Throughout workdays, meetings and industry events, you probably collect a lot of business cards. But if you’re like many business professionals, you lack the time or motivation to type the information on them into your contacts. Why not let a business card scanning app can do the work for you?
Using such an app, you snap a photo of a business card with your phone’s camera. The app performs optical character recognition (OCR) on the photo to extract the information printed on the card and categorizes that info into fields (name, job title, phone number, email address, etc.). Some apps’ OCR software can even recognize languages other than English — a plus for today’s global business environment. These results can be added to your phone’s contacts app with a quick tap.
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Additionally, these apps typically offer cloud storage (either their own or via a third-party service like iCloud or Google Drive) so you can access the contact data from anywhere. And many allow you to export the data as a vCard email attachment, to a CSV file, or even to CRM platforms like Salesforce, though you may have to pay for a premium account to do so.
It’s impossible for these apps to produce perfect results every time. At least occasionally, you’ll need to make edits, such as correcting the spelling of a business or a person’s name. How often you have to make corrections on the scanned results from any of these apps depends partly on how capable its OCR software is.
Another factor affecting the results is image quality. The camera tool in many of these apps automatically enhances the image of a scanned business card (e.g., brightening it and straightening its alignment) to help produce better scan results through its OCR. Nevertheless, you should snap photos of the business cards in a well-lit setting.
We tested four business card scanning apps with versions for both Android and iOS. They are among the most downloaded and highly rated in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. With them, we scanned a variety of nine business cards: some with minimalist designs, some with more elaborate designs, and some with languages on them other than English (German, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish).
Which app was easiest to use? Which had the best features? And which produced accurate results the most frequently? Read on to find out.
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ABBYY Business Card Reader
ABBYY can recognize 25 languages. As you target your phone’s camera at the card you want scanned, ABBYY’s camera tool shows a transparent rectangle overlay over the card. When the rectangle locks its positioning right over the card, the app automatically snaps a photo. (You can turn this off so that you snap the photo yourself by tapping a button.)
ABBYY shows a transparent rectangle over the business card you’re scanning to help you position it. (Click image to enlarge it.)
In the app’s card editor, contact information that was extracted from the card is organized into fields that you can scroll through. Text in fields that ABBYY thinks may be errors is colored in red. You tap a field to edit it. When you do this, a close-up of the corresponding text in the photo of the business card is displayed along the top of the screen.
Using ABBYY's text editor. (Click image to enlarge it.)
Tiles with thumbnails of your scanned cards are placed on the app’s main screen. From here, you can search the fields of all your cards through a search box.
If you want to store your scanned data in the cloud for easy access from any device, you need to sign up for a free ABBYY Cloud account. Contact info from scanned cards can also be exported as a VCF file (a.k.a. vCard format), and you can send an email with your own vCard attached with a few quick taps.
The free version of ABBYY is ad-supported and lets you scan and save information for up to 10 business cards only. Upgrading to a Premium account gives you unlimited card scanning, automatic backup, no ads, and the ability to export your data to Microsoft Excel (in CSV format) or Salesforce CRM. You can alternatively purchase options such as ad removal or CSV export à la carte.
Test scan results
ABBYY’s OCR software generally did a good job scanning each of the nine business cards, only misreading a few characters from the batch. The photo of one of the English business cards turned out to be slightly out of focus (a “5” in an office address was incorrectly recorded by the app as an “S”), yet ABBYY managed to transcribe the rest of the card correctly.
Trial version free for Android or iOS; in-app purchases from $3 for additional features; Pro version for Android $60; Premium subscription for iOS $8/month, $30/year or $60/lifetime; volume licensing available.
CamCard requires that you register for a free user account in order to use it. Alternatively, you can log in with your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google account. The app recognizes 17 languages.
The camera tool in CamCard displays a rectangle in its viewfinder. Position your camera to frame this rectangle around a business card, then tap a button to snap a photo.
Like ABBYY, CamCard provides a rectangle overlay to help position the card. (Click image to enlarge it.)
If you have more than one card to scan, CamCard has a convenient option that lets you snap photos of every one of them first. After you’ve finished taking photos of all of them, CamCard then proceeds to scan them for their contact info one by one.
This app’s card editor displays the photo of a scanned card at the top of the screen. Contact information that was extracted from the card is placed below throughout a scrollable list of fields.
Editing contact information in CamCard. (Click image to enlarge it.)
When you tap a field box to edit it, the photo of the business card zooms in on the corresponding information that’s on it. (For example, when you edit a phone number, CamCard zooms in on that number in the photo of the card.) This zoom-in effect animates very smoothly.
Like ABBYY, CamCard displays tiles with thumbnails of your scanned cards on the main screen. You can search the fields of your cards from here via a search box.
Your contacts are stored both on your phone and in the cloud for access from any device, and you can create your own e-card and exchange it with other CamCard users, skipping paper cards altogether.
You can scan up to 500 cards with the free version of CamCard. With a premium account you get unlimited scans, no ads, and the ability to export contact info from your scanned cards to Salesforce, Google Contacts, or Outlook. Business plans include shared contacts, task assignments, integration with other CRMs, and other admin tools.
