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CardmunchLinkedIn’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.

Can it only be two years since I  looked at buying a Blackberry?

Thankfully I didn’t waste my money.

Apparently lots of other people also decided to not buy Blackberries. So many made the same decision that it can’t be long before the company drops off the perch.

At the time, the Blackberry looked like a realistic way of owning a phone that could do email.

Briefly it looked like it was the most realistic option. That passed when I realised New Zealanders buying the phone for personal use had to pay extra – I recall it being a lot extra – to get the company’s email service.

Blackberry strengths

Blackberry had a lot going for it. It did email when other phones didn’t. At the time I started shopping for a smarter phone Android was new and horribly bug-ridden. The phones weren’t tempting.

The iPhone was an option, I came close to buying one, but took a test-drive of Apple’s phone and, unlike most other journalists I wasn’t smitten.

For me the Blackberry’s biggest draw card was the tiny qwerty keyboard. I’ve been a touch typist for so long this appealed to me, a short test drive with a review phone soon showed me the keyboard looked more promising than it was in practice.

My decision was to hold off buying a smartphone. I think it was wise.

Blackberry’s decision not to revamp its product line and reinvent its value proposition was less wise. I doubt the company can make it to the end of 2012.

It should surprise no-one to learn Samsung has moved past Apple to become the top phone maker in New Zealand.

The latest figures from IDC Research show Samsung has a 28. percent share of the smartphone market. Smartphones now account for 43 percent of the New Zealand mobile phone market.

NZ behind Australia on smartphone ownership

That puts us a long way behind Australia where smartphones account for 65 percent of the market. Why?

  • Australian incomes are higher than New Zealand salaries. Buying a smartphone is less of a financial stretch for Australians. At the same time, Australian carriers offer phones with plans and in many cases lock phones to networks. That doesn’t happen in New Zealand. Although locked phones on plans often work out more expensive in the long run, the lower bar means more kit is out there in the wild.
  • Australians have access to a better range of phones and, usually, get the good kit earlier than New Zealand. It helps that there are 13 Apple stores in Australia — and that would certainly be one reason why Apple is relatively more popular over there.
  • Australia was earlier to the mobile broadband party. Telstra had a fast, relatively reliable network long before Telecom NZ got its XT network off the ground. And speaking on Telecom NZ, the company only began offering Apple phones when the 4S launched last month.

Samsung phones are good

Many reviewers consider the latest Galaxy Nexus, which arrived too soon for the IDC survey, to be comparable with, or even better than, the Apple iPhone 4S.

I can’t confirm this. I can say the experience I get from an older Android phone is way better than I saw with the earlier Apple iPhone 4.

Android is a poor experience on a tablet when compared to the iPad, on a phone there’s no noticeable quality gap between the two rival operating systems.

Samsung’s Galaxy S II was the earlier flagship phone. Reviewers often compared it favourably with the iPhone.

I wrote about the Palm T|X for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007. It’s republished here to shows how far phones have come in the last five years.

If smartphones haven’t killed off traditional handheld computers yet, the day can’t be far away. Sales of non-phone Palm and PocketPC devices are stagnant or falling. There’s been nothing much in the way of new hardware for a couple of years.

Sure, but something huge was on the way.

This is a pity. I’ve found my $500 Palm T|X to be one of my most productive tools. It goes way beyond managing my contact file and calendar information.

My word, what low expectations we had in those days.

The T|X has a 3.8 inch 480 by 320 display. While you wouldn’t call it large, it’s half as big again as the screen on most phones.

But nothing compared to the 4.3 inch 540 x 960 qHD display on my HTC Sensation and there was no camera.

It makes reading text, browsing web pages, viewing photographs and even watching movies a better experience than squinting at a smartphone display.

Which was true at the time.

The 128MB of built-in memory doesn’t sound much by today’s standards, yet I’ve got a dozen or so applications running on my handheld and scores of stored documents. If I need more memory, I simply slot in an SD card.

That sounds even less now.

And we’re not talking about any old documents. The T|X comes with a bundled version of Documents To Go, an application that allows you to read and, in a limited way, edit, Word or Excel files. It can also be used to read .pdfs, making it the nearest thing to an electronic book.

OK, this looks a bit daft today, but at the time the T|X was a realistic ebook reader.

The T|X’s best feature is its built-in wi-fi. When I’m travelling around the city, I stop for coffee where’s there’s a free hot spot and catch up on emails. Sure you can do this anywhere with a smartphone – but the bigger screen makes a difference.

Wi-Fi is still wonderful.

I use wi-fi to sync my Palm with my desktop before leaving home and then reverse the process when I return.

The T|X isn’t perfect, text entry is clumsy and the battery won’t make it through an extended working day if the wireless is switched on. Yet, all-in-all, it manages to better the specification of smartphones in most departments. When I’m on business away from home I carry a smartphone and a T|X.

No doubt a phone manufacturer will marry the features of the T|X with a smartphone before much longer – judging by the announced specifications Apple’s forthcoming iPhone could get there first.

And the rest is history