Overall function

One of the handiest small business uses for an iPhone — or any smartphone, really — is the ability to snap a photo of a paper document and turn it into an electronic document. It’s handy for signing paperwork, of course, but it’s also handy for record keeping. The biggest challenge is usually finding a flat surface with reasonable lighting, followed by holding your smartphone in a stable position.

Enter scanPAD.

ScanPAD is a deceptively simple scanning stand for smartphones that looks like a work of art yet performs like a finely tuned tool. The scanPAD is an aluminum sculpture that helps you quickly and easily take photos of documents.

Of course, scanPAD is most powerful when you use an app that turns photos into .pdfs or other office-friendly formats. Personally, I tend to use Genius Scan with my iPhone. Here’s an example:


With scanPAD, you can scan documents, of course, but also art.

Say I need to send someone a signed copyright agreement and an assignment work order, both of which happen to be multiple pages. It’s easy enough for me to print those out on my printer, sign the documents with an old-school pen, then place the first sheet on the base of the scanPAD, position my iPhone on the raised arm, and snap a photo with Genius Scan. I can do this again and again with Genius Scan, creating a multipage .pdf along the way, which I could email or securely provide via Apple iCloud or Dropbox.

I can do this without scanPAD, of course, but it’s much easier to have a stand for your iPhone to make sure you don’t blur the letters. And scanPAD, it turns out, is aligned for easy document scanning at a height that perfectly captures a document through my iPhone’s rear-side camera.

More to scanPAD than Scanning

As it turns out, there is more to scanPAD than scanning documents. For instance, consider this: When you scan a printed document, apps like Genius Scan can let you crop and tweak the angles of your photo capture to better reflect a flat page. If you tilt your hand-held iPhone, for instance, you’ll “scan” an oddly misshapen document. Genius Scan can help you correct that. That’s all well and good, but with scanPAD, you just get better document results.

When you take this ability to align everything, other sorts of scanning just gets better — like children’s art.

If you’re like most parents, you’ve taken some snapshots of great art, knowing that it will eventually meet its demise while hanging on the refridgerator with magnets. Snapshots of art tend to suffer the same trouble with angles, not to mention lighting. If you use scanPAD for kids’ art, on the other hand, you’ll get a perfectly aligned shot that will tend to be in focus more easily. If the art has items glued onto its surface, you’ll have far fewer issues with shadows.

It just works great.

Better yet, scanPAD is the kind of product that can act as a catalyst . . . because it’s so easy to take photos of your kids’ art, you’ll be more likely to do so, helping you capture and share these small joys of life that might otherwise find their way to the kitchen garbage can and be lost forever.

Product Photos

ScanPAD can also be used to take product photos, which is handy for anyone who tends to sell small stuff on eBay or through Craigslist. The scanPAD team calls this a Mini Photo Studio, and they’re right. The key to this sort of thing is having a stable position for your iPhone, and scanPAD delivers.

Another interesting use, particularly for small businesses, is using Apple’s AirPlay to show off your iPhone’s screen while you write on a presentation that’s placed on the base of the scanPAD. The best case use here, though, might be using it more like a white board because you could use Keynote or PowerPoint easily enough the same way.

Overall Construction

The scanPAD is formed into the shape of a single piece of aluminum. It’s durable with precise bends. It looks good. The base uses some sort of patent-pending nanotechnology rubber-like mat to help documents lay flat. In my experience it works well enough, particularly because the rubber is flat and slightly sticky. (If you crumpled your document into a ball and then flattened it back out, don’t expect a miracle.)

What about your iPhone? How does it maintain its position on the scanPAD? The scanPAD’s curved arm has a flat spot on the top that’s covered with a super grippy rubbery pad. You iPhone will rest on it, and it’s quite stable. It also includes a bent front section of the arm, also covered with the rubber pad, that maintains enough grip on your iPhone to give you another scanning angle. My unit included a few replacement rubber pads, presumably because the pad might get dirty over time.

Check Out the Kickstarter Campaign

To learn more, check out the Kickstarter campaign for scanPAD, which starts today. If you’re like me, in the past you’ve tried to stack books and household objects to help you create a stable and consistent platform to better “scan” documents . . . with the scanPAD, you won’t have to.

About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.