(This piece was updated June 23, 2014, to add several new services and update the status of others. As before, this list is in alphabetical order.)
You never know when you'll wind up asking someone for a business card. Over the past weekend, I collected one from a technology analyst at a most unlikely place, a motorcycle rally in New Hampshire.
That physical card has already been tossed, but not before I catalogued the information in my ever-growing electronic contact database, which now spans my Google Apps account, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and anything I have added on my own.
The nature of card-collecting habits makes this data creation and management process an inherently mobile task, one that relies on either manual entry or a smartphone camera or even a miniature scanner to turn the information digital. With that in mind, here's the latest about mobile apps and services designed to make this process a little simpler.
- Bizz Card (Apple iOS; Free) - You can use this service to create an electronic identity that replaces paper cards, complete with sophisticated graphics. You "share" your card by swiping across your iPhone, which automatically generates an email message to send. If you have an existing card, you can capture the image to send electronically. This app is meant pretty much just for giving out your card, not for managing cards from other people.
- Bump — The team behind this revolutionary app joined Google last year, and the app was discontinued in January 2014, so they could focus on other projects.
- CardCloud — This app was discontinued.
- Clinck (Android, iOS; Free) — Designed by some developers that used to use the CardCloud app, and needed an alternative when it became defunct. Clinck's focus is on allowing users to send their electronic business cards to others via email (the recipient doesn't need to have the app installed in order to import the information).
- CloudCards (Android, iOS; Free) — Essentially, this is a service for digitizing existing paper cards and creating a digital directory that can be kept updated more easily. There are templates for creating entries as well as a facility for sharing contact information with other people. The developer behind this app, MeCan, is from Malaysia and focuses on social networking platforms.
- CardMunch — Affiliated with LinkedIn, this application will be discontinued on July 11, 2014. Users are being advised to download their data and move it to Evernote.
- eConnectCard (Android, iOS; Free for first 30 days, starts at $14 for a "startup" plan) - The focus of this service is to digitize existing paper cards, so they can be shared via email or mobile phone. Incoming cards can be managed with the "Digadex" app, and the service also links with calendaring and scheduling apps, to help keep tabs on interactions.
- Evernote Hello (Android, iOS; part of Evernote Premium; priced at $5/month) — There are several ways to create contacts with this mobile app, including business card scans, direct connections with other Evernote Hello users (via the Evernote Connect service) or a quick profile creation option, which works with LinkedIn and Facebook. The cool thing about this app is that it automatically associates contacts with meetings that you might have with them.
- Feathr (Android, iOS; Free for networkers) — Technically, this is an app meant to support networking at conferences and trade shows, but that IS where many connections are made, so it's worth mentioning. The app is used by attendees to collect informtaion about new acquaintances, and add them to their existing social networks.
- FlashBind (Android, iOS; Free) — The focus of this service is on creating a trusted network of contacts, especially for small businesses. You can "publish" your card on Facebook; the information can be kept updated in one place, and pushed out to your network when you make changes.
- Flextown (Android, iOS; Starts at $65 for a single card) - Initially launched in Denmark, the service turns paper cards into one special Flextown physical card that can share its information using Near Field Communcations. (There's also a QR code on the back that can be scanned to achieve the same purpose.) So, you don't technically hand out the card, you offer it to someone for them to scan with their smartphone. You can also share it via email, SMS or AirDrop. The cardholder gets an alert when someone accepts and stores his or her information. The service integrates with existing CRM applications.
- FriendThem (Android, iOS; Free) — This app, which is primarily consumer focused, offers a twist on keeping contacts in order, by using the location based services on your smartphone to tell you who's nearby (provided they have agreed to disclose their information). If you're at a conference, the app helps you "friend" others to add them to the Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter social networks. The developer's motto is "one-click connectivity."
- FullContact Card Reader (iOS and Android; starts at $9.99/month, $99.99/year) — If your organization relies heavily on Salesforce.com, this is definitely an app that you should evaluate. It turns business card images directly into Salesforce.com leads. Since I last updated this list, the software was released for Android and it was expanded to integrate with Google Contacts and iPhone Contacts.
- Icon.me (Android, iOS; starts at $3.99/month) — Technically speaking, this is a cloud-based service for managing and curating your "professional persona." It aggregates external social networks, and also provides context related to others in your company. So you can see who is viewing your information, as well as whether or not a contact is shared by other people you know.
- Infoduce (HTML 5; Free during beta) — This is a way to make your business card say more about you or your company, by linking your contact information with other relevant profiles. For example, if you're a restaurant owner, you could link your Yelp! profile to your digital presence. Your information lives in the cloud, but you can design a custom template that retains your "analog" identity.
- Loopd (iOS; To be determined) - Billed as a "social discovery app," the technology tells you when an existing connection is in close proximity -- between 10 feet and 15 feet away. So, the focus is on encouraging more location-specific interactions with those around you, say, at an industry conference. The developer just raised $20,000 as part of an Indiegogo campaign.
- Inigo App (Currently Web only, although native apps for Android and iOS are under development) - A cloud service for creating interactive "networking cards" that currently integrate with Facebook, Google +, Twitter, LinkedIn and Skype. Future support coming for Four Square, Pinterest and Vine.
- Sansan (Android, iOS; Free download of mobile app, with up to 50 transcriptions per month; priced starting at $10 per month beyond that) - The company behind the top contact management service in Japan got $14 million in May 2014 from investors including Salesforce to help launch its U.S. version. It works like CardMunch used to: you take a picture of a physical card with your mobile phone (or scan it), and it's transcribed. The app synchronizes with email and phone apps.
- SavvyCard - Technically, this isn't a mobile app. Rather, it is a Web service that acts as a "business referral system." It works by creating electronic credentials and a mobile Web directory for your organization, which can be used for direct outreach or shared from person to person. (You add it to your email signature.)
- ScanBizCards (iOS, Android, Windows Phone; $3.99 to $6.99, depending on OS) — If your company uses Salesforce.com, this another app to evaluate. You can export everything that you capture directly into the CRM package. There a direct link to LinkedIn, and there is a one-button feature that will initiate a LinkedIn invite to any scanned contact. If you don't have time to do it yourself, you can use the company's transcription service, at $0.18 per card.
- Shape Business Card Reader (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian and Java; varies depending on the platform, $4.99 for Android or $6.99 for iOS) — Uses optical character recognition to convert images into contact entries, and boasts integration with both Evernote and Salesforce.com.
- WorldCard Link (Apple iOS; starts at $39.95) — One of the most comprehensive technologies available, this software comes with a special iPhone stand to help position the card you want to scan, improving accuracy. WorldCard also offers similar apps for Android and Windows Mobile, starting at $5.99, but there isn't a dock that comes with the products. The Pro version makes it simpler to integrate the scanned information with Outlook. The software also integrates with iCloud and Dropbox for storing images.