iSmashPhone Review – CardMunch

This image described by iPhone, iPhone 4, App Store, iPhone 3GS, CardMunch, Photo 1 


CardMunch is one of those Apps that may be more than the average iPhone owner needs, but can be a business person’s best friend. It gives users the ability to efficiently and accurately add business card information to their contact list. You simply take a snapshot of the card by fitting it into a blue rectangle, and take a clear picture. Submit, and CardMunch does the rest.

There is a bit of a turnaround time on the cards, roughly five to 15 minutes. It’s not a huge deal given that one can take pictures of several cards, go about their business and receive a push notification once the new contact information has arrived.

The target market for the App definitely seems to be those who attend major functions in which they obtain anywhere from 50 to 60 business cards over the course of a week. This is what iSmashPhone experienced at E3. Adding one or two contacts to your device, even through your computer, may not seem like a big deal. Try a stack that’s roughly an inch thick.

We put CardMunch through a 50 card test. We spread 50 business cards throughout a table in a well-lit room. Sometimes this works as a disadvantage because the phone and the user’s hand cast a shadow directly over the card. We were going a little slow, because we had some mixed results. We noticed a few important things:

1) The App works best when there is a high contrast between the card and the surface it’s on, and our white table may not have been ideal for most of the business cards, which were white.

2) Glossy cards were a bit harder to capture, because the light reflecting off of them made it difficult to capture the text clearly. 

3) You need to have very steady hands, especially when your phone casts a shadow over the cards. It reduces the iPhone’s shutter speed, which makes it easy to blur out pictures.

4) We noticed that at one point in the video we found somewhat of a sweet spot. That is, there was a column of cards we moved through where many were captured automatically and the image was clear. This was probably because we the lighting overhead was at just the right place for optimal performance.

Notice that at about two minutes in we have a small card that has a black on blue color scheme. We didn’t know how well this one would work, but the information that came back was accurate. They had even cropped the logo on the card to fit the contact picture.

This image described by iPhone, iPhone 4, App Store, iPhone 3GS, CardMunch, Photo 1 

The above are media contacts, out of courtesy, we did not post screenshots that reveal their email addresses and phone numbers


Keep in mind that we had tried a few individual cards before, but this was our first run with 50. Our biggest concern for this test was to see how quickly we could capture the cards. Though the actual process of capturing so many cards ran longer than we had hoped, the results were very accurate, even in pictures that we felt were slightly fuzzy or had poor lighting. This is because the App uses a service called Amazon Mechanical Turk. This means that the image you capture is sent to and transcribed by an actual person. 

After taking shots of our 50 cards, it took roughly five minutes to start getting some back. They didn’t necessarily come back in the order the pictures were taken, but they were returning at a rate of anywhere from three to four at a time. The phone can be set to receive a push notification when contacts start coming in.

Pros: Accurate, faster than manually entering cards one at a time, easily adds cards to your iPhone contacts. Logos and pictures are cropped and added in as the contact photo. Works well under the right conditions.

Cons: Autocapture can be a bit finicky and conditions must be ideal. App is very sensitive to movement. Conditions but be very favorable for quick capture. Will not work on iPhone 3G.

Vedict: Cardmunch works very well under the right conditions (lighting, contrast, etc.). In hindsight, the white table wasn’t the best idea, but it was the only large enough surface under decent lighting that we had for a 50 card run. We also have a feeling that some of the issues we had may have more to do with the camera on the iPhone 3GS. In future versions, we would like to see the developers experiment with having the LED on the iPhone 4 on to see if the extra lighting helps capture images a little faster. Still, this is a brand new App, and we hope to see improvements as future versions come through the pipeline.

For those who often end up with stacks of business cards that are getting too fat for their rolodex, this is worth a shot. Amazon Mechanical Turk adds a level of accuracy that is important for business contacts.

Capture: 3.5 out of 5

Accuracy: 5 out of 5

Overall: 4 out of 5

It's good, but can be finicky when taking snapshots. Though that may be more due to the iPhone camera (We tested this on a 3GS). We expect this to improve, because the software is only a week old. However, the level of accuracy alone and the fact that they create a contact picture from the card makes it a timesaver.

Download the free trial, see how you like it: CardMunch Free Trial and CardMunch ($2.99)

iSmashPhone will be playing around with it a bit more as we try to see how practical it is in real world situations.

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