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Addappt is out to remake the classic mobile contacts directory. That’s because your contact list needs a serious aesthetic makeover. Updating it should be automated, and you should be free to take your contact list to any platform you want.
Companies such as Apple and Facebook have put the contact directory inside a walled garden, and that’s wrong, said Mrinal Desai, co-founder and chief executive of Addappt. Just try to export your contacts from one platform to another, and you’ll see what he means.
“We live in a post-PC era with tremendous advancement but our address books, our very first social network, remains in the stone age,” he said. “The only innovation that a digital address book has seen is ‘search’ – it is effectively still dumb and riddled with inefficiencies.”
Los Gatos, Calif.-based Addappt (pronounced ‘adapt’) is available for free on the Apple iTunes App Store. The company describes it as an always up-to-date, private address book, maintained by your friends. When you sign up for Addappt, you create your own accurate contact information. Once you do that, the app will check to see who among your current contacts has adopted the Addappt app. When it finds a match, it asks both parties whether they want to share their contact information. Once they agree, they never have to ask each other for updated contact info again. That’s because whenever you make changes to your contact info, Addappt will automatically update that information in your Addappt friends’ phones. And when your friends change their contact info, Addappt makes the changes in your contact list.
Desai says that your contact info can also be much richer (see picture above). You can upload your own profile photo, add phone numbers, email, physical address, web sites and social media handles as well. You can tap on any one of the icons for texting or phone numbers in order to initiate communication with your friend. If you want to text someone, you tap the text icon under their contact name. You can also see the local time for any one of your contacts. That way, you never call them in the middle of the night by accident. If your friend enters a birthday, then that shows up in your iPhone’s calendar.
The contact information remains private, and you choose whom you want to share it with. Addappt does not crawl multiple contact lists and bring the information to you, since that can lead to privacy violations and it often retrieves inaccurate information. To protect your privacy, Addappt does not store your address book on its servers. It doesn’t spam your friends, and it will not sell a user’s personal information to third parties, Desai said. Your data are backed up on the phones of your friends, and you can add them again if you happen to lose your phone.
“The (offline physical) address book was the original social network we all created and owned,” Desai said. “We used to pen down contact info before and then when and if informed, erase it and write a new one all over again – today we do the same. Everything has changed yet nothing has changed for the address book. Addappt is about embracing change – change in contact information of your friends or changing the address book or changing a user’s life in our small way.”
Desai co-founded the company earlier this year with chief technology officer Jorge Ferreira, who previously spent 12 years at Microsoft. The company is self-funded and has two employees.
Previously, Desai founded CrossLoop, a peer-to-peer tech support market, in 2006 and he left the top post at the company in 2010. He also worked at LinkedIn as its first business development manager. The company reached more than 10 million users. Rivals include Plaxo, Gwabbit (which is used on the BlackBerry and Microsoft Outlook) and other social networks such as Facebook.
“You might have 100 friends on Facebook, but you can’t get their emails from Facebook,” Desai said. “People should own their own contacts. These are relationships. A user needs to own it, not a corporation.”
Those are some very big competitors, but Desai believes he has innovation and a belief in openness on his side. Over time, the contact directory will become more valuable over time, as people adopt it, he said.