I remember the days before smartphones when managing your contact list was a herculean task. I used to maintain a notebook where I would add phone numbers, email IDs and physical addresses. But people change their contact info all the time and it was close to impossible to keep up.
When we moved to smartphones, the physical address book was gone and along with it the crossed out or hastily erased names and numbers, but the challenges of staying updated remained.
I had been looking for a solution where some magical app will keep my address book updated and keep my friends and colleagues informed of my latest contact details without having to send spam mails to everyone I could remember.
Then I found addappt, a new way to make your addressbook as smart as is your smartphone.
I spoke with addappt founder Mrinal Desai to learn about his background, how the app came to be and how it works.
Desai was a very early LinkedIn employee (employee number 15, to be precise). He was LinkedIn’s first business development manager. “LinkedIn is basically who I am offline. I build relationships over years and years and I believe that is the way to live life, based on very full and enriching relationships.” said Desai.
The problem Desai is trying to solve with addappt twofold: On one hand the onus is on the person who is moving to inform “everyone” about the move and send them updated information. On the other hand, you have to keep your address book updated every time someone changes contact info. There were two constantly moving goal posts to chase.
“It started getting harder and harder, so for me to get the latest information. One, I have to depend on you, hopefully that you will remember to email me or all your friends in a mass spam-ish way, if you will. Then, I go take it in and I have to remember to now update somebody’s information in my contacts,” said Desai.
In the age of smartphones, managing contact info manually is an an extremely inefficient way to do that. “That was frustrating me because I was having to do this over and over again, whenever possible. I was having a lot of outdated information in my contacts. With the advent of smartphones and everything that is happening with so much cool stuff that is available with the platforms, it just didn’t make any sense for the contact list not to adapt,” said Desai.
How it works
When you install the addappt app on your device and verify your email ID, the app stores your profile information on its server. You profile includes only that information that you added to your own profile, including phone numbers, email IDs, physical address, social network. And you can selectively make any property private at anytime.
The second step is to get your friends on addappt. You can send invites to your friends and when they join addappt their profile is uploaded to the sever.
The app automatically helps people connect using the verified email or verified mobile so all your friends need to do is download addappt and make sure they have one of your emails or mobile.
Now the magic begins. Addappt will sync your profile with your friends’ address books and vice versa. Now when you change anything in your profile on your own phone, it will sync those changes in your friends’ address books. No need to send bulk emails or messages.
This puts you in control of your information. You determine which is the preferred phone number to or email address to reach you at. Ane addappt also remembers the number you called last and will automatically dial it. Since often we have different channels of communicating with different folks, the app also remembers how you communicated last with someone (i.e., it “adapts” to you).
One feature that is extremely important from a privacy point of view is that addappt uploads only the profile that you added in your address book, stuff like your phone number, email ID, LinkedIn profile, physical address — whatever you choose and nothing else. No contacts from your address book are uploaded to the sever. Also, and very importantly, your connections never see your other connections and you can’t see theirs. It is all private.
I recently discovered another interesting feature of addappt when I was travelling to India and had a local number there. Previously I would have to bulk email hundreds of people in my address book to give them my new, temporary number, only to change it again 4 weeks later. With addappt, I updated my profile and added the temporary local number and, boom, everyone who was connected with me via addappt had my new local number instantly. When I came back to the U.S., I removed the temporary number from my profile and it automatically removed it from my friends’ address books.
And unlike some popular social networking sites, if you quit addappt, your contacts will remain on your device. What you will lose is the ability to keep syncing your contacts. That’s it.
Addappt recently introduced Widgets so your favorite contacts are now available on iOS and Android from anywhere on the phone and you don’t have to open the app. They require no setting and they are live since addappt remembers how you communicated last. They reorder, get removed or added just as within the app.
You can also message your friends with one “tapp.”
On iOS, you can email URLs from your browser to yourself using the action extension.
You can group contacts very easily and then send a group email, group chat or a group “tapp”. Addappt’s one “tapp” messaging is also available on the Apple Watch.
Addappt makes it much easier to share your contact info with people you meet at conferences, for example with a feature called Share My Info.
On iOS devices with the 3D Touch feature, press the app icon hard and tap Share My Info to send your vcard by text to any mobile device. The vcard sent by text respects your privacy settings from your profile. The same feature is available on Android through the Live Favorites widget.
The company is also working on a new feature called Weather for 3D touch enabled iOS devices.
Desai and his team are taking advantage of the cloud and infrastructure as a service model. They are running their entire stack on Amazon Web Services. It makes them agile, flexible and scalable, without having to invest in infrastructure.
When I asked Desai about the security of user profile data, he made it clear that the contact data they store on their AWS servers is not end-to-end encrypted. Because the company has access to the profile data that’s uploaded on their server, addappt can be compelled to comply with laws that give government access to personal data and connections.
“We do transmit some address book data for matching purposes, so the company could in theory collect this data from the users if compelled by a court order to start doing so,” said Desai. “However, that is a moot point because in that case, the government could compel us to change our app to transmit data. I think the important fact is that we don’t store this data in any way we can access it.”
Addappt is available for free to users and it will not be backed by advertisements. The company is working on adding in-app premium features to generate revenue.
I have been using addappt for long enough to get addicted to it. If you want to get a better handle on your contacts, I highly recommend trying addappt.