I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: your smartphone’s contacts app isn’t the best contact manager around. A wide variety of third-party apps is available, making it easier than ever to keep track of all those names and numbers. And just like your list of contacts, these apps are constantly being updated—some of them much improved since last time I looked at them.
FullContact doesn’t look like the Cobook Contacts app I tried out last summer, nor does it act much like it. So I was very surprised to find out that it is, technically, the evolution of that app.
FullContact previously was a Web-based contact manager. The company behind that product acquired Cobook and worked that app’s mobile functionality into FullContact’s feature set. The result is a well-designed mobile app with the power of a desktop client.
You can sign up for FullContact on your iPhone, iPad or on the Web. (An Android version is in the works.) Once you’re logged in, you can add contacts from Facebook, Google, iOS (including iCloud) and Twitter. FullContacts pulls all of those contacts together, adding social media profile pictures (which, alone, makes the app so much more visually appealing that the stock iOS app), and cleaning and de-duping your contact list.
FullContact does this automatically, which may be concerning to some users. I was hesitant to hand over control, but I found the app surprisingly effective at cleaning up my contact lists. I still had a couple of duplicate contacts left, but I liked that it didn’t automatically merge contacts when it wasn’t sure.
FullContact also syncs your contacts across your devices. It includes a social feed option, so you can see your contacts’ recent posts, and a contact history, so you can see the last times you were in touch. All of these are very useful when you’re about to reach out to a professional contact.
FullContact is available for free, in a Basic version that allows you to store up to 5,000 contacts, a two-way sync with Google every 24 hours, and 10 free Business Card Transcriptions (this is when you take a picture of a business card, and FullContact has a real person transcribe that card and send it back to your phone as a contact). The $10-per-month Premium version allows up to 25,000 contacts, real-time syncing with Google, and 50 Business Card Transcriptions per month. Both versions allow you to purchase extra transcriptions as needed.
PureContact is very different from any other contact manager I’ve tested. Depending on how you intend to use it, that could be a very good or a very bad thing.
PureContact values quality over quantity, and because of that, it’s best thought of as a favorites app, not a full-fledged contact manager. If you’re going to be using it to stay in touch with a select group of people, it’s incredibly handy. But if you’re looking for an app to manage hundreds of contacts, this is not the app for you.
That’s because you have to add all of your contacts manually. Unlike most contact managers, PureContact doesn’t scour your various address books and services for people with whom you’ve been in touch. Instead, it accesses your phone’s (Android or iOS) address book and lets you select who you’d like to add.
All of the contacts you choose are given their own circle, which you can tap or swipe to access or take action. PureContact lets you assign actions to behaviors, such as a right, left, up or down swipe, or a double tap. You can have the app e-mail your contacts on a right swipe, but call them when you double tap. I love how you can personalize these actions in a way that makes sense for you.
I also like PureContact’s simple, sophisticated design. It’s clutter-free and easy to use. At 99 cents, it’s also very affordable. Still, that price tag may be hard to justify when the app is simply serving as a souped-up version of the “favorites” function your phone likely already offers.
CircleBack is a micro-manager’s dream come true—and I mean that in a good way. Like FullCircle, it connects to various sources, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Outlook, and imports your contacts into one central location. It also has a Web version, and syncs information across various devices.
Like FullContact, CircleBack analyzes your contacts, looking for errors and duplicates. But unlike FullContact, CircleBack puts the work of fixing the errors it finds in your hands. This isn’t hard work, however, and it’s a level of control that many users will appreciate.
CircleBack’s Dashboard displays information on how many of your contacts need updates, whether that’s a new phone number or a change of title, how many are missing key details (email address, phone number, complete name, or company), and how many are potential duplicates. You can choose to apply as many or as few fixes as you’d like.
CircleBack isn’t quite as slick as FullContact on some fronts. FullContact, for example, lets you initiate calls or messages by swiping your screen. CircleBack lacks FullContact’s social feeds and the ability to add tags and notes. But where CircleBack excels is at pure and simple contact management. This free app (iOS only; an Android version is in the works) puts you in control of your contacts. And for many users, that’s more than enough.
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Liane Cassavoy is a veteran technology and business journalist. She contributes regularly to PCWorld and has written about business issues and products for Entrepreneur Magazine and other publications. She is the author of two business start-up guides published by Entrepreneur Press.