I’ve tried a number of different business card scanning apps that let you take a picture of a business card with your iPhone camera and automatically pull information from it in order to create a new contact. It is a great idea but I have thus far been a bit disappointed in the accuracy of them. After all, it is not a time-saver if you take a picture, scan it and then have to manually edit almost all the information fields. When I say that ABBYY, one of the leaders is optical character recognition was entering into the ring I was interested. After all, ABBYY OCR technology drives is the engine used by Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanner and DevonThink to create searchable PDFs and they are two of the tools I use on a regular basis. The OCR process with both is fast and accurate and that can only be attributed to ABBYY’s technology.
So I got a review copy of the new ABBYY Business Card Reader app and gave it a try. It was straightforward and easy to use but… how well did it work? Let’s see…
The initial splash screen is great. The app loads quickly and there is just enough information to get you going without having to stop and wade through lots of settings and information. This is great since a card scanner will likely be used on-the-go and the simpler the process is the better.
Although the process of grabbing a business card is pretty self-explanatory with the app ABBYY does give a quick description of the process.
There are only three main settings you need to be concerned with.
First you need to decide it you want the iPhone to save a screen shot of the business card after processing. Since iPhone’s have so much memory I’m not sure why you would choose NOT to have this backup.
Second you can select which contact fields you want the app to search for and process.
Finally, you can choose which languages you want the app to work with. I would assume that the less languages the better.
Using the app is just as simple. You simply Click the camera button, follow the onscreen instructions to line up the card with the guides and tap the camera button.
The app then presents you with a preview of the image. you can choose to retake it or, if it is clear enough, use it.
The OCR engine then does its magic…
The fields are immediately filled with the data pulled from the card. The accuracy is pretty good. I tried it with a dozen cards and it was close to perfect most of the time.
There will always be stray bits of information. OCR is never perfect and the app makes it simple to fix the mistakes that may enter into the equation.
Here is another example… It got my name right but put both my first and last name on the same line. Not a huge issue but it is best to get the information right the first time since “I’ll fix it later” usually translates to “never happens”.
In all, I’m pretty impressed with the ABBYY Business Card Reader. I tried it with a dozen different cards and it was quite accurate every time. It was certainly faster than adding all 12 cards by hand. At $10 it is one of the more expensive apps currently on my iPhone but, for the first time, a card scanner works well enough on the iPhone for me to rely on it.
ABBYY Business Card Reader is available in the iTunes App Store for $9.99. It can be purchased and downloaded here.
What I Like-
Simple, straightforward, quite accurate
What Needs Improvement-
At $9.99 it is on the pricey side for iPhone apps.