I am married to someone who has a unique gift (well many actually but there’s one in particular that that’s relevant to this post). Most of the time she only needs to meet someone once in order to remember them, remember enough details to contact them again in the future and to be able to share that information if need be. And if she has a chance to sit with someone for a half hour … she pretty much knows their entire life story — accurately and pretty much forever. I don’t have that gift. As much as I try I’m not great with names until the second or third time I’ve met someone. (After that, however, I am fine.) And the details? Let’s just say that where Elana excels in this area I am fortunate to be married to her and to have tools such as Evernote to make up for this personal limitation.
Two new apps for the iPhone and the iPod touch understand people like me. They try to make it easier to remember people we meet personally and in business and to refresh our memories so that we can contact them again in the future. The two versions of the application– NameCatcher and NameCatcher Biz– are similar although one is designed more for business use and the other is designed more for personal use. Let’s take a look.
When you first start the applications you get the requisite splash screen. In this case you see immediately that the application is well-designed, the graphics are excellent, and it’s really well polished.
If you are using an iPhone, the application requests to use your GPS. This is significant because it allows you to automatically remember the people you input into the system based upon your location at the time. That seems to be the key with both of these applications — using bits of information that can be easily or automatically grabbed and later accessed to connect with the people you meet along the way.
In its current form the application creates and uses its own database. (More on that later.) That means when you begin your application the first time the fields don’t have any values input. It’s easy enough to jump right in and start adding names and information however.
The fields are clearly defined and make adding people you meet along the way simple process. You add first and last name and then just enough information so that you can contact them in the future.
One of the best ways to remember someone is to assign a category to them. This is one of the main areas where the two versions of the application differ. In the personal application the categories include such things as “activities”, “around town,” “medical”, etc. in the business version of the application the categories include such things as “at work”, “after work”, “prospects” etc.
In both cases you can easily add categories so that the system works better for the way you live and work. A really nice feature in both is that you can assign more than one category to any given individual.
Also nice is the fact that if you go to the “more” button at the bottom you can edit any and all of the pre-populated categories were simply delete them and start over with your own. In other words, in a relatively short amount of time you can have a series of categories that reflect your life and also the way your memory tends to function.
After that, you can add any “reference hint”– a memory jogger that doesn’t automatically fit into any of the categories”, additional information such as phone numbers e-mails and addresses, and whether or not you want to assign this person to your “A-list” — that is the people you want to put at the top of your memory and accessibility list.
Finally, the applications provide the opportunity to quickly and easily record a voice note. This is more important than it might first appear since it can be used in this manner — imagine that you’re in a meeting and you meet someone you want to remember. You don’t want to take the time to input their details especially not using the soft keyboard on the iPhone. So you simply type in the first name, press the voicemail button and speak to the additional information that you might want to remember about them. Later, when you have more time and quiet, you can go back and use the recording you made to populate the other fields. It strikes me as a terrific idea.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I’m not great in the memory department. These days I rely upon my iPhone on a number of different levels to remember the things I need to do — and even then human error creeps into it far too often. When we were in Las Vegas a few weeks ago I knew that I would be meeting a lot of new people and I had every intention of using one of the versions of this application as it fit perfectly into what I needed to do. That didn’t end up happening but not because of the application itself but because my iPhone’s battery life was so bad that I wasn’t using the iPhone for anything other than e-mail and photographs. Were it not for the device limitation I think the applications could have come in rather handy.
So what do I think about NameCatcher and NameCatcher Biz?
I think they are a good start. I think a great idea that could come in more than a bit handy for people like me. Since my iPhone is the central point for both encoding and accessing information in my life these days it makes perfect sense to have an application which is better designed to help me remember people and their information. but as I said it’s only a good start.
As a standalone application either of these is excellent. They are polished, graphically pleasing, easy use, and it’s clear that a great deal of thought went into how the end user might employ them in the real world. The fact that they are currently stand-alone applications, however, is a huge limitation for me. In the first release of both there is apparently no way to get information off of the iPhone via e-mail. For me to begin to rely solely on this application that’s a function that I need. In addition, were the application able to pre-populate its database using the contacts already in my iPhone I could easily see this becoming my “go to” address book. Unfortunately the current version of the application lacks that integration. Fortunately I have it on good authority from the developer that one or both of these changes will be coming in an update sometime in the near future.
Finally, I think this is one of those applications that would greatly benefit from working with Evernote’s API. Imagine using one of these applications to record a voicemail and then to share it with Evernote… in that case you wouldn’t need the ability to e-mail a contact because you could simply indicate that you wanted that context synced over to your Evernote account. From there you could access it from any computer in the world thanks to the way Evernote is designed.
NameCatcher is $.99 in the App Store.
NameCatcher Biz is $.99 in the App Store.
What I like — well designed, beautiful graphics, easy-to-use, great concept for people like me
What needs improvement — both would greatly benefit from integration with the built-in contacts database, both need some way to get information off the iPhone via e-mail or the Evernote API