8 business card apps for smartphones: Scan 'em and store 'em

Tired of losing business cards? With these apps, your smartphone can do the heavy lifting.

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Yolu Card Reader

[Note: This company no longer has a website and so is assumed to be out of business.]

Yolu Card Reader is perhaps the most perplexing app of all those I tested -- and it's the only one I tried for this roundup that is completely free. The successful scans were among the best conversions I'd seen. But it just never worked as advertised.

The app, which hails from a Chinese developer, purports to let you use your mobile number to sign in, but my mobile never got the necessary text message in order to sign in with the number. I then used LinkedIn's sign-in, although I saw no information in the app indicating what the connection would be between my Yolu scans and LinkedIn.

Yolu uses cloud-based recognition. It was the fastest of the tested apps at actually scanning the cards: I was able to whip through my stack of cards fairly quickly, since you don't get prompted to verify and edit each scan immediately after capture.

However, scanning is only half the battle -- getting the info back took some time. I started out slowly, scanning just two cards, and immediately both were stuck in a purgatory queue of "Being recognized in the cloud." It took until the next day for the cards to be added to the app's list of scanned cards.

Thinking the server might be having an issue, I waited another day before trying more cards. The next day, I performed additional scans, beyond my usual dozen scans, just to make sure it was indeed scanning the cards. I whipped through the stack with ease since I wasn't doing any corrections after each scan. But three hours later, all still had that same message I saw the night before: "Being recognized in the cloud."

Nine hours after the initial scan, only three cards showed as "Newly Recognized" and one showed as "Now Being Corrected." That last moniker -- coupled with the incredibly high accuracy of the records that had so far been recognized -- made me wonder if Yolu is using manually applied human corrections in addition to OCR technology, but the app itself offers no clues. (The developer didn't respond to a request for information about the delay or how the OCR worked.)

Eventually, all of the cards were recognized, though after those first nine hours, I stopped tracking exactly how long the process took.

The app has a daily limit of 30 scans, though you can boost that up to 50 scans by handing over more sign-in personal information (you get 10 scans for signing in via Facebook, five for your mobile number and five more for signing in via Sina Weibo, a Chinese social network). The app exports to your phone's contact list, or to Excel as a comma delimited file, but I never got this to work: When I tried to export, it needed to reauthenticate and then it couldn't find the LinkedIn authorization. My only prompt from there was to join LinkedIn, not to sign in again.

Bottom line

Ultimately, Yolu is an intriguing idea, but there are less frustrating, and less invasive, apps to do the job.

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