Review: BeamME for iPhone beams contact cards via email or SMS

If you network a lot using your iPhone, you must have blushed when a prospective client asked to beam your contact card. Whether you’re trying to fish a new lead or land yourself a date, your iPhone betrays when you need it most because it has sub-par contact card features. Luckily, a combined web service and a dedicated iPhone application, called BeamME, solves this dilema once and for all. What’s best, it works with any mobile or desktop platform, not just the iPhone — an essential networking requirement for the connected person on the move.

Isn’t it remarkable that iPhone won’t let you beam contact cards over short distances using its built-in Bluetooth — something even most basic phones do? For all of Apple’s vision, they sometimes miss the obvious. iPhone’s Bluetooth currently works only with the company’s pricey mono Bluetooth headset. Sure, you can manually send contact details via email, but that’s a waste of time and one binding you to email-only. What if you need to text the details of your dentist to a friend? There is no native copy and paste on iPhone to let you copy that dentist’s details into a new SMS message. Whichever way you look at it, exchanging contact cards using iPhone is a terrible experience.

Enter rmbrME (pronounced as “remember me”), the combined cloud service and native iPhone application (dubbed BeamME) that work together enabling you to beam any contact card from your iPhone to any device via SMS or email.

The solution is platform-independent, meaning it works for people using mobile platforms like BlackBerry, Android, Palm and Windows Mobile, as well as Mac and PC desktops. Since each recipient gets new contact information in the industry-standard vCard file format, they don’t require special software to receive, read or import this information.

The service is run by ChroniQL, a company founded in 2007 by game industry expert and entrepreneur, Gabe Zichermann, and mobile tech guru, Christopher Cunningham (who conceived rmbrME as a web platform upon which developers can create new applications).

I have discovered their iPhone application to be both a life saver and an essential program for everyone irritated by iPhone’s limited contact card exchange features.

The BeamME web service combines nicely with same-named iPhone application to overcome Apple’s lack of a built-in contacts exchange in iPhone. With BeamME, you can text contact cards to others no matter what cellphone they’re using, as well as receive and import received contact cards into the iPhone’s contacts database using the industry-standard vCard file format.


BeamME on the iPhone also pairs tightly with the web service. When you first start the application, you are asked to authorize the handset with a free rmbrME web account (where your contact card is actually stored). You can create the account in seconds directly from within the application when running it for the first time. After that, you are asked to create your card either by picking an existing address book contact or by entering as much contact information about yourself as you want.


Create your vCard

If you opt to do it manually, beamME lets you pull in all the same fields found in iPhone’s Contacts application, including your image, instant messaging accounts, birthday and anniversary dates and so on. Beyond that, you can login to your rmbrME web account on your desktop and feed your card additional details, like favorite websites, social networking accounts, etc.

Bear in mind that the application keeps your card data securely in the cloud, as opposed to adding it to the address book on your iPhone. If you created your card by picking an existing contact from your iPhone’s address book, you should know that any subsequent changes you make to this particular contact entry in your address book won’t automatically trickle down to your card in the cloud. But rest assured, as you can always access and edit your cloud-based card by hitting the Account tab in the application or by logging in to the rmbrMe site on your desktop.

Your can create your own card by picking an existing contact from your iPhone’s address book, or by manually entering new information. Either way, your resulting contact card is stored securely in the cloud, not on your handset, and can be setup from either the iPhone or through desktop web access to rmbrMe.

Read on the next page:  Beaming cards via email or SMS, Free vs Pro version, Final verdict



Beam vCards via SMS or email

Once you get your card setup, you’re ready to go. Just hit the Beam tab, enter an email address or mobile phone number, provide an optional personal message (or leave the default one — you can customize the default message in settings) and hit the Beam button. That’s it, you’ve sent your contact card. What’s best, your recipient doesn’t need an account to receive it, nor the beamME application or even an iPhone. The card will be sent using traditional means available via email or standard texts.

In addition to sending your own card, you can also choose to send the card of a particular contact stored in the iPhone’s Contacts database. If you sent a card via email, the recipient gets a new email message with an attached vCard that can be directly imported into a wide range of vCard-enabled programs on Windows and OS X. These include apps like Outlook, Mail, Thunderbird, Opera, etc. Should the email client on recipient’s cellphone support importing vCard attachments, like the way iPhone’s Mail application does, he or she will be able to create a new cellphone contact from the attached vCard.

You can drop a contact card to a person’s email address. Your recipient gets an email message with a vCard file attached to it. Since this is an industry-standard format for contact information, the vast majority of desktops and cellphones can create new contact entries from vCard attachments.

Things get more interesting if you’re beaming a card to a person’s cellphone number (over 140 countries are supported). Your recipient gets a text message containing a link to a secure webpage where he or she can download the vCard in order to import into desktop applications, cellphone contacts database, etc. Since iPhone’s mobile Safari does not allow vCard import into its Contacts application, a simple workaround is provided: An iPhone recipient who gets your card via SMS is required to provide an email address on this page to which vCard will be immediately emailed. A recipient then checks this email account on an iPhone, using the Mail application. Tapping on a vCard file attached to a message shows full contact information, with options at the bottom that let recipient create a new contact or add this contact information to an existing contact.

BeamME also lets you beam contact cards via text messages to users in over 140 countries — free of charge for the BeamME application (standard text rates may still apply). Your recipient gets a link in a email message to a web page that contains vCard file, ready to be downloaded and imported.

Pro version:  Contact mapping, history feeds, send additional cards

Developers offer both free and paid versions of the application. While the free version is enough to get you started, the $4.99 Pro version comes ad-free with more useful features to fully control how you network.

For example, the Pro version lets you send any card, not just your own, enabling you to introduce two people. In addition, you also get access to a history feed of all the cards you’ve beamed with contact mapping. The latter, enabled in Account Preferences under the Account tab, automatically tags every new contact with the place where you met using the iPhone’s geolocation features. It lets you view your contacts on a map (this information is not shared with others, but is available only on the handset). This could come in handy if you needed to remember where you met someone in this virtual card-exchange way. “Oh yeah, it was at the conference in Toledo.”

The $4.99 Pro version of beamME comes free of ads and with professional support. It also sports additional features, like a beaming history and contact mapping which taps the iPhone’s geolocation features to tag every new contact with the place where you met, displaying this information on a map as in the above image.

Final thoughts: A networking no-brainer

iPhone’s vCard capabilities, limited only to importing vCard attachments into Contacts application, hardly get you anywhere in this fast-paced world of networking. Whether you want to follow-up on an introductory meeting by dropping your card on your prospective client’s email or SMS, or beam a prospective lead your manager’s contact stored on your iPhone, or even receive that precious contact card someone you met in a bar just texted or emailed you, BeamME has got you covered.

In a sense, BeamME is an essential lifestyle application equally useful in both business and private scenarios. Do check out the attached comprehensive slideshow gallery that takes you through the contact card creation, beaming via email and SMS and receiving cards.

Although the vCard standard has been around for a while, it’s applications like this that highlight just how wasteful, cumbersome and environmentally unfriendly regular printed business cards are nowadays. With that in mind, kudos to ChroniQL and the creative minds behind the rmbrME project for doing what Apple was supposed to be doing in the first place.

This YouTube video provides a short walkthrough of some features and functions which make the beamMe application indispensable for networking. Shown here, among other features, are contact mapping via geolocation, history feeds and multiple card sending. See link below for direct access on YouTube.

(No video? Watch it on YouTube!)