Brewster is a new iOS app that wants to become your personalized address book. It pulls in all of your contacts (once you give it permission) from a variety of services including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, the contacts on your iPhone or iPod and Foursquare.
Of course, you first have to give the app permission to gather your contacts from these services, which will no doubt make some users feel uneasy in these days of commonly-reported security breaches and too-much public sharing.
But if you’re happy to do that, Brewster has some clever technology under the surface, according to Jenna Wortham at The New York Times. It uses an algorithm to monitor how often you interact with your contacts through text messages, email, instant messaging, and via social networks. It then organizes your contacts into categories like “favorites” or “trending” and can even assess the contacts with which you’re falling out of touch.
I logged-in with Facebook, added my iPhone contacts then connected to Gmail to grab those. Then, I authorized Twitter and LinkedIn to do the same. Once that’s done you get a little tour of all Brewster’s features to scroll through. It focuses on things like being able to search by keyword rather than just name and the ability to create your own lists.
The final screen told me “We’ll have this ready for you soon. Close the app and we’ll let you know.”
I wasn’t sure how long I was supposed to wait, but you get a push notification when it’s ready. We were contacted by Brewster who told us that due to increased demand, account creation was taking a while.
Brewster seems like it could be a smart idea, but it may have been smarter for them to let us know how long it would take to build your account within the app. Still, eventually I got an email and push notification on the iPhone telling me it was ready.
Back to the app
I reopened Brewster and it made me tap on some contacts to start a “favorites” category, which was quite nice. I noticed my wife listed twice, once from her LinkedIn profile and once from just being in my iPhone under her first name. I saw duplicates of others too, some with images and some without. There was a category called “Most Mutual Connections” which mainly contained contacts from previous jobs, but I suppose that’s the Brewster alogrithm at work. It was odd that they included local Chicago Twitter favorites like the Chicago Sun Times and Gapers Block, both of whom are certainly valuable, but hardly real-life contacts either.
Brewster had pulled in over 1,000 contacts somehow. Robert Scoble has an incredible 10,000 contacts apparently, so I should count myself fortunate, perhaps. To have all these people in one place is useful for some, but Gmail, as many know, will keep track of every email address you’ve ever contacted, so hundreds of the people Brewster picked up are not what I’d consider real contacts, and many were duplicates. Still, Brewster does let you filter people and categorize them at least.
There is clearly some more work Brewster needs to do when it comes to filtering and organizing your contacts, but it has some potential. Right now, it appears to be a good way to list and find your contacts but not necessarily improve relationships with them, which the founders hope it will do. Perhaps with time and further refinement, Brewster will continue to improve.