The modern day smartphone has evolved to be a lot more than an evolved PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) with mobile phone capabilities. Imaging quality in smartphones is so high, that many people do use it as a document scanner by using photo scanner app.

However, no matter how great a particular scanning app claims to be, it still falls short of the quality delivered when compared to manual scanning. A dedicated scanner captures crisper, clearer images of documents and photos.

Why is Manual Digital Scanning Important?

With old photos being subjected to the test of time, they tend to be very frail, so careful handling is required. Having a machine perform an automated process would involve auto-feeding, which greatly increases the risk of damage. A manual scanning process is the best way to ensure your photos get the care they deserve.

Popular Scanning Apps Get the Job Done… or Do They?

Some of the more popular scanning apps for smartphones and mobile devices include Dropbox Business, Evernote Scannable, Genius Scan Plus, Adobe Scan and Microsoft Office Lens. While they work great in their class, there are still limitations as we walk you through all five of them.

Dropbox Business


While Dropbox Business entices users with the promise of unlimited storage and an easy drag-and-drop interface, the main drawback is that you’re required a minimum of five users. To enjoy the online editing feature, you will need to have a separate Microsoft account. While many apps these days do offer a decent free trial option, Dropbox Business takes the route less traveled by making payment information compulsory even during the free trial period, which might turn away potential users.

Evernote Scannable for iPhone

Evernote App Evernote has moved beyond a simple note-taking app. Evernote Scannable on the iPhone is able to deliver, except for one catch: it is not possible to manually focus the camera.

It is also rather messy to work because there is no option to collate different pages or images into a single note. Apart from that, users have reported issues of connectivity problems in Evernote Scannable.

Genius Scan Plus

Genius Scan Plus has received rave reviews and is a decent, affordable mobile scanning app. But just by virtue of being an app, it has limitations. For instance, it lacks OCR (Optical Character Recognition). OCR technology helps save a huge chunk of time when it comes to editing scanned documents on-the-fly without having to go through the painstaking process of retyping the entire scanned document.

Adobe Scan for iPhone

Adobe Scan is free, but most of the functionality is only available through a paid Adobe Document Cloud account. It can be a good option unless you’re accessing DOC files, in which case you’ll need a number of different apps and steps.

Microsoft Office Lens for Android

MS Office

Microsoft has cobbled up a free app known as Microsoft Office Lens for Android, and it has gained plenty of traction since it was released. However, there is one major flaw in Microsoft Office Lens for Android: the unstable OCR technology. Throw in a curved surface, and the OCR can’t decipher the text.

If after reading the above, you are still adamant to stick to your smartphone as the primary scanning device for all of your professional and artistic needs, keep reading. We’ll share why manual scanning trumps mobile scanning.

“My Smartphone Camera is Good Enough.”

You’d think a smartphone camera and a photo scanner app should be able to do a good enough job. While the camera sensor and lens technology used in smartphones have come a long way, you’ll never capture a perfect scan of a photo or document. Photo scans struggle with two issues:

    1. Ambient light: The smartphone camera’s performance is greatly impacted by the amount of ambient light being reflected in the lens. Often you will have a limited amount of ambient light or you’ll need to use flash, resulting in a harsh looking image with hot spots and reflections.
    2. Focus: Framing the document or image from a distance has its issues. If you’re too close, some parts of the photo might be out of focus. If you’re too far away, you will see a loss in detail.
    3. Angle: Capturing the photo or document from a top-down angle can be difficult.
    4. Cropping: Smartphones aren’t the easiest for cropping photos, especially if taken at an angle.

Ignoring all of the above, there is still the issue of image quality. The manual scanning process is guaranteed to result in a superior image quality compared to using an app. While smartphone cameras are very efficient at capturing portraits and a scenic view, it does not fare too well when it comes to documents or existing photo prints.

The Best Scanning Apps Can’t Match Digital Scanners

Even the best scanning app that comes with an image enhancement algorithm will not be able to clean up poor lighting. It also won’t adjust for folded documents. You’ll need some kind of makeshift weight to hold the document down for it to be as flat as possible before capturing a photo of it.

Post-Scan Editing

Post-scanning editing is another area as to why manual scanning trumps even the best scanning app. When you have a great base image or document to work with, it makes the cleaning up task a whole lot easier.

At the end of the day, a mobile scanning app is handy during emergencies and as a last resort. Otherwise, manual scanning is the best solution.

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