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Business card reader comparison

mann

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Intro:
Hi all, I recently acquired an iPhone 3GS (I know there is the iPhone 4, and the next one is probably already on the way!) but it was “given” from my company. Looking around about app’s reviews on blogs and websites, I find some articles about business card readers (Apps148 - April 2010, NY Times - September 2010, …). The business card reader function: snap a business card, the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine reads the info and fills the address book.

I’ve got a lot of business cards lying in my desk, it’s always a pain to find the contacts info at the moment I need to contact a client or business partner. I decided to try myself different lite/free version of these “business card readers” out there and make my own opinion about them, before buying any app.

The result is it probably took me more time to test all the apps than entering the contacts by hand, so I think I should share the information just in case some other folks out there are in the same need of business card reader.

My criteria:
- Recognition performance: OCR performance, placement of information in the correct fields
- Speed: I’ve got around 200 cards; I don’t want to spend 2 weeks entering the info. I’ve got French, Swedish, English, Spanish and other European cards, the time switching between languages can affect a lot the real time of capturing info.
- Look & Feel of the application: easy learning, intuitive interface
- Functions: other functions or features, contacts’ organization (card holder or separated folder in the address book)

1. ScanCard - $4.99
2. ScanBizCards - $4.99
3. Camcard - $6.99
4. WorldCard - $5.99
5. ABBYY - $9.99


1. Scancard

Performance (OCR): Pretty good recognition of characters and correct placement in the address book fields. Seems to accommodate with picture taken with less light.
Good with funky business card (orange background and white text).
An address with “25S” recognized as “255”.
Speed: fast recognition. You just have to go to language option once and select “European”.
Look & feel: nice interface, easy to use
Functions: Save the contact in the iPhone’s address book in a “bizcard” folder, separated from the All Contact (it’s an option to set you can choose between the default “All contact” and the “bizcard” one).


2. ScanBizCards

Performance (OCR): correct but performing not as good as the other solutions. Lots of error between “1”, “t” and “l”, or “o” and “0”.
Speed: slower than the other solution but still acceptable. You have to select the language of the card every time it changes (do not forgot to select the language before recognition)
Look & feel: nice interface, but not necessary consistent, the main page has a green background but the “My cards” part has black background. The fact that there are so many functions, make the interface not always simple. The access to the option panel is a bit strange (only accessible from the card view).
Functions: Reminders, connect on LinkedIN, export to Evernote or to Excel file, send intro email after scan, Web sync of contacts ($.99/month or $9.99/year), complete address book (Creation of folders, contact display with call, SMS, email, visit website), 2 sides scan of business card, import email signature.
Note:
The basic app comes with only English recognition. But from the option panel you access the other languages modules available (free). With a few clicks and downloads, you’re set with the languages you require.


3. Camcard

Performance (OCR): Good but sometime cut some important part of the card when auto-cropping image before “beautifying” it (For example a part of the card with a dark blue bottom cut when taking picture on a dark background).
A card with telephone numbers displayed like “+46 46 19 xx xx, 19 yy yy” recognized as “+464619xxxx19yyyy”.
Speed: correct recognition speed as if the auto-cropping and “beautifying” takes some time.
Good point when capturing cards from different region of the world, you just have to go once to language option and select all the languages.
Look & feel: nice and coherent interface
Functions: Card holder (with call, SMS, email, visit website, map), Anti-shake, auto crop image, beautifying image. Part of the picture recognized displayed in edit mode.


4. Worldcard

Performance (OCR): Good. The same previous card with telephone numbers displayed like “+46 46 19 xx xx, 19 yy yy” recognized as “+464619xxxx-19yyyy”. Sometimes “c” are read as “e”.
Speed: good.
Just 3 languages for recognition English, Chinese traditional and Chinese simplified. I don’t have to change the language for my European business card but the accents in French or Swedish are not recognized.
Look & feel: nice and coherent interface
Functions: Copy/paste of information from the picture.
Like Camcard, in edit mode the part of the image recognized is displayed, helping to validate the recognition.
Import from Email signature.


5. ABBYY

Performance (OCR): Good. Sometimes the mobile phone number written “mobile:” dropped in the recognition process. “Blue” read as “btue”, “…erg@bl...” recognized as “…ergtbt…”
Speed: Good, but when scanning a lot of business cards I’m losing time to go to option and select the proper language of recognition. (If I forgot to set it up I usually end up retaking again the picture after going to option)
Look & feel: nice and coherent interface. I still think the “3, 2, 1” countdown when snapping a card is more annoying than helping.
Functions: The recognition result is display in the fields and the “OCR problems (doubt?)” are written in red, nice but it’s not necessary the highlighted part that are not well recognized.


Conclusion:
I omitted in this test Shapeservice Business card reader and MobiReader Biz+ because I couldn’t find trial/lite version of their apps.

I know no OCR solution out there is 100% accurate but it’s really funny to see the result of different apps on some “Funky” business card. Also keep in mind, that whatever solution you are using, the condition when taking pictures (no shaking, good lighting, trying to avoid tilted image) has a huge impact on the recognition results.

My goal being just integrating my contacts info into my iPhone’s address book, I’ll end up buying ScanCard, because it’s a simple and easy solution to use, with all I need; good and fast recognition, it separates business card contacts from “all contacts” in the address book, and no requirement to change the recognition language if switching between a French card and a Swedish one.

Thanks for reading me till the end and I really hope it helped people choosing a solution.

edit: LinkedIN acquire CardMunch so I think I'll gonna give a try (Free) as if I don't really like my contact info being saved somewhere I don't crontrol them.

edit 2: I forgot to put the prices
 
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Gaby W

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I used to own some Android phones, but a real newbie in iPhone world. On my Samsung Galaxy S, ever tried Scancard, quite a neat solution. Wanna to try it on iPhone, to see more.
 

patrickq

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Patrick @ ScanBizCards here - nice little study! You are right about the occasional mistakes ScanBizCards does with the letters you mentioned and we are hard at work developing a module to reduce these mistakes. We provided some improvements in that regards in Version 3.01 - did you give that version a try?

Patrick
 
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mann

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Patrick @ ScanBizCards here - nice little study! You are right about the occasional mistakes ScanBizCards does with the letters you mentioned and we are hard at work developing a module to reduce these mistakes. We provided some improvements in that regards in Version 3.01 - did you give that version a try?

Patrick

thanks patrick to communicate on ScanBizCards, and no I didn't try this last version. I already buy my solution but when I find time I'll give it a try :)

@bandw: expensive is relative! I'm ready to pay for a solution that help me enter & store my contacts business card. And compare to a nice leather card holder it's still quite affordable and easier to carry arround :)
 

Kottler

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FYI ABBYY Business Card Reader now - $4.99 in iTunes
itunes.apple.com/us/app/abbyy-business-card-reader/id347345474?mt=8

Also I found their YouTube Demo and saw a great app.
youtube.com/watch?v=GCN80fzI4KU

P.S.: shape is using ABBYY's recognition SDK.
 
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