Just in time for the end of the year, here are four smartphone apps that can be useful, depending on your needs. This month, we feature a business card scanner, an awesome remote desktop tool, an app to help you tie your tie and an app that can take the risk out of scanning QR codes.


Vendor: IntSig Information Co., Ltd
Cost: Lite for free, or $6.99 for full version in the Apple App Store; Lite for free, or $6.99 for full version in the Android Market

We all get business cards from time to time and have to move the information from the card into our electronic contacts file. CamCard allows you to take a picture of the business card with your phone, and then the app automatically locates the pertinent information and creates a contact for you on your device. The app supports English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, and Hungarian cards. Since you can’t always get the orientation the same for every card, CamCard automatically adjusts orientation. CamCard also supports QR codes on cards and a lot more.

The free version — CamCard Lite — allows you to scan up to three cards initially and one per week thereafter. If you want to scan more, you need to upgrade to the paid version. In Figure A, you can see some other app features, including cropping and image enhancement.
Figure A

Modify the scanned image to suit your needs

In Figure B, note that you can take a number of different actions with a scanned card, including sending an email, locating the address on a map, doing a LinkedIn search, and more.
Figure B

Choose an action you’d like to initiate

In Figure C, you get a look at the Android edition of the app.
Figure C

A look at CamCard on Android

Read about Splashtop Remote Desktop.

Splashtop Remote Desktop

Vendor: Splashtop Inc.
Cost: iOS – $1.99 (iPhone) and $4.99 (iPad); Android – $4.99 (holiday sale price) and $9.99 (HD for tablets)

There are a bunch of RDP-based terminal tools out there for iOS and Android. Splashtop, however, takes it a bit further by adding support for remotely controlling Macs as well as PCs. Now, from your pocket (or your bag, if you have a tablet), you can control just about any computer in your home and office, regardless of the operating system.

Splashtop works like this: You install the “Splashtop Streamer” software onto the machine you’d like to make accessible to the viewer. Streamer is the proprietary connectivity method used by this app. The tool integrates with your Gmail account so that you can reach machines over the Internet. I’ve tested this functionality on my MacBook Air and it works flawlessly. The entire setup took five minutes, and I was able to easily controlling my Mac from my iPhone with no problems.

The company claims that you can play Flash video, music, video and even games using the tool. I have not tested the multimedia capabilities but plan to do so for a more full-featured review in the future.

In the figures below, see the iOS and Android versions of the Splashtop Remote Desktop app respectively.
Figure D

Splashtop for iOS

Figure E

Splashtop for Android. Want to play WoW on your tablet?  Go for it!

Read about Tie & Mirror.

Tie & Mirror

Vendor: jp.Martin
Cost: $0.99 in the Apple App Store

I stumbled across this app and thought it was kind of cool. There are a bunch of different ways to tie a tie, and this app will show you 10 of them. Less than $1.00 is pretty cheap, even if you get it out of sheer curiosity.

In Figure F, you can see the 10 different tie “formats” that are included in the app.
Figure F

There are a number of featured styles

Tie & Mirror walks you through the process of achieving each format, as shown in Figure G. If your phone has a front-facing camera, you can use it in “mirror mode” to more easily match your actions with what’s being shown in the diagrams.
Figure G

Follow the instruction to achieving your desired knot

Read about Norton Snap QR Code Reader.

Norton Snap QR Code Reader

Vendor: Symantec
Cost: Free in the Apple App Store, free in the Android Market

QR codes are everywhere these days. They’re used in all kinds of advertising so that consumers can point, shoot, and browse the advertiser’s web site. However, that’s a key thing to keep in mind: QR codes are nothing but links to web sites in disguise. You’re sort of making a leap of faith when you snap a QR code that you’ll go where you think you’re going. Because of this ambiguity, QR codes are ripe for abuse.

Symantec has an answer. The Norton Snap QR Code Reader aims to make it a bit safer to use QR codes by intercepting the code and checking whether or not the destination is a safe one. Nefarious sites are blocked, thus protecting the user from potential unintended consequences.

In the figures below, see the Android and iOS versions of the Norton Snap QR Code Reader app respectively.

Figure H

Norton Snap QR Code Reader for Android

Figure I

Norton Snap QR Code Reader for iOS