Test scan results
For some reason, CamCard didn't acknowledge the city, state and ZIP code that were clearly printed on one business card, but it recognized and transcribed the full address on another card. Its OCR made some mistakes extracting from the German business card, and it didn't recognize several Simplified Chinese characters. But for the other cards, its accuracy was close to ABBYY's.
ScanBizCards supports 23 languages, but not Simplified Chinese. The camera tool lacks a targeting graphic in its viewfinder to indicate if your business card is within focus or frame. You just aim and tap to snap a photo. Like CamCard, it does offer a convenient batch-scanning option.
There's no positioning rectangle when you photograph a card in ScanBizCards. (Click image to enlarge it.)
The card editor for ScanBizCards shows the photo of a scanned card along the top of the screen. Information extracted from the card is listed below, organized into fields that you can scroll through. Unlike ABBYY and CamCard, ScanBizCards doesn’t show the source area on the card photo in close-up when you tap a field to edit it.
Editing contact info in ScanBizCards. (Click image to enlarge it.)
Also unlike ABBYY and CamCard, ScanBizCars doesn’t show tiles with thumbnails of scanned cards on its main screen for convenient access. You have to tap to open a screen that shows folders containing your cards. Next, you tap one of these folders to see thumbnails of the scanned cards inside it, and then finally you can tap a thumbnail to open a card.
You can search the fields of your cards through a search box that’s on the app’s main screen. There’s also a search box on the screen that displays all your card folders, and on any screen showing thumbnails of your cards inside a folder.
You can connect your Google Drive or iCloud account for online storage and access, or export a card’s contact information as a vCard or (on a limited basis) to your Salesforce, SugarCRM, or Evernote account. Unlimited CRM exports and admin tools are available with team and enterprise accounts.
Test scan results
Compared to the other three apps we tested, ScanBizCards made the most mistakes. It failed to transcribe correctly or recognize addresses and phone numbers on three of the business cards. In particular, its OCR struggled with email addresses and website URLs.
As with CamCard, you have to register for a free user account (or sign in with your Facebook or Google account) in order to use Wantedly People. The app’s website says it recognizes more than 50 languages.
This app is designed to let you scan several business cards at once. You can take a single photo of up to 10 cards, and from that, Wantedly People extracts contact info from each one. (See the results below for how successful it was in our tests.)
You can scan multiple cards at the same time with Wantedly People. (Click image to enlarge it.)
In its camera tool, when a business card is within focus of your phone’s camera, a pulsating circle appears in the viewfinder. When you aim the camera at more than one card, a targeting circle appears over each card. Then you can tap a button to snap a photo.
Scanned business cards are stored in the Contacts section of the app as tiles. From this screen, you can search your cards via a search box.
Editing contact info in Wantedly. (Click image to enlarge it.)
Unlike ABBYY, CamCards and ScanBizCards, Wantedly People doesn’t have a wide range of fields for contact info. It identifies only the most basic details on a business card: the contact’s name, phone numbers, fax, email, and physical address.
You can export contact info extracted from a business card as a vCard and store your contacts online with your Wantedly People account. From the Wantedly People site, you can download your contacts as a CSV file, but the service doesn’t integrate with Salesforce or other CRM tools.
Note that much of the Wantedly Site is in Japanese, but there is an English-language help center.
Test scan results
Wantedly People ignores any contact info (such as website URLs) for which it doesn’t have fields. Otherwise, its results were similar in accuracy to ABBYY's and CamCard's. And it was the best at handling the three non-English cards, transcribing the German, Simplified Chinese and Spanish characters and contact info on them with the fewest mistakes.
The multiple-card scan feature didn’t work well in our tests. From a photo of two cards that we snapped, the OCR results were worse compared to snapping photos of each card separately. In a photo of four cards and another of ten together, the errors increased exponentially.
The problem is that the phone’s camera may not be able to snap a photo of several business cards where each one is in focus. And the more cards you want to snap together in one photo, the more difficult it can be to get targeting circles to appear over each one in the viewfinder. How well this feature works could depend on how advanced your phone's camera lens is.
ABBYY and CamCard shared similar accuracy in our tests, with a slight advantage going to ABBYY. CamCard’s free option is the one to look at if you only need to scan business cards occasionally and don’t need to export them. With just 10 scans offered before you have to pay up, the free version of ABBYY is only useful for evaluation purposes. (That said, you can purchase 50 scans with ABBYY for $4.) CamCard also has the better card editor, and its “batch photo” feature is convenient.
If you need to scan a lot of cards or export them to a CRM tool, you’ll need to shell out for a premium version of one of these apps. At $30 per year or $60 lifetime, ABBYY offers better value than CamCard’s $47-per-year subscription.
If a business card you want to scan isn't in English and you don't care about saving website URLs, give Wantedly People a try. Just don't expect its ability to scan more than one business card in a photo to work as accurately as it does with a photo of a single card.