One thing for sure, the native iOS 7 Contacts app is a bit underpowered if you make your living dealing with professional contacts for a living. VIPorbit Contact Manager with apps available for the iPad and iPhone that promises some interesting contact management features for mobile users. Mike Muhney, formerly the co-inventor and co-founder of the famed ACT! contact management software. I especially like the potential of VIPorbit for iPad for mobile sales people.
At time of publication, VIPorbit doesn't offer an Android app. There is also VIPorbit Contact Manager ($49.99) available for the Mac. This post focuses on VIPorbit for iPad.
Setting up VIPorbit for iPad
You get the option to upgrade to a full version of VIPorbit ($9.99) when you setup your VIPorbit account following a well-crafted setup process. Otherwise, VIPorbit limits you to 100 contacts. The app's interface is friendly, and the setup process is methodical that I like because it promotes user self-sufficiency.
One of the first activities you are going to want to do is import your contacts into VIPorbit. It supports the following contacts for import:
- Apple Contacts
- Google Contacts
- Facebook Contacts
- Twitter Contacts
- LinkedIn Contacts
This activity might provoke some discussion in sales and marketing organizations regarding that owns the contacts (the company or the sales person) especially when you venture into Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and social media account territory. The below image shows the Smart Import Contacts & Calendars setup:
My import of Apple Contacts off my iPad Air failed miserably multiple times. While VIPorbit for iPad fired right back up after each crash, it then proceeded to crash again. Therefore, I then went to try to import contacts from my Google Apps for Business account. It took a while, but I was finally able to import my Google Contacts. However, wait, you have to tap Done. A rushed or even newbie iPad users may not find that button intuitive because their contacts are already appearing on the screen.
I imported my Google Calendar data instead of iCal because of my previous experience with Apple Contacts. It's a nice option for users who might have more than one Google Calendar dogging their lives.
Using VIPorbit for iPad
While I was disappointed by my import experience with VIPorbit for iPad, it wasn't a deal breaker for me because the application features are quite well thought out. While mobile customer relationship management (CRM) may not be in every business, VIPorbit can certainly be a powerful surrogate for CRM in the hands of the right user.
VIPorbit for iPad leads off with a customizable dashboard that lets you access any app feature with a single tap. You also get the option to pin other content including important contacts, web pages, and "orbits" to the dashboard. The image below shows the VIPorbit dashboard:
I give VIPorbit credit for using one database for managing personal and professional contacts. Each record also has 14 customizable fields for tracking information as per your personal requirements. The following image shows a blank record for a VIPorbit contact:
VIPorbit for iPad also includes a calendar that while on the surface doesn't offer much when you put it up against Mynd Calendar (iPhone only) or Sunrise Calendar (iPhone/iPad) lets you schedule calls, meetings, and tasks by contact. The calendar offers day, week, month, and list views. You can import calendar data from either Apple or Google calendars. This image shows an example of the VIPorbit calendar:
Managing contacts with VIPorbit in "orbit"
VIPorbit is built around the idea of "orbits" for grouping contacts into groups for scheduling, management, and messaging purposes. For example, I could setup a TechRepublic editors orbit with Teena Hammond, Sonja Thompson, and the other editors on the TechRepublic staff contact information. Likewise, I could setup an orbit with all of my public relations contacts. Orbits could be a powerful productivity tool for people who interact frequently with groups.
The big selling point between VIPorbit and some other contact management solutions is the capability to schedule calls, meetings, and tasks by contact. The app even offers logging of activities by contacts automatically on each contact's record. Linking contacts to activities means one less note-taking activity for you as a user.
Social media streams are becoming an important element in managing contacts and VIPorbit enables you to view contact's social streams directly on their VIPorbit profile. Since I deal with lots of PR people and tech company representatives during the course of my writing for TechRepublic, I'm sure I would use this feature prior to any sort of call or briefing
Activity reporting with VIPorbit
Beyond the app's concept of orbits, the built-in reporting features got my attention that the app could be a potential solution for a mobile sales team or others in contact heavy professions. VIPorbit lets you generate reports based on completed activities, Orbit list, and other relationship details.
Syncing and updating devices
VIPorbit uses the VIPSync service to sync VIPorbit data between the iPhone, Mac, and iPad. Syncing seemed to proceed normally for me but would choke intermittently. Based on my testing, the more likely culprit was my home Wi-Fi network on that day.
If you are in sales or another heavy customer contact field, and need a higher end tool than the default iOS 7 contacts app, I recommend checking out VIPorbit for iPad.
VIPorbit for iPad is a bit too powerful for my own contact management requirements. However, I recommend it for iPad users in sales and marketing and in other roles with heavy-duty contact management requirements.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.