LinkedIn Contacts (free) is a mobile app designed to help you stay connected to your professional network in new ways. It’s a newer product from LinkedIn, which came pretty late to the game of mobile contact management apps. The idea is that you can use the app to get more relevant information about people in your LinkedIn network by, for example, connecting the app to your calendar so that it can give you a preview of the people who’ll be attending your next meeting.
Unfortunately for LinkedIn, the competition gets the job done better and more effectively. Apps like Brewster and Smartr Contacts have compelling interfaces and rich data that draw you in and make you want to spend time exploring people you know and how you know them. LinkedIn’s app, on the other hand, comes in handy for certain circumstances but does nothing truly compelling. Even an app like Cloze—which is more of a social media aggregator— prioritizes information it displays based on your relationship with the people doing the posting, which I find highly useful. LinkedIn’s app, meanwhile, gives you new ways to tap into your LinkedIn network from a mobile device, but doesn’t do a whole lot more than that.
LinkedIn Contacts shows you a list of people in your LinkedIn network but can also connect to other sources, such as Gmail, Outlook, your calendar (from Google or Outlook), the contacts in your iPhone.
Connecting the calendar brings up one of the few features that I found truly useful. When the app sees other people in an upcoming appointment, it can pull up information about them and your recent communication activity with the person. Other contact management apps offer this service, too, though, and with the LinkedIn Contacts app, you can’t actually move to another day in your calendar. You can only see the present day, which makes it impossible to prepare the night before for a next-day early meeting.
I do like that LinkedIn Contacts lets you add notes to people in your network. You can write down how and where you met the person or significant things you discussed, anything you want, really, though LinkedIn Contacts makes a few suggestions (see the slideshow for more).
A “to-do” section of the app summarizes recent changes that have happened to people in your network, such as title changes and moving to a new organization. When it’s empty, it points you to check out the full LinkedIn website, where you’ll also find a similar “Contacts” section with the same kinds of updates. Both these areas then suggest you congratulate the people as a way of staying in touch with them. The app’s search feature is fast and thorough, searching not only names, but all the information tied to a contact. For example, when I typed “RAM,” I saw results for people with that string of letters in their name, as well as anyone with the title “programmer.” Filters also let you narrow down your network, and some of these were handy, though they’re not ultra-apparent when you first start using the app. For example, one filter lets you view people by region or city, which would be helpful when planning a business trip. Another filter lets you see your connections based on title, although that one is less helpful because titles are self-reported and thus subject to serious fragmentation. “Writers,” for example, might actually list themselves as “writer,” “freelance writer,” “writer and editor,” “science writer,” and so forth.
The LinkedIn Contacts app has a long way to go before it becomes as useful as the Smartr app or Brewster, two contact management apps that show you a rich history of your communication with another person. Smartr offers details like the date you first emailed with one another and a graph showing when communication was high and low over your history. LinkedIn Contacts just doesn’t do enough to make use of all the data is has.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc