Microsoft's Office Lens scanner app levels up on iOS and Android

Business card scanning finally comes to Android, but it's not quite ready for prime time

Office Lens for Android
Office Lens for Android Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft's Office Lens scanning app finally made the jump away from Windows Phone and onto other mobile platforms earlier this year, giving users an easy way to capture physical documents and turn them into files for Microsoft's suite of software.

On Monday, the company pushed updates to both the iOS and Android apps, upgrading their capabilities for business users who are looking for the ability to turn their phone into a scanner that integrates with Microsoft's products. 

On iOS, users can now sign into their Office 365 work or school accounts, so that images they save can go either into a personal OneNote or OneDrive account or a OneDrive for Business account. That distinction can be key for enterprise IT managers who want to make sure that the documents people are scanning with their phones are governed by a company's data retention and security policies rather than floating around inside their personal cloud storage accounts. 

Users can save documents scanned with Office Lens in a variety of formats, including as a Word document, or as a JPEG saved to OneDrive. 

Android users finally have access to business card scanning functionality, which allows them to take a snapshot of a physical card, upload it to OneNote and get digitized information that can then be imported into their phone's contacts list and saved in the Contacts section of their personal OneNote notebook. That feature was already available for iOS users as part of a previous update, and joins other scan types including document and whiteboard capture. 

It's a particularly powerful feature for business users like sales reps who routinely collect a lot of contact details on paper and then need to enter them into digital systems for follow-up emails or calls.

The business-card scanning functionality isn't quite ready for prime time yet. I tried scanning a couple business cards from Microsoft employees that I had on hand, and Office Lens didn't manage to detect their names.

Office Lens's functionality in that regard falls short of its competitor Evernote, which not only automatically detects the type of document that it's scanning, but is also more reliable at detecting contact information, and can automatically sync that information over to a user's on-device contact database. 

That's great for people who are tied into Evernote's ecosystem already, but people who want to keep their scans hooked up to Microsoft products will have to use Office Lens. It's a solid product, just not quite as good as the competition.