I don’t often get a chance to review apps anymore, thanks to the busy-ness of catching up with news, emails and all the rest that comes with running an iPhone blog. But, when I was informed of Contaqs, I had to give it a whirl. Ever since my first iPhone, I’ve never been 100% happy with the default contacts app in iOS. Don’t got me wrong, I admired its simplistic and clean design, but often found it incredibly unintuitive. Especially when it came to group management and group texting. It’s an address book, and that’s about it. And it’s one of the few elements of iOS that’s been virtually untouched since 2007.
Contaqs ($1.99 on the App Store) is a much more intuitive and beautiful app. Starting off with the default list of contacts, you don’t just see names. Each contact is neatly separated in to landscape cards, with contact details immediately on show alongside a profile image/thumbnail. Unlike Apple’s insistence on using squares and rectangles with rounded corners, the cards are sharp and angular with circular thumbnail frames. Much more in line with contemporary design. Down the right hand side is the alphabet, which tends to spoil the view a tiny bit, but more than makes up for it with its quick-scroll functionality.
When it comes to listing functions that the program provides, it’s difficult to know exactly where to start. But, I’ll continue on the main contact list view for now. Each contact card is controllable using a single digit gesture. Swipe to the left and you get two small icons. The top gives you access to the full contact details of that person, the bottom lets you edit said contact’s details. Swipe to the right, and the circular frame that once surrounded the thumbnail reveals a telephone icon, and uncovers the email and SMS icons. It’s all very neat and beautiful. I’ll leave you to imagine what each of those icons does.
Still in the contacts list view, tapping on the “CONTACTS” title at the top reveals a list of options. Email and SMS are self explanatory. Copy seems to duplicate contacts, Send converts them in to a .vcf file for emailing to others, ‘To favorites’ adds them to your favorites, and ‘to group’ adds them to a specific contact group. Best of all, all the options can be used on multiple contacts simultaneously. So, if you want to put all your football team’s contacts in to one group, select them all in the list and add them to your own Football Team group all at once.
If you open up a specific contact by tapping on their card, you get a more beautiful and detailed view of that person. Similar to Path, it has a circular, centered thumbnail with a blurred cover photo of the same image behind it. Tapping on the pencil icon in the top right lets you edit that contact, hitting the heart adds them to your favorites and – perhaps best of all – the “add to home screen icon” which adds a shortcut to that contact directly to your home screen.
Just in case you thought that was enough from a contacts app, there’s a whole load more. Navigating back to the contacts list, and tapping the top left list icon reveals a sidebar full of options.You can add new contacts, edit favorites and groups. You have access to a really smart inbuilt dialing keypad, birthday calendars, a map showing nearby contacts, and a whole host of Smart Lists and the option to backup your contacts. Opening settings reveals a few necessary options like choosing which contact is you, and which of your email accounts to use the information from.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the depth there is to this app. There’s a lot on offer, and considering it only costs $1.99, it’s an app that anyone should at least consider. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its issues. Although it can use your Gmail and Outlook address books, it can’t do it unless you’ve added it in to the email accounts in your settings. It would be nice to have built in Facebook, twitter and Gmail integration which didn’t rely on your default Settings app. The app needs to be able to connect to email, and social network accounts natively, not relying on Settings.app. Also, I found that when selecting multiple contacts to edit/copy, once I’d selected an action, it would scroll automatically back to the top of my contacts list again, instead of just remaining at the contact details I was looking at.
Although it has its minor frustrations, it has far more positives than negatives. One of my favorite parts was the built in keypad. As soon as you start typing in a number it immediately brings up a list of possibly contact numbers from your address book, to save you typing in the entire number. You can also search recently dialed numbers. I love the grey and orange color scheme too. Overall, I’m pretty blown away. With the number of features on offer, it had the potential to be incredibly messy and all-over-the-place. But it isn’t. It’s well organized, and uncomplicated. I like it so much, it’s in the dock on my home screen.
If you’re looking to replace your Contacts app with a third party alternative. You can’t go far wrong with Contaqs. It’s available on the App Store for $1.99 (£1.49) now and is compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S and 5 as well as 3rd, 4th and 5th generation iPod touch providing you’re running iOS 5.0 or later. If you’re still not convinced, check out the gallery of screenshots below.