Let’s say you spent the weekend at an industry conference shaking hands and telling numerous jargon-filled anecdotes. Good times were had by all. But now you’re back home and you’ve got suit pockets stuffed to the brim with business cards. Sure, you could put them in your 1987 Rolodex, but wouldn’t it be more convenient to have e-mail addresses at the ready in your address book?

As I’m sure you’ve noticed from these columns already, there is an app for that.

The Business Card Reader app for the iPhone 3GS is the perfect companion for this occasion. Taking each business card and manually inputting the data into your iPhone’s contact list would take a very long time. This Business Card Reader app, which costs a hefty $5.99 from the iTunes app store, will take care of this menial task in a fraction of the time.

All you have to do is place a business card on a flat, well-lit surface such as a table with a desk lamp, line up the image in your viewfinder and then snap a photo using your iPhone camera.

The camera that comes standard with the latest iPhone 3GS model will not have any problems doing this, but if you are using an older iPhone model, you may have to purchase an external lens case attachment like the Griffin Clarifi. Also, if you are using the iPod Touch, which does not come equipped with a camera, you can still use the Business Card Reader app if you import your card photos from an external source.

The ingenious part of this app is that once the photos have been uploaded, it can easy distinguish the different fields and addresses displayed. It will add a new contact to your phone and list the first and last name, e-mail address and various phone numbers provided. Using text recognition technology, the app produces this entry instantly with impressive accuracy. Currently, the app recognizes information in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.

From user reviews on the app store, it seems that the latest updated version of this app has improved greatly on the previous one. However, the inability to detect and properly list a contact with a middle initial continues to cause problems for users.

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For better results, SHAPE Services, the developers of the app, suggest you look over your entry for errors before saving contact info.

The Business Card Reader app also allows users to save the original photos as a reference image for each contact entry. This is a feature called Business Card Holder and provides a handy double-check reference option.

Because of the price tag and earlier version of the app, I’d only recommend it for business and sales professionals who find themselves exchanging business cards often. For the price of $5.99, this will save you a lot of time. However, for the general public, I would hold off on the novelty of being able to import a few business cards until the app gets updated in future versions with a lower price.


Application: Business Card Reader.

Cost: $5.99

Use: Allows users to take photos of business cards and automatically import the contact information.

Download iPhone App via iTunes