Last week, a friend of mine wanted me to text his girlfriend in a pinch. I said it would be no problem and was about to send her a text. I rarely text her, so I wasn’t surprised when my friend asked if I had her number. I said I did, but I was wrong. She had changed her number a couple months prior, so I had to adjust her information in the Contacts app on my iPhone before sending the text.
How many times have we all encountered that situation? It’s a giant pain. I have no way of knowing if all of my contacts in my phone are up to date unless they change their Facebook information because my iPhone has access to that. But even if they do make their phone number available to their social network, that does nothing for me. IOS wisely doesn’t automatically update contacts based on Facebook information (although it does link the contacts together, but that’s a different matter). And what if my friends move and the address I have on hand changes? Or they get a new their personal email address? These are the problems Addappt, a contact manager with (what I’ll call) simple social integration for iPhone, attempts to fix.
You have your own contact card in iOS. It bears as much personal information as you’re willing and then some probably, thanks to Facebook integration in iOS 6. Addappt relies exclusively on this card. When you initially download the app, you have to register and become authenticated to avoid any fake users. The authentication email you provide has to be the same one on the top of your contact card in iOS, otherwise nobody will see any changes you make to your information. When you’re granted access to the app, your contact information is provided to Addappt and any time you update it, anybody else in your contact list can see the changes. If you get a phone number and you change that information, everybody will see it happen. Same with your email address, personal address, website, etc. I’ve had the opportunity to test drive the features and it works exactly as described.
When somebody requests your information from Addappt, you receive a notification and you’re able to verify that you want to share your contact info with them. If you send somebody a request and they accept, you’ll also receive a notification. If something happens to the contact information and your contact disappears, all the information is retrievable because they’ll simply become a Pending contact again. The people working on Addappt seem to have thought through just about everything. And it works perfectly.
What’s more interesting to me is that the app is not a walled garden. Contacts added in the app are added to your Contacts app and sync across all your devices with iCloud. Changes you make in the Contacts app to your iCloud account are carried to Addappt, and vice versa. Your information moves with you all the time. This is unlike Facebook’s integration, which keeps users locked directly into Facebook.
Addappt’s developer swears up and down that your information (and they only have your information on their servers, not your whole address book) is kept private and secure, and for what it’s worth, I believe them. Their future business plan includes pro features that users will have to pay for, which will hopefully keep them afloat and sustainable.
The app itself is easy on the eyes. It’s not as simple as the stock Contacts app. Each contact has a picture and their own card is much more visual than Apple’s stock offering. In some ways, the app feels a bit like visual overload and I’m not sure I like the colours. The cleaner and simpler a contacts app, the better. And my Facebook contacts are integrated into the app under All Contacts, so unless you’re always labelling contacts as Friends or Family or Colleagues, you might suddenly find that you have a ton of contacts on your phone you’re not interested in. There’s no way to make those contacts invisible. That being said, I’m sure some people will like this approach, but the design of the app isn’t really a problem.
The Elephants in the Room
Right now, the real problems are easy to identify. The app is a little specific for my liking, insofar as it requires very specific information in order to make sure that your information gets synced with everybody else’s. It’s only available on iPhone. It requires membership, which requires word of mouth and even that membership requires an access code.
Every member has to give implicit trust to Addappt to handle their information properly, which some people are sure to not be comfortable with. It’s one thing for Google or Apple to have your information; they’re large and implicitly trusted due to their size alone. But a small company operating in LA doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence in that department. I trust them, but I’ve also been in contact with them and feel like I know their CEO at this point. Not everybody will have that luxury.
Addappt is, according to some reports, going to bring their app to Android, which solves the other problem. As long as it’s an Apple exclusive, its percentage of the market share is going to be limited. And out of everybody with an iPhone, regardless of how large that percentage is, how many of those people are going to bother downloading this app? That’s a huge problem, and one that’s not easy to overcome. Those who do will be pleasantly surprised with it, but it’s still going to be an overwhelmingly small portion of the population.
A Feature, Not an App
There’s one final problem, at least in my eyes, and that’s the fact that Apple could probably replicate this app with their own services without a problem. Not unlike Mailbox, which built schedules into email, this just adds one small feature to an app that Apple otherwise includes. All of your information is stored in iCloud on Apple’s servers. If they were to flip a switch, who’s to say that they couldn’t integrate this kind of information sharing in iOS 7? At what point does Addappt become instantly useless?
True, if Addappt ends up on Android as well, it will still have a leg up over an Apple-exclusive solution. But then we run into the same problem: how many iPhone users would install an app like this so their Android-using friends or colleagues can always have their information on hand? People are so used to sending out mass emails every time they move or change numbers that I’m not sure I see them changing their ways any time soon.
Addappt certainly isn’t doomed, and I’m not trying to paint that picture. But I do think it’s more of a utility than an app. I’m keeping the app on my phone, and I’m moving in a bit less than a month. I’ll be trying to get as many friends in this area as possible to use Addappt, because I think it does have some value and it does make things a lot easier. But Addappt works in the background and works perfectly without my input — as it should — and I’m letting it run in the background, in the Utilities folder on my iPhone.
Addappt is a really handy tool that's great at what it does — perfect, actually — but it's more of a feature than an app and it comes with a lot of strings attached.7
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