For a long time, the Contacts app in iOS and OS X has been an Apple mainstay. However, Apple made a key change to the way the Contacts app works in iOS 6, and that means some customers may be looking for a new Contacts app. Savi Contacts from MobileLife Studio is a praiseworthy substitute.
The change to Contacts in iOS 6 Contacts went like this. Touching a group no longer opens the group and displays the list of members. Instead, touching the group simply marks it as a candidate to be displayed. Worse, changing groups isn’t so simple as touching a new group. First, one has to uncheck the old group to avoid having its contents merged. Because the whole idea of groups is segregation, not integration, the new Contacts UI may confuse and annoy some users.
Just in time, MobileLife Studio has released Savi Contacts. This app is beautifully engineered to serve the iOS 6 customer in the classic, expected way while adding many thoughtful enhancements. And best of all, touching a group opens a group for display, as it should. But there’s much more that makes this free app simply delightful.
Touching the > does the right thing
Of course any contacts manager has to have the basics, such as a Find function, so I want to focus on the special features of Savi Contacts that make it notable.
- Designate phone or email as a default
- Email to an entire Group
- Customize thumbnail size in Favorites
- In Favorites, filter by group
- Touching a photo enlarges the image
- The Group listing shows how many members in that group
- Built-in phone dialer
- Launch a FaceTime session.
- Send SMS and iMessages
The nice thing about Savi Contacts is that it draws upon the same data used by the iOS Contacts app and uses the same APIs. That means that when an item is updated in the iCloud by another device, it shows up synced in Savi Contacts. I tried that myself, deleting a duplicate entry on my iMac’s Contacts App (Mountain Lion). A few minutes later, the duplicate was gone in iOS Contacts and also in Savi Contacts via iCloud.
Pinch/zoom to change size of thumbnails. List view available.
The net result is that you can use this app with safety and confidence, and if you want to go back and forth between Savi Contacts and Apple’s it’s easy to do. Or if you, some day abandon this app, all your contacts are safe and sound, usable with perhaps something improved from Apple. The developer also assured me that the user’s contact data never leaves the iDevice by their doing.
This app is sized for the iPhone and isn’t Universal. Even so, is magnifies at 2x beautifully on my iPad and is very, very usable there.
The first time you launch the app, you’re walked through a series of tutorial splash screens that explain the operation. If you’re still in doubt, there’s a nice tutorial video. This video is also a great introduction if you think you might want to try the app out.
The developer told me that Savi Contacts is free because it’s an introductory gateway to a sister app that’s much more capable and includes support for social media, Savi People. That sells for a modest US$1.99.
This app is available for English only. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
I was particularly pleased with the Favorites page. You can resize the thumbnails with a pinch/zoom. I also liked the ability to send an email to an entire Group with just a touch. But if there’s someone in the Group you want to omit, you can deselect that person before setting up the mailer. I was pleased to see a display of how many members are in the group. It's a nice touch.
Data layout is good, shows Group memberships
I liked the thoughtfulness of the toolbar at the bottom and the way it helps you drill into what you want. The filter in the Favorites page lights up just the favorites you want, depending on what group they’re in. In other words, there was some real thought and adherence to UI principles in this app. Apple should be embarrassed over what was delivered in iOS 6.
Savi Contacts doesn't use the iOS Settings for Mail, Contacts, Calendars for Sort Order and Display Order. Instead, Savi Contacts has its own settings for that. You can also select where you want the app to launch: Contacts, Groups or Favorites.
There is a lot to explore and a lot to like about this app. The look and feel is professional. It feels so natural, yet powerful. That’s a fine art and a delicate balance for a developer, and this app succeeds brilliantly. Every time I explored a function, my thought was, Wow. That’s so smart and useful. As a result, I have pushed Apple’s Contacts app to the back page of my iPhone and iPad.
If Savi Contacts were Universal, it would rate a perfect 5/5.
[UPDATE: 15 Oct 2012. Savi Contacts 1.1 was released with these changes, explained by the developer.]
iOS6 and iPhone 5 support: Some users did experience problems. We did a full QA cycle with the iOS 6 SDK and basically certified it. It did require changes as iOS6 has privacy settings for Contacts whereas previous versions did not.
Four network sync add-ons for Savi Contacts: In Savi Contacts, you can sync your contacts to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. This means that you can copy profile info - photo, work info, birthdates, etc from the networks to your contacts. Of course, you get this for free with iOS 6 and Facebook, but not the other networks. Oh, and with Facebook -- unlike with iOS 6 -- you can be selective about what you get and for whom.
New display preferences.
Better performance: launch time will be much better for users with lots of contacts. We also did a lot of fine tuning and optimization on the UI. You should see that screen transitions, scrolling, etc. is much smoother and more polished