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Buzz Shakes Off Clutter With Streamlined Contacts Management

By Paul Hartsock MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 6, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Buzz Shakes Off Clutter With Streamlined Contacts Management

Buzz Contacts, an app from Ken Yarmosh, is available for 99 US cents at the App Store.

Buzz Contacts
Buzz Contacts

I haven't lost a phone number in about 10 years. That's thanks in part to never having lost a cellphone or dropped it into a large body of water -- not in the last decade, anyway. And now that cloud syncing services are easy to use, even a missing or broken phone doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to resort to one of those sheepish "send me your numbers" posts on Facebook.

But it does mean your personal phonebook may one day become very cluttered. Numbers for acquaintances you haven't actually spoken to for years, double entries, mysterious orphaned email addresses, numbers for people you may never need to call again but want to hang onto just in case -- they all end up floating around in iPhone's Contacts app. Unless you're an address book neat freak, it can be a little difficult to find the actual person you do want to contact -- and after that, figure out which of several entries under his or her name contains the number you're trying to reach.

iOS has a Favorites list in its Phone app, but it's just one list. And it's just for dialing the phone.

Buzz Contacts presents a different way of organizing the info of the people you contact most frequently. It lets you organize by group and launch a conversation the way you want to.

Smooth Interface

Buzz gives you a faster pathway to find your contacts and cue up a conversation with them. It organizes them into groups and displays each name as a big, hard-to miss button. And once you select the name of the person you want to contact, you're taken straight to your preferred method of getting in touch.

When you start up Buzz Contacts, you will not be given the option of importing your entire contacts list. Buzz is an exclusive club -- the only contacts it'll show you are the ones you hand-pick to import.

Not that importing them is much of a chore. You don't have to retype the person's name, number and email address -- you just select him or her from your Contacts list. When selecting a name, you also select your preferred method of contacting that individual: email, phone call, SMS or FaceTime.

The contact will then appear on Buzz's main navigation screen, along with an icon that denotes how exactly that person will be reached. Hit that name, and you're instantly taken to that medium -- SMS screen, email draft, FaceTime interface or straight to the phone. For phone calls, you can specify whether you'd like to be given a confirmation before the call is placed, but for some reason deactivating the confirmation will make you leave Buzz when the call is finished.

Buzz's main interface feels snappy and sharp. I don't sense the same lag I sometimes do with iOS's main Contacts app, and it quickly launches into whatever app you've assigned to the name. It displays four names per page -- swipe to the right to see other names on the list; swipe down to go to the next list of contacts. Tap the group's name on the top to rename it.

Touching the group icon in the upper right corner of the screen will take you to the group editor. From here you can add more names to the group and rearrange their order (so you can put your four most-contacted friends on the first screen you see, for example).

Further Features

Buzz makes it easy to group-message everyone on a given list, though it's not exactly fool-proof. Hit the bar at the bottom of the main interface and you'll get a Group Actions menu -- choose to send either an SMS or an email to everyone on this list of contacts. Next you'll see a list of all the email addresses or phone numbers associated with these people -- check all, uncheck all, check a few individually, whatever. Then type your message and send it to everyone.

This lets you send your message to everyone on the list, regardless of whether you've selected an email address or an SMS-able number as your choice method of contacting that person. In that case, Buzz apparently takes its best guess, but it doesn't always guess right. For example, the entry "Home" in my contacts list only contains my home land line, not an email address. But when I tried to email everyone on my Family list, Buzz somehow drew in the email address of a local business in Contacts that has the word "Home" in its name. So if you're going to communicate some very personal info to a select group of confidants via Group Actions, take a close look at those addresses.

Poking around the Settings menu under Messages, I noticed a setting for something called "Status Taps." Activate this and you'll be able to send pre-written messages with a single tap every time you SMS or email the recipient. You can choose from sentences like "On my way," or "What are you up to," or make some of your own.

One feature that struck me as perhaps a little odd was Dialer. Go to dialer and start punching in a couple of numbers. Buzz will narrow down your list of contacts (your global list, not just the ones you've specifically imported into the app) with phone numbers that conform to that string of numbers in some way -- could be area code, the last three digits in the number, whatever. I'm not sure this would be quicker or more convenient that just looking up a name, but the feature stays well enough out of the way if you don't care to use it.

Finally, Buzz's streamlined design can also lead to a minor annoyance now and then. It feels like Buzz wants to get you in contact with your favorite people fast, without having you wade through long lists of names, pick a way to contact that person, then start scratching out a message. With Buzz, one touch and you're already in contact, via whatever medium you've assigned to that name. However, if you want to break out of that habit -- actually call someone you usually communicate with via texts, for example -- you'll probably catch yourself hitting up Buzz only to realize that no, this is the way we SMS David, not the way we call him.

Bottom Line

Buzz alleviates the long, cluttered mess that many peoples' contact lists have become. It gets you in touch quickly, without having to wade through menu after menu. Just remember that you're chained to one way of contacting each person on your list when you use it.

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