Mobile Apps

The best scanning apps for Android and iPhone

The days of buying a pricey dedicated scanner are long gone. Today, our high-powered smartphones can do the job faster.

Never bother with a scanner again. Thanks to high-quality cameras on today's top smartphones and nifty behind-the-scenes tech, scanning a document or photo with great results is as easy as opening an app and snapping a picture.

Here are CNET's top picks for the best apps to turn your phone into a scanner.

Best scanning app for iOS: Evernote Scannable

Evernote, the popular note-taking service, has built a fantastic free scanning app called Scannable. It's useful for scanning receipts, business cards and in particular, printed documents.

That's because the app uses optical character recognition (OCR), which can detect the letters and numbers on whatever you scan so that you can search for words or phrases within the scanned digital document. The app's OCR feature works automatically, analyzing documents for words and characters as you make the scan. It also uses this feature to pull information from a business card, like emails and phone numbers, so you can save it to your phone. It's one of the best solutions I've found for digitizing business cards.

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Evernote Scannable in action. Josh Miller/CNET

What makes Scannable so great is that it's foolproof to use. All you need to do is open the app and point your camera at what you want to scan. The app does the rest of the work by searching the camera's field of view for a sheet of paper, automatically focusing the shot and taking a photo. Move on to another piece of paper if you have a multipage document and Scannable will combine them together and let you delete scanned pages you don't want to or need.

It then quickly edits the scan to improve the contrast and brightness to make it as clear and readable as possible. If you'd rather not have it automatically scan anything in the camera's field of view, there's a manual capture mode too.

You can set the app to automatically save any scans directly to your Evernote account or manually export them to your iCloud storage or the Camera Roll in the Photos app. You can also choose to share scans in a message, email or other apps on your phone. The biggest downside of Scannable is that it doesn't really keep a list of previous scans. You'll need to save or discard a scan once you've captured it in order to save or share a new one.

Best scanning app for Android: CamScanner

For scanning documents with your phone, it's very hard to beat CamScanner. This free app covers all the basics, plus much more.

The app uses your phone's camera to scan printed documents, receipts, business cards and even words and doodles on a whiteboard. When you finish a scan, CamScanner analyzes the content of the image to automatically organize everything by type. That means, all of your business card scans are saved in one folder, while documents go in another. As an added bonus, the app also lets you create scans from photos you've previously taken. Most importantly, the scan quality is stellar, though your mileage may vary by your phone's camera.

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CamScanner Josh Miller/CNET

Once you've captured an image, there are tons of ways to edit it by adjusting the color, contrast or brightness, or by cropping the image. You add can watermarks and annotations too, plus add tags so you can search for scans later. There are also built-in collaboration tools, where you can invite other people to make edits to your scans. The list of features goes on, including search and connections to popular cloud storage services, like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Like Scannable, CamScanner has OCR, but you'll need to download a plugin to use it. With OCR, you can search documents by keywords or phrases, which works phenomenally. You can also use OCR to export and edit text from your scans, but to this you'll need upgrade to the full version of the app, which is $4.99 (£3.99, AU$6.49). It's currently $1.99 (£0.79, AU$1.29) at the time of publishing.

You'll need to create an account to use the app, but this lets you upload your scans automatically to CamScanner's website, which makes it really easy to get them on your computer. CamScanner is also available for Windows Phone and iOS.

Honorable mentions

Microsoft Office Lens (Android, iOS and Windows)

This simple app lets you scan documents, whiteboards and photos and import them to your Microsoft account. You can save scans as PDFs or add them to OneNote or OneDrive. If you rely on those services a lot, Office Lens is a great choice for you.

Scanbot (Android and iOS)

One of my favorite scanning apps, Scanbot has a fantastic friendly design that is foolproof to use. The app automatically scans documents when you point the camera at a piece of paper, which is convenient. Then you can crop the scan and pick the final scan from four versions with different brightness and contrast effects.

The free app does basic scanning, and you can pay 99 cents per month (£0.50, AU$1) or a $4.90 one-time charge (£3.99, AU$6.49) to upgrade to the Pro version which gets you extras like OCR, automatic tagging and themes. You can also use Pro for free with ads.