Originally revealed at this spring’s DEMO 09 conference, the Asurion Mobile address book stood out as one of the more memorable mobile products. Still called simply “AddressBook,” this social media-infused contacts application is designed exclusively for Android handsets. From within the mobile application, you not only see the profile updates and details from your friends on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Amazon, you can also interact with some of the networks themselves, posting to walls, leaving comments, etc. However, if you would rather contact your friends through more traditional means, the app lets you phone them using its built-in dialer or you can text them via SMS.

Since being announced at DEMO, the company has been busy responding to its beta testers’ requests for user interface tweaks and more Facebook integration. Where before, the app only displayed Facebook profile photos and status updates, the new application functions more like a mini-Facebook client with access to News Feeds, profile details, photos, links, and more. These extra additions have proven beneficial for increasing the app’s usage too – the company found that their testers were spending an average of 20 minutes a day in the application.

Mix-ins Add Social Networking Sites and More to Your Contacts

The AddressBook application isn’t just one app – it’s a combination of the core application and additional, optional apps called “mix-ins.” Depending on your own personal preferences, you can download and install any of these mix-ins to integrate the social networking services of your choosing with the main AddressBook. After adding a mix-in, the app also helpfully auto-matches your phone’s contacts to your friends on the social networking site you selected. The option to manually match your friends is available as well.

For the most part, this feature worked as advertised, but with Twitter there were some issues. The mix-in didn’t pull in my complete friends list and when viewing the mix-in itself, contacts were listed as “null” instead of by their Twitter username. It’s hard to say if this was an issue with the AddressBook itself or something that was going on with Twitter at the time, but it could point to a few kinks that need to be worked out.

Each social network has its own mix-in, but you can also find other mix-ins for social games like “AngelChess” for example. And because anyone can develop these mix-ins, the company hopes that developers will create even more to choose from in the future.

In addition, updates from your social networks will appear along with your other standard notifications in Android like new voicemails, new emails, new text messages, etc. You can finely control which networks and friend groups you receive notifications for, too, so you don’t get overloaded with updates.

Similarities to Other Social Contacts Apps

At first the AddressBook application may bring to mind another mobile contacts app for iPhone – the newly launched Gist. However, although Gist’s app also lets you keep tabs on what your contacts are up to through social networking integrations, Asurion’s app is more of a consumer offering. There’s currently no focus on integrating with CRM systems like Salesforce or even the business-focused social network LinkedIn.com.

Another great feature in the AddressBook app is “Smart Contacts.” These are location-based business listings which provide quick access to maps, addresses, store hours, phone numbers and more. With these unique contacts added to your address book, you’re able to find that company’s nearest location with just a few taps. This feature somewhat resembles the “RingPages” feature in the upcoming iPhone app CallSpark. Those, too, are location-aware business listings which can be added to the main contact application.

Business Plan: App to be Free, Affiliate Model in the Future

For now, the company isn’t as focused on their business model as they are on just increasing the adoption and the app’s user base. However, they do say that the AddressBook app will remain a free download and will never include in-app ads. Instead, the company may eventually be able to generate revenue by sending traffic to the businesses included in the Smart Contacts section. Though the details of this affiliate model still need to be sketched out, it’s clear that the company’s goals don’t involve having app owners pay for its services.

If you’re an Android owner looking to try the AddressBook beta, you can download it here.

Update: The company now reports that the Twitter bug described above has been fixed.

sarah perez

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