I've previously reviewed two other apps that let you scan business cards with an iPhone. ABBYY Business Card Reader takes a picture of a business card and uses OCR on the iPhone to read the card. CardMunch takes a picture of a business card and uses a service in which a real person look at the card and finds a match to the person on LinkedIn (if available), or if not types the information in. You need to wait up to a few hours to get results, but when you do the results in CardMunch are much more accurate and comprehensive. But I know that some people don't like the idea of sharing new contact information with LinkedIn and thus prefer to have an app that does all of the OCR on the iPhone itself to maintain privacy. The developer of the WorldCard Mobile iPhone app, Penpower Technology Ltd., asked me to check out their app and sent me a free copy to review, and I'm glad that they did because I'm very impressed. It is a strong alternative to ABBYY Business Card reader.
To use the app, tap the large Camera button on the main screen of the app to start scanning a business card.
Simply put the business card within the blue lines and tap the camera button to take a picture. Better yet, you can tap the icon of a shaking hand, and the iPhone will wait to take a picture until you are holding your iPhone very still. By default the app handles one business card at a time, but you can also tap the button at the bottom right to scan several cards at a time and then wait until later to edit the details.
After you snap a picture you can preview the result and then you tap a button that says "Recognize" to start the OCR process. The app then shows you a contact card with the information that it scanned. As you tap each field, the app shows you the part of the image that it selected to correspond to that field. If it gets something wrong — for example, for my law firm Adams and Reese LLP the app put a lowercase "p" in the LLP — simply tap on the field to edit it. And when you do so, the app shows you an image of the portion of the card that it associated with that field. This way, even if you don't have the business card with you, you can still see the image to figure out what to correct, if anything.
Sometimes the app makes a mistake when it associates a field with names. For example, I tried a few unconventional business cards in which the business name was more prominent than the person's name, and the app would sometimes confuse those two fields. If you tap the Browse button, you are presented with the business card image again and you can manually move crosshairs around a portion of a card, and then once selected you can tell the app to use this part of the image for a particular field. This is a very useful feature.
The app usually does a great job of recognizing the four edges of a business card, but if it has trouble you can manually select the four corners of the card and the app will create an image based on that.
In my tests, WorldCard Mobile did an excellent job of recognizing traditional business cards such as my own business card and a business card from an Apple employee. I also tried some more exotic business cards with graphics, strange fonts, color, etc., and that is where the app started to make some mistakes, but the app makes it easy to fix them. Importantly, in my numerous tests, WorldCard Mobile was 100% accurate on phone numbers (and fax numbers). This is a big advantage of using an app to scan business cards instead of typing the information manually; entering numbers is tedious, and it is easy to make a mistake. I far prefer to have the iPhone quickly read all numbers, and I can double-check it to confirm everything is correct.
One neat feature: the app gives you the option to scan the back of the business card too, just in case it is a two-sided card.
Once you are finished, you can export the card to your iPhone contacts, to the Card Holder portion of the app itself, or to both. If you export to your iPhone contacts, you can choose to have the picture of the business card sent as the image for the contact. The Card Holder portion of the app is nicely implemented. You can view contacts in a list with a thumbnail of the picture of the business card next to the person's name, company and phone number. (My one gripe is that while you can sort by company name or name of the person, when you sort by the name of the person it sorts by first name instead of last name.) Moreover, the app has a cool cover flow feature; turn the iPhone sideways and you can browse through pictures of business cards.
If that was all that this app did, I'd be very happy with it. But the app also includes lots of other methods of getting information into the app. If you previously took a picture of a business card with the Camera on the iPhone, you can import pictures from your photo album. The app supports syncing to iCloud and Dropbox so if you also use the app on another device (I see that there is a WorldCard HD app for the iPad, although I haven't tried it) you can share information. The app also has a QR Code scanning function to translate a QR Code into an address which you can then tap to see the address in Safari or you can add the URL to an existing contact.
The app also has the ability to create a contact entry from the signature at the end of a person's e-mail. When you are in your Mail app, just select all of the text at the bottom of a person's e-mail with all of their contact information, then choose "copy" to place that on your clipboard. Then launch the app and tap the Signature button on the main screen to tell the app to recognize the data in the e-mail signature and create a contact based on this data. For some reason, WorldCard Mobile doesn't let you then create a contact entry only in the Card Holder portion of the app, but it does do a good job of figuring out the fields for all of the data so that you can create a normal entry in the iPhone's Contacts app.
Thee developer also has a free Lite version of the app that limits you to three cards a week during the first week and then one card a week after that. If you scan very infrequently, perhaps the Lite version is enough for you, but the main value of the Lite version is that it lets you try before you buy.
Overall, I was very impressed by this app. Using an app like WorldCard Mobile lets you create a Contacts entry faster and with more accuracy than you typing the information yourself. Also, I like the ability to see the pictures of the actual business cards in the Card Holder portion of the app. I don't encounter QR Codes very often so I doubt that will be very useful to me, but I love the ability to easily create a contact by simply selecting the text in a person's e-mail signature. If you are looking for a business card scanner for your iPhone, WorldCard Mobile is worth a look.