While the Gist iPhone app is a useful real estate tool for consolidating contacts from a variety of sources, it may not solve the problem of information overload, said participants in an Inman News Product Review process.

A group of real estate professionals tested out the Gist app for iPhone, a free tool that aggregates information about a user’s contacts from a variety of sources, including e-mail "inboxes, address books, social networks, and other sources," according to an online app description.

The tool also pulls in news, status updates and blog posts from multiple sources to enrich the contact information.

The app, now in Version 2.1.2, was updated on Aug. 30, 2010. Version 2.0 launched on May 22, 2010, and the app first launched in Apple’s App Store on Oct. 6, 2009.

While this review process focuses on Gist’s iPhone app, Gist in May rolled out an app for Android devices and a Google Gadget.

As of Thursday, Sept. 16, the app had an Apple iTunes overall rating of 2.5 stars (out of five possible) after 497 ratings among all versions, and an overall rating of 3.5 stars (out of five possible) after 13 ratings of its latest version.

The Gist iPhone app product reviews featured in this article were submitted from Aug. 20, 2010, through Sept. 2, 2010.

The volunteer reviewers evaluted the app based on three criteria:

  • Ease: How easy is it to use?
  • Usefulness: Is this something real estate professionals would use regularly as a business tool?
  • Originality: How unique is this product and its features?

The Gist iPhone app scored an average six points out of 10 possible for "ease," an average six out of 10 for "usefulness," and an average seven out of 10 for "originality," collecting a total 236 points out of a possible 360 among 12 reviewers, earning an overall letter grade of C (65.6 percent).

Reviewers, who completed an online form, had an opportunity to offer detailed comments for each of these categories, and also to assign a numeric rating ranging from 0 (worst) to 10 (best).

Additionally, reviewers were asked to comment on the "major strength/asset" and the "major weakness/flaw" of the app, and to suggest which audience would benefit the most from using the app (consumers or real estate agents or real estate brokers/managers, for example).

While a couple of reviewers commented on the "super easy interface" and the "clear and easy to figure out" menus and functions, others commented that "the more contacts one has, the more tine-consuming configuration becomes," and "you need to spend a bit of time getting to know it. Have patience."

As for its usefulness, "The idea is great. However, I already have processes set up to do all of the things it does," said reviewer Jenn Van Wyk, advertising and social media coordinator for Bunbury and Associates Realtors, a Wisconsin brokerage.

"I use TweetDeck to keep track of Twitter and Facebook, and my contacts easily sync between all of my devices. I just felt like this was a third thing I’d need to update and keep track of," she said.

Meanwhile, Mark S. Bergman, broker-owner for Bergman Real Estate, based in North Creek, N.Y., said, the app had "too many irrelevant references pulled into my Gist dashboard," including "Internet providers for some of my contacts."

Another reviewer, Andrew Hudson of The Residential Group Realty in Vancouver, Canada, said the app is indeed useful, though "it doesn’t so much replace (other tools) for me as it does consolidate."

Reviewers said the overabundance of information that the app gathered and displayed was among its shortfalls.

"Gist fails to filter out the fluff. In my test with over 2,000 contacts and e-mail addresses imported from (Microsoft) Outlook, I saw far too many irrelevant news or dashboard entries," Bergman said, adding that editing out unwanted entries "was cumbersome and time-consuming. The value added was not significant and unique enough to persuade me to play along.

"My assessment: nice start, but not ready for prime time," he said.

Reviewer Susan Robertson, a broker and Realtor for RE/MAX Executive Realty in the Charlotte, N.C., said the Gist app "might allow too much information to be found."

And reviewer George L. Meinhardt, president of Star One Realtors in Cincinnati, Ohio, said it was "difficult to get the property information loaded" using the Gist app, and he "could not access LinkedIn easily."

Its primary strength, many reviewers said, is in putting a wealth of contact information and other current data at your fingertips in a way that is easy to access.

"The major strength of this product is that it combines information from a variety of places and puts it all into one space. If you were to use this app regularly, you could keep tabs on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn news and see all of your contacts," said Van Wyk.

Hudson, too, was among the reviewers echoing that basic strength: "You can access all of your social media contacts, blogs, etc. from one app."

Nicole Truszkowski, broker associate for Sotheby’s International Realty in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., counted Gist’s ability to export contacts as a CVS file among its strengths.

And another reviewer, Jason Lopez, director of interactive business and broker associate for Century 21 Award in San Diego, Calif., noted that while Gist did pool some duplicate contacts, "there is a nifty merge feature to eliminate duplicates."

Most reviewers said that real estate agents/sales associates would likely benefit most from the Gist app. Three reviewers said real estate vendors and technologists would benefit most, while one reviewer said that real estate clients and customers would likely benefit most.

Methodology: 14 Inman News readers responded to our call to review the Gist app for iPhone. All participants stated in an online form that they do not have any conflict of interest, financial or otherwise, for participating in this review process. The pool of reviewers shared comments and rated the app in three categories on a scale of zero (worst) to 10 (best).

In total, each reviewer could award a minimum score of zero (worst) to 30 (best). The ratings from the reviewer who offered the highest ratings across the three categories, and from the reviewer who offered the lowest ratings across the three categories, were discarded — leaving 12 sets of ratings. Based on these ratings, an average rating was calculated for each category, rounded up or down to the nearest whole number.

A letter grade ("Overall" rating) is assigned based on the cumulative total points awarded by reviewers, divided by the maximum number of points possible. Inman News offered a $100 gift card to one participating reviewer, selected at random for completing the review process. No other reviewer received payment for participating in the process.

Inman News encourages you to share your own comments about the Gist iPhone app below.

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