brewster: a beautifully re-envisioned address book

reviews

Fanfare! Buzz! Fred Wilson! Download now! That’s what the Brewster app launch looked like today. Did I take the bait? Of course. Should you? Absolutely.

Brewster‘s aim, to disrupt your iPhone’s native address book, is deceptively underwhelming. To the basic mobile user, the address book is taken for granted as the way we maintain our contacts. But with Mercury entering retrograde on July 14 (yes, I went there) having all of my contacts backed up in a (non-iCloud) cloud is perfectly timed.

What Brewster does though is so much more and it is beautifully executed to boot. In fact, the way Brewster is designed and behaves reminds me of Path. And we all know how I feel about that app.

When the app initially launches, it takes you through all of the various ways you can be connected to someone. I synched my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail and Foursquare accounts in addition to my actual address book. After Brewster collects the data from those various sources it notifies you that you’re ready to begin.

The first step is selecting your favorite people, the ones you communicate with most regularly across the sundry networks. That sounds more boring than it actually is. Check out what it looks like. So pretty.

After checking off your favorites they are easily ordered and then accessed by how recently you interact with them. What was frustrating about this process is when you’re connected with one person across multiple platforms. For example, my mother showed up as Mother (what I call her in my address book; I am Southern after all) and under her actual name due to her Twitter account. Perhaps I just haven’t uncovered this feature yet, but it would be great if Brewster could condense all entries for a single person into one entry.

UPDATE: A “merge” feature exists within contacts! Man, that Brewster team thought of everything. But in all fairness it is slightly buried. I’d prefer it if that feature was automated and made suggestions of contacts to merge.

Once you get your favorites situated, write a blog post, publish screenshots of who your favorites are and potentially offend everyone else you’re close to, there are more ways to interact with Brewster, all of which are designed to make staying in touch more simple. Lists, network updates, search capabilities. You name it. The Brewster team covered all of their bases with regard to functionalities.

I’ve made calls from the app, texted and emailed. It is a seamless experience and because of the ease of transition to those functions, feels native. Actually, it feels better than native because it isn’t so blah to look at. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, aesthetics are important. Once a text or an email is sent, you’re directed back to Brewster, but that isn’t the case with the phone functionality. It leaves you stranded high and dry in the phone app. Not sure why that is different.

The lists feature is pretty neat. I like how Brewster suggests lists based on my interests: San Francisco contacts, TechCrunch people, industry peeps, etc. Most Mutual Connections is pretty fun in the tech industry. But with over 1,000 contacts based on all of my networks, the key function I’ll use the most (aside from my favorites) is the Search feature. I’d comb through them all and delete extraneous people to make it more manageable, but with favorites that seems unnecessary. Plus, who knows when I’ll need to get a hold of someone who today seems random.

Updates is the only feature I’m not quite sure about but that is simply because at this point it hasn’t populated for me. Apparently at some point it will alert me to who’s around, industry notables, who is “trending” in my world and who I’m “losing touch with”. I’ll be curious to see what my reaction is at that point. Urgency or apathy or something in between? More will be revealed!

Until then, I think I’m sold on this app. More native iPhone app disruption, please!

thoughts?

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