Addappt Debuts An Auto-Updating Mobile Address Book For iPhone

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Addappt, a new startup from Crossloop co-founder and early LinkedIn employee Mrinal Desai, is officially launching today to tackle the surprisingly still cumbersome problem of maintaining an up-to-date address book. Available in the iPhone App Store, where the company has been quietly running a public beta, the app connects your mobile, desktop, and iCloud address books and keeps them current by automatically updating them with new information as it comes in.

For the system to work, however, it requires that your contacts also use Addappt and have you in their own address books, too. This may seem like a barrier to entry, but Desai positions it more as a privacy feature. “We’re looking at this like ‘the address book as a platform,'” he explains. “When you add a contact, it’s like adding a friend on Facebook.”

Desai built the service with long-time friend and former Microsoftie, Jorge Ferreira, who previously worked on Word, Office, and SharePoint. He says he was inspired to do something in the address book space, because it’s something he has lived in himself for years. “I’ve always been a relationship guy, and it’s always been important to me to stay in touch with people…even with the arrival of all these social networks. The address book for me was my primary social network.”

He also notes that Addappt is careful to respect user privacy. Even its intro screens tell you about how it manages your data. To be clear: Addappt does not store your address book in its entirety on its servers, nor will it spam your friends. Instead, it matches contacts based on the first email address stored in a person’s contact card.

There are also no privacy settings in Addappt. As noted above, your info is only shared with those who have your info in their books already upon your approval. (Matches are “pending” until you approve them).

In theory, this sounds good, but before I had a clear understanding of how the system worked, I shared my complete contact info as my “Me” card in Addappt, then later realized I didn’t want to share some of my phone numbers or my Facebook page with everyone. But selective sharing is not an option in this app for simplicity’s sake. The only alternative is to delete that info from your contact card, which also updates your contact info on your iPhone. (To keep a contact card on your phone with all your info, you’ll need to make a duplicate contact for yourself before the deletions). In other words, think carefully about what you’re sharing, as always.

Desai says the key thing he wants to get across with Addappt is that users should have control over their own social graphs. “People should own their relationships and their social network; that, to me, is the fundamental thing,” he says. “All the social networks that we see today came out of address books – everyone had an address book importer. And today, a lot of them are not allowing you to get your contact information off your own network. That is just completely flawed.”

Addappt competes with address book companies like Plaxo, as well as newer startups like CobookBrewster and Xobni’s Smartr, for example, but forgoes the “social” part where it connects with your social networks to import profile data from your friends. The app is currently being bootstrapped and is available as a free download in iTunes. Other features may be offered as premium in-app purchases in the future.