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App Directory: The Best Address Book App For Android

Oddly enough, there aren’t too many contact management tools for Android that aren’t also dialler replacements, or focused entirely on replacing whatever built-in tool you have on your device already. We have to agree with our iOS counterparts on this one — Smartr by Xobni is the best address book for Android, if you’re looking for a contact manager that actually makes it easier to find and interact with the people you need to talk to.

Smartr Contacts

Platform: Android (and pthers)
Price: Free
Download Page

  • Uses your phone’s contacts, including your Google contacts.
  • Syncs contacts from any email accounts on your phone (including Google Apps accounts.)
  • Pulls in contact information from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to give you a complete profile of your contacts, including their most recent contact information, relationships you share and recent activity..
  • Ranks contacts by importance.
  • Allows you to easily edit any errant contacts from within the app, instead of shunting you to the origin of the contact card.
  • Displays a history of all interactions with the contact, including emails, direct messages, social media interactions, phone calls and SMS messages.
  • Call, email or SMS a contact with a single tap.
  • Stores and synchronises your contacts across multiple devices (including Gmail or Outlook) automatically and in the cloud, so you always have up-to-date contact information.
  • Super-fast: Smartr aggregated my 1000+ contacts in a matter of seconds, and refreshed them after I made changes just as quickly.

Smartr for Android may be in beta, but it’s already one of the most robust contact management tools available for Android. That may not be saying too much, since there are so few players in the same circle. Google Contacts is long-overdue for an overhaul, and while the default contact manager for Android phones is passable, it doesn’t offer quite the same level of features that a more robust app like Smartr does. The app is completely free, ad-free, and gives you quick access to any contact you need to look up, either by search, or by viewing your recent or most relevant contacts. The way the app rolls in social media connections is seamless and simple, and it’s nice to be able to see the Facebook profiles of my Twitter friends in their contact entry, or read what they’ve posted recently without leaving the app.

Perhaps the best thing that Smartr does is the way the app organises contacts by most frequent interactions and relevance. It’s very easy for me to search my contacts if I need to find someone specific, but it’s just as easy to open the app and see the people I talk to most frequently without having to thumb down a list of people I haven’t spoken to in years.

Smartr has two big caveats, big enough that they may drive some people away. First, when it comes to Android, the app relies on your Google Contacts. if your Google Contacts are a mess, or you’ve added a bunch of email addresses to your contacts list just because they send you HTML mail and you wanted to auto-load the images, or if you have old contacts that you used to email all the time but now never do, you’ll be burdened with a lot of irrelevancies. Smartr may be smart, but not smart enough to sort that out for you. You may have someone in your “Top 10″ that’s actually a mailing list you’ve been subscribed to for years. This is as much Google’s fault as it is Xobni’s, so make sure you tidy up your Google Contacts and merge duplicate entries with different names or email addresses before using the app, or at least after you’ve installed it. Rescan your contacts, and you’ll see a huge improvement. Sadly, Smartr can’t do that for you.

Second, boy does Smartr ask for a lot of permissions on the social networks and accounts it synchronises. Personally, I think Xobni went overboard with the permissions it configured Smartr to request. Especially at places like Facebook where you can’t issue granular permissions easily, it’s unnerving to see Smartr ask to be able to post as me, even if I know it never will, or access all of my videos even if I don’t have any. Many of you will balk at the permissions it asks for, and you’re not alone. Smartr is a contact manager, and it needs broad access, but we can’t blame you if you don’t use the app because of this.

Don’t discount your built-in address book and Google Contacts. You already have it, and on most Android devices, you can merge disparate contacts easily and add social network profiles to a single contact card so you can see all of a person’s information in one screen. In order to do this, you need to have the right social network apps installed on your phone, and you have to allow them to sync that network’s contacts with Google Contacts on your phone. That can get a little tricky at times, but it works. You don’t get relationship history, or contacts organised by relevance and importance, but it definitely gets the job done.

Contacts (free) from Contapps is another contact management tool that does a great job of organising your contacts into single cards that let you see everything you want. The app is a complete address book replacement, and rolls in each contact’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter accounts so you can see their recent activity on their contact card. It also hooks in with your phone’s built-in contacts, so your Google Contacts are automatically imported. Searching is easy, and you even get the ability to browse your contacts by who you’ve interacted with recently. It’s missing the cloud syncing features that Smartr has, and it’s missing the desktop components, relationship history, and relevance ranking, and it has a tacked on dialer replacement that’s a bit annoying, but it’s a great option if Smartr is overkill.

GO Contacts (free) deserves a mention, if for no other reason than its incredible popularity. Again, it’s more of a contacts and dialer replacement, and its claim to fame is the fact that it’s customisable and you can download skins and themes for it, but it does offer some functional features as well. You can search contacts easily, drag and drop them into custom groups, dial or SMS by typing a portion of your contact’s name, and easily merge duplicate contacts. Aside from that though, its focus is on form, not the kind of function we’re looking for here.

There are lots of contact managers that are essentially replacements and skins for the built-in contacts and dialer apps that we didn’t mention, because we were looking specifically for tools that replace your address book with something more functionally useful. Even so, we’re sure to have missed some. Do you use an address book replacement on your Android phone that needs a mention? Let us know in the comments below.

Lifehacker’s App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.


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