Bill Bennett


Cardmunch: ugly as sin, painful, works

LinkedIn’s sales pitch for Cardmunch says the free iPhone or iPad app turns business cards into contacts. Cardmunch had positive reviews from iPhone users, what about on the iPad?

In a sentence: it delivers on its promise, but getting there is neither easy or fun and the results are less useful than you’d hope.

Cardmunch works because unlike other apps which attempt to use optical character recognition to pull information from business cards, you capture an image of the card then real human beings transcribe the information into a meaningful format.

iPad, just

Linkedin says the software is for the iPhone and the iPad, but, ye gods, it is ugly as sin on an iPad 2. Cardmunch is clearly an iPhone application that makes no concessions to the iPad. In practice the apps’ screen only takes up a small area in the centre of the iPad’s display. I need to squint to use it.

That’s not the only way Cardmunch is painful to use on an iPad. First you need to login to Linkedin to use it. Logging-in to sites is rarely a fun experience on an iPad, the tiny Cardmunch screen makes it harder.

Tricky data capture

Next you have to line up the iPad camera with a business card. This is far from easy, presumably the process works better with an iPhone. It takes a while to manhandle the iPad to take a shot and keeping steady while capturing the image is tricky.

I found it took three or four attempts to get the first few cards I captured. It was easier once I found my rhythm, but few cards were captured in a single shot. The application asks if you can read the text on the cards, the honest answer, no matter how much I played with focus was always “barely”.

Nevertheless, I submitted three test cards. Some time later, more than 30 minutes, less than an hour, the data came back.

Accurate Cardmunch

Cardmunch beats all OCR alternatives hands down on accuracy. The service is fast enough and close to 100% accurate. Over a few days I submitted more than a dozen cards and didn’t see one questionable field – no OCR package comes close.

I like the way Cardmunch will add LinkedIn information for contacts who are already members. I don’t like the way it seems locked in to my iPad’s address book – it would be far more useful if I could send the data to my PC or an online contact app (even though I’ve previously said none of these are any good).

Not a great iPad experience

Overall, I’d say Cardmunch would be great on an iPhone, the software is second-rate on an iPad and near to useless if you mainly work with a Windows PC.

While optimising an application for the iPhone and not the iPad is fair enough, LinkedIn could at least warn iPad owners of this before downloading.

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