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Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help

Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help

Many of us have trouble relating faces to names -- which can be disastrous in a business situation.

A few years ago, Evernote picked up a small contact-manager app called Hello (which was then retitled Evernote Hello). One of the main ideas behind the app was to help those of us who had trouble remembering names (a category I definitely fall into). It let you take notes about people you met at, say, a conference, and pick up extra information, including photos, from LinkedIn. You could then use the info and/or the photos to jog your memory.

Evernote Hello had its problems -- the interface wasn't all that easy to navigate, for example. But it made it possible to see somebody at an event a year later, find a corner of the room, flip quickly through your photos and be able to identify the person and greet them by name (without having to stare at their nametag).

Evernote dropped Hello as of February 7th of this year, informing its users that they could use Evernote's own business card scanning feature instead. All well and good -- but storing business cards wasn't what I used Hello for. I needed a new way to prompt my faulty memory for names.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Android users, there really isn't an app for that. Two free apps, Humin and Social Recall, do make a try at it, though.

Humin

Humin started as an iOS app last summer and is now available as a beta for Android. However, while it shows some promise as a way to find and track contacts, I'm not sure how useful it is as a memory jogger -- at least, not at this point in its development.

According to the website, Humin was originally introduced as an alternative to the iPhone's Phone app. The idea was that, instead of searching for a contact by name (which you might not remember), you could search for somebody by typing in "Met last month" or "Lives in Los Angeles."

Unfortunately, as an Android app, Humin doesn't really fit the bill. When you first sign on, you can join either via Facebook or by using your phone number. You can then add your Google, Facebook and/or LinkedIn contacts. Once you've decided which to add, though, you're pretty well stuck with your choice. I went with my Google contacts and skipped the others, figuring I could add them later if I wanted to. Nope.

The main page of the app gives you a list of your Favorites (contacts who you get in touch with often; you can chose who will appear as a Favorite), and Recents (recent calls). When I first installed the app, it also showed what day it was, along with some contacts who lived nearby, but for some reason that category disappeared the third day I was using it.

If you click on a contact's name, you get a page of information about that person, including a photo (if there are any). The info also includes other of your contacts who are friends with that person (which can be useful), where the contact works and/or lives, and any other accessible info, including any meetings you've had -- assuming that meeting was in your calendar.

A field on top lets you search your contacts. This is where the power of the product is supposed to be; I should be able to type in something like "met last Tuesday" or "met at CES" and get a list of contacts.

Unfortunately, Humin appears to be extremely beta -- and as a result, not yet particularly useful. Whenever I'd type in "met last Saturday" or "Met at work," it would either come up blank or with non-relevant listings. And worse (at least, to my mind), while you can add new contacts to a meeting, you can't add existing ones. So if I go to a conference and want to record which of my existing contacts I've met there, there's no way to do that.

Humin caused a bit of buzz when it first appeared on iOS devices; unfortunately, it doesn't seem to add much yet for Android users. According to Humin's Google Play page, "We made a bunch of under-the-hood changes and performance improvements that we're excited to unveil over the course of the next few releases." I'm looking forward to seeing some feature improvements as well.

Social Recall

Another app that says it can help you remember the names of acquaintances and colleagues is more of a game than a practical aid. Social Recall is a memory game that tries to help you remember people by showing you their photos and having you type in their name; if you need a hint, it will give you the initials of their first and last names.

It's a nice idea, and one that could help somewhat in the long run. The game can be refined, as you play, to encompass only relevant contacts; if you hit somebody whom you likely won't ever meet again, you can hit a button and the game will skip them from then on. You can choose contacts from your Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter lists, and can resync your contacts (so that any additions or changes you've made will show up in the game).

You can also play with others -- in other words, challenge your friends to do a better job at identifying people than you can.

The only problem here is the tendency of folks online to use icons that don't necessarily show their faces. So when I linked with my Facebook contacts, I found myself being asked to identify people based on photos of cats, cartoons and caricatures.

That being said, Social Recall can provide a way to try to at least improve your memory for faces -- when the faces are provided.

Another promising candidate?

Social Recall isn't the only game in town. There are a few other Android apps that purport to improve your memory for names, but most of them use fictional people as a training exercise rather than offer assistance with actual meetings.

There are at least a couple of iOS apps that help users put names to real faces. Namerick associates the names of new acquaintances with phrases as a memory aid, while Name Shark lets you put contacts in groups for easier reference and includes a variety of quizzes.

Unfortunately, there's no indication that either company has plans to develop a similar app for Android. If there are any other Android apps that help remind you of the names of people you have met before, please let me know. I promise to try to remember whom I got the tip from...

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