration with LinkedIn allowing you to capture links to the individuals profile if they exist.
I was able to crash the app though when trying to process a previously captured card that was saved in the application.
Download from the App Store. (£2.99)
Overall both applications performed well at the basic job of capturing contact details from a variety of cards. No character recognition software is 100% accurate and this proved to be the case with these apps but the amount of corrections was minor making it worthwhile using them in the first place.
For me WorldCard was the more polished of the two and I really liked the anti-shake and its ability to work in both portrait and landscape mode but I did miss the LinkedIn integration of BC Reader.