Sometimes we get emails that make us feel really great. Recently we got an email from a guy named Dan who said that FullContact’s Address Book was a “great utility to set up an address book on the Chromebook”. While that’s certainly a use case that we’d considered, I’ll admit that we haven’t spent much time working toward that as a goal. So it got me thinking – What’s the best online address book?
Gathering the Contenders
In searching through the Chrome Web Store, there aren’t a lot of options for address books. Almost without fail, the apps that are listed under a search for “address book” or “contact management” are ones that dedicate to doing a lot of different tasks. We’ve always been focused on the thought that you should do one or two things really well, instead of doing a moderately good job on a bunch of stuff. But due diligence has its place here, so let’s look at the list:
ContactZilla – Free, with increased pricing for more shared lists, more users and device syncing.
Kontaktkarte – Free, skeumorphic design, focused mainly on social networks.
fruux – Free, then €4 per month for multiple devices and sharing.
FullContact – Free up to 10,000 contacts, then $10 per month for real-time sync, 100 scanned business cards and 25,000 contacts.
Cloze – Free, primarily focused on social CRM.
The promise here is that you will have painless contact management for your team. While the base product is very good, it’s fairly light on some important features. Namely, there doesn’t seem to be a way to import any sort of information for a contact, other than entering it manually. So what you’re left with are pretty blank pages that look like this:
The other gripe that I have about ContactZilla is that it wants to run in its own window. On the Chromebook, this is an annoyance because the entire OS is run inside of a single window with multiple tabs. While I can open new windows, it just doesn’t seem necessary. Combine that with the lack of any external data sources and it’s just too bare-bones for my liking.
When I loaded Kontaktkarte, it looked promising. It looks a lot like the previous iteration of Apple’s Address Book. But that’s where the similarities end. You can import your Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and the rest, but then it’s up to you to manually select which of these contacts you want in your Kontaktkarte address book. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
I will say, however, that there are some really cool features. As you can see in the screenshot above, by searching my email it found that I had a photo shared between me and Adriel Hampton of NationBuilder. Unfortunately, that’s something that I could easily find by using a quick Gmail search operator so it’s definitely not enough of a feature to make me use Kontaktkarte with any sort of regularity.
Of everything that I’ve tried, fruux is probably the closest to a real address book that I’ve found. It has a great ability to sync to multiple devices, it allows you to share your contact lists and it works with eM Client, which is my email client of choice…on Windows.
But it’s also lacking a lot. First and foremost, the only way that you can import a list of contacts is via a vcard file, or by entering a contact manually. fruux also won’t let you sync your contacts to a device unless you pay the monthly premium. While we agree that every company needs to make money, bi-directional sync is something that fruux could easily handle with better Google account integration.
The promise of Cloze is really cool, but using the app proved to me to be more than what I was wanting. The basis is that it’s focused on social, and keeps a score of your relationships. Cloze should also be able to keep your contacts updated, as you have to manually choose to connect to each service. For instance, as you can see here, I’ve pulled up Ben Deda and it shows me a lot of information about how we’ve interacted.
Unfortunately, in having so many features, it misses out on the core of being a really great address book. That’s not to down the product. It’s very good at what it’s supposed to do. So perhaps the issue here is that I was wanting it to be something other than what it is. Cloze is a really great option when you’re wanting in-depth CRM with social features. If you’re wanting a simple address book? You’re likely to find yourself overwhelmed.
Not to toot our own horn, but I’m pretty proud of what we’ve built with the FullContact Address Book. It imports directly from just about anywhere and it keeps all of your contacts up to date. You can also roll back any changes that you don’t like, so you never have to worry about things getting messy.
With the Address Book, we’ve focused on a single thing – Clean up people’s contacts, and don’t screw them up. That’s a pretty easy goal to say, but it’s definitely more involved than the words would have you believe. We believe that it’s your data, and you should be able to do what you want with it, so we offer the ability to sync to your accounts, to export that data and to share it with whomever you so choose. Oh, and all of that comes for free.
It would be a bit unfair to not talk about the other competitors, such as Plaxo and Flexadex, but they’ve unfortunately lost their focus over the years. We don’t want another social network, and we know that technology moves really fast. So join us for the FullContact beta. We’re taking into account where others have gone wrong, and we’re building something incredibly cool. It’s not finished yet, but it will be soon and we know that you’re going to love it.