iPhone Apps Turn Business Cards Into Contacts

Last Updated Dec 16, 2009 8:03 PM EST

At a recent conference, I was a little taken aback when fellow attendees started handing me business cards -- and asking me for my own.

See, I live in the digital age, so I didn't have one to give. And I certainly didn't want to spend time transcribing card data into my address book.

Thankfully, I didn't have to. iPhone apps like Business Card Reader ($5.99) and WorldCard Mobile (pictured, $4.99) take snapshots of business cards, then convert the images into text and populate the appropriate address-book fields. How cool is that!

Well, it would be cooler if it worked a little more reliably. I took Business Card Reader for a test-drive and found that it requires near-perfect lighting conditions and decidedly non-fancy cards to achieve reliable recognition.

Still, when it works, it's a thing of beauty, which is why I'd advise any iPhone 3GS owner (older models lack the necessary auto-focus capabilities) to check out these apps.

Even when the recognition's not perfect, it's a lot faster and easier to edit a few OCR mistakes than it is to manually enter the information.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.