Swapping business cards is a time-tested way to make new business contacts. But in the age of the smartphone, it's a bit old fashioned. It can also be inconvenient — paper business cards are easily lost, and a hassle to manage. And once you receive a business card, inputting that contact information into your digital address book is a time-consuming chore. With your iPhone and the right apps, however, you'll never have to fuss with business cards again. Here are five apps that go a long way toward making the paper business card obsolete.
A lost business card means a missed connection. But with CardDrop, you can create a digital business card, and hand it out in multiple ways. Just open the app and "drop" your business card; the app uses your phone's GPS sensor to determine the location you dropped your card. New contacts can then pick the card up using the app, or just by visiting the CardDrop website and typing in the name or address of the meeting location. They can pick it up at any time, even days after your initial meeting. Don't worry, though — the process is secure because you have to approve each request (unless you specify otherwise when dropping your card). The app also allows you to trade digital business cards with people you haven't met in person, and even helps you connect to new contacts via social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
Chirp wasn't built specifically for business card exchanges. But if you have a digital version of your business card, this app – available for iPhone and Android – is a quick and easy way to hand out your card, so to speak. Chirp works by using sound waves to transfer encoded data from smartphone to smartphone. Just hold two phones next to each other and let the app "sing" photos, links, notes and other information from one device to the next. Try using this app to send a digital image of your business card, or a link to your professional website or LinkedIn profile, more easily than you could have via email or SMS text messaging. It even works in noisy environments such as at business conferences. One major caveat: both users need a smartphone that's running Chirp in order to exchange data. But the app is free, and can be downloaded in just a few seconds.
In the age of the digital address book, nobody wants to sort through a stack of paper business cards to find a specific contact. But inputting all that data into your iPhone is a tedious chore. With apps such as CamCard for iOS, turning a paper card into a digital contact is easy. Just point your iPhone camera at the card and snap a photo. The app's text-recognition software will pull out the key details and update your address book automatically. It can even locate your new contact on LinkedIn so you can get a quick glimpse at his or her background, and see any mutual connections you have. But be warned: given the vast array of business card designs, even the best transcription software can return spotty results. You'll probably have to correct some errors manually before you finalize a new address book entry.
Full Contact Card Reader (Free to download, subscriptions starts at $9.99/month)
At a glance, Full Contact seems to work a lot like CamCard: just point your iPhone camera at a business card and snap a photo to automate the process of converting printed text into a digital contact. But unlike CamCard, which relies on unpredictable transcription software, Full Contact employs humans who transcribe business cards for you. That means you're virtually guaranteed to get accurate results every time. But that accuracy doesn't come free: subscriptions to Full Contact start at $9.99 per month. Human transcription also takes longer: about 30 minutes. Compare that to apps such as CamCard, which offer instant, if sometimes inaccurate, results. But if running your business involves transcribing a high volume of business cards from new clients, a reliable subscription service such as Full Contact can save you countless hours, not to mention headaches.
LinkedIn is not exactly a business card app. But connecting on the professional networking website is, in many ways, the natural digital extension of the business card exchange. And connecting with a new contact is as easy on the LinkedIn iPhone app as it is on the site's desktop version. The app features a powerful search function to help you find the exact person you're looking for by name, location or professional details. And the near ubiquity of LinkedIn ensures most professionals you meet will already have profiles. Connecting takes just a few moments, and you can do it anywhere if you're using the mobile app. And once you're connected on LinkedIn, there's no need to exchange paper business cards, which are easily lost or forgotten.