The Marie Kondo effect: Can apps really help organise contacts on a phone?

By: |
January 03, 2021 5:00 AM

The success and failure of an app tracking hundreds of contacts depends on a powerful app with data-tracking capabilities and there are several apps that promise to offer this

The app relies on artificial intelligence to find and merge duplicate contacts, fill out incomplete information and continually keep that data up to date.The app relies on artificial intelligence to find and merge duplicate contacts, fill out incomplete information and continually keep that data up to date.

From being the 20th employee of Google, and spending her career on some of the most iconic products in consumer software, Google and Yahoo-Marissa Mayer needs no introduction. She designed the interface for Google Search, organising the world’s information, and helped to launch Google Maps, an ambitious project in mapping the entire planet. She was also on the small team that developed Google AdWords, the platform responsible for most of Google’s revenue. At Yahoo, where she became CEO in 2012, she oversaw the acquisition of Tumblr; when she left, in 2017, she reportedly received a $186-million exit package.

Last month, she made headlines with the launch of Sunshine, a consumer software start-up that introduced its first app, Sunshine Contacts, which easily and intuitively harnesses advanced technologies to organise contacts and keep them up-to-date. It’s an address book app that relies on artificial intelligence.

This is Mayer’s first venture and return to the spotlight since stepping down from her role as Yahoo chief executive.

Founded in 2018 by Mayer and fellow Yahoo and Google veteran Enrique Muñoz Torres, Sunshine has been focused on using sophisticated technologies, like AI, to improve the common applications people use every day. Mayer assembled a fine team: Enrique Muñoz Torres, her cofounder, who has more than a decade of experience in advertising and search products; Rohit Chandra, the head of engineering, has a PhD from Stanford.

“It’s crazy that we can have self-driving cars and global facial recognition, but still can’t do simple things like remove duplicates in your contacts,” Mayer said, in an interview with Wired, a monthly American magazine.

Sunshine (formerly Lumi Labs) company is based in Palo Alto, CA, and has raised $20 million in capital. For now, Sunshine Contacts address book app is available by invitation-only programme. Those interested can download the app and enter in their contact information to request access to the app. Sunshine Contacts is available for iPhones with iOS 11. For those with Sunshine Contacts on iOS, there will later be a web companion version of the app. It is available in the US to start, with plans to expand internationally.

The app relies on artificial intelligence to find and merge duplicate contacts, fill out incomplete information and continually keep that data up to date. The app integrates with the iOS Contacts app as well as Gmail.

In the past there have been many apps introduced with similar offerings in a user’s contacts: Mingle, Vignette, Humin, FullContact, Bump, CardFlick, Hashable, My Name is E, CardMunch, Brewster, Plaxo… The aim was to replace business cards and address diaries to make an auto-update address book.

A few critical success factors for mobile apps could solve a user’s problem as security and privacy measures are a huge concern; an interplay with wearables and at home devices can ensure a future-proof technology; an unprecedented level of service to utilise personal data; be creative in look and feel, functionality and utilisation.

Like Mingle, a gesture-based alternative contacts app for iPhone developed by Sam Ghobril, sports a clean layout to perform actions on your contacts, call, message, email, tweet, etc. Mingle works great for people who have a small, curated list of contacts. Another app called Vignette app allows to easily update contact images in one batch. To find images, it scans various social networks and matches that information to contacts. Vignette works by searching contacts for email, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram integration.

CardMunch, a mobile business card transcription service that captures business cards and creates contacts in the user’s phone. CamCard app has the ability to easily transform paper cards into digital contacts. The app’s OCR text-recognition software pulls out key details, including the person’s name, phone number, email and company name, and updates the address book automatically.

Plaxo, an online address book that launched in 2002, was a subsidiary of cable television company Comcast from 2008 to 2017. Plaxo provided automatic updating of contact information. Users and their contacts stored their information in the cloud on Plaxo’s servers. When this information was edited by the user, the changes appeared in the address books of all those who listed the account changer in their own books. Another startup, Hashable, an online address book to make private notes about contacts and set follow-up reminders for appointments, launched in 2010 was shut in July 2012.

Thus, the success and failure of an app tracking hundreds of contacts depends on a powerful app with data-tracking capabilities.

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