The world we live in relies on information being at our finger tips immediately the very second we desire it. Who has time to take a walk to the copier to scan a document? No worries, there is an app for everything these days, and document scanning is no exception. In fact, there are many apps for document scanning. I’ll be the first to tell you that I have not even began to try them all out, but of the ones that I have used, 3 PDF scanner apps stand out. Which one is best? I’ll break down my findings and give you my opinion, but ultimately you will have to choose the best solution for your needs.
Tiny Scanner: (Free in the Google Play Store) Tiny Scanner developed by Appxy is one of the most popular PDF scanner apps in the Google Play Store. The app offers a bit of added security to your document scanning needs if protecting your documents is top priority.
Google Drive: (Free in the Google Play Store) Google Drive developed by Google is loaded with features not the least of which is a built in document scanner. Many people do not even realize that they already have this feature on their phones. Google Drive comes pre-installed on many Android devices.
Office Lens: (Free in the Google Play Store) Office Lens developed by Microsoft is the newest arrival among this trio. Office Lens is well integrated with other Microsoft applications available for Android and the cloud.
How I Scored the Apps
I awarded quality points based on overall readability of the resulting scans from each app on two different devices. I used a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (high end flagship) and an LG Optimus L90 (Budget) to produce the scans. I gave 3 points for the 1st place scan from each device, 2 points for 2nd, and 1 point for 3rd.
I awarded efficiency points based on the file size produced by each app on a one page document scan. Using the same method as the quality point system. 1st place from each device produced the smallest file size while 3rd place produced the largest file size.
Finally, I awarded points based on the number of document storage and sharing options that are built into the app for a maximum of 10 points.
I scanned all documents on a glass table with a wicker background beneath the glass. This creates a more complex environment for the scanner when trying to determine the portion of the photo that actually belongs in the document. The lighting in the room is from windows only, no over head lighting. I used this environment on purpose because it is not optimal. All of these apps perform excellent in perfect lighting. Which ones still pull through without any issues? Let’s find out.
Tiny Scanner Document
Tiny Scanner did a good job detecting the document on both devices. The readability of the Note 5 scan suffered more than the other two apps. The file sizes produced by Tiny Scanner were the smallest of the 3 apps on both devices. Tiny scan has an option that allows the file size to be compressed further when uploading the file to the cloud or sharing the document. The Scan quality was very consistent between the Note 5’s scan and the L90’s scan.
Tiny Scanner offers a good variety of sharing options as well as the ability to send the document as a fax if you have Tiny Fax installed on your device as well. One cloud sharing option omission that disappoints me is Amazon Drive. It’s not a deal breaker, because I use several cloud storage options, but for those of you with unlimited storage on Amazon Drive, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops outside of the Tiny Scanner app to move your documents.
Quality Points: Note 5 (1), L90 (3). Total: 4 pts
Efficiency Points: Note 5 (3), L90 (3). Total: 6 pts
Sharing/Storage Points: 7 pts
Total Score: 17 pts
Google Drive Document
Google Drive scanner did a perfect job detecting the document on the Note 5, but struggled on the L90. Of course the image can be cropped on each one of these apps, but I’m posting the best scan out of 3 from each device with no edits. The Note 5’s Google Drive scan was the best quality scan produced in the poor conditions I performed the test under.
Google Drive has the best sharing options of the 3 apps. You can move the document from any supporting app on your device, Google Drive received 10 points for storage options.
Quality Points: Note 5 (3), L90 (2). Total 5 pts
Efficiency Points: Note 5 (2), L90 (2). Total 4 pts
Sharing/Storage Points: 10 pts
Total Score: 19 pts
Office Lens Documents
Office Lens’s detection of the document is most likely the best of the three apps. You can see the detection frame live as you are positioning the document in the camera’s view. This allows you to make angle corrections on the fly and tap the shutter button when the frame is positioned perfectly. This feature causes your scan acquisition time to be a bit longer, but you will more than make that time up by not having to crop the image after acquisition. Office lens preserves the document exactly as the camera sees it. This method of color capture can be good if you have a high quality camera, but if the camera is poor quality (as is the L90 camera) the scan will be poor quality.
Office Lens has the least amount of storage and sharing options. OneNote, OneDrive, and the other Microsoft applications on my device are the only choices offered within the app. There’s nothing wrong with those options, I actually enjoy using them all, but they are not always my ideal choice.
Quality Points: Note 5 (2), L90 (1). Total: 3 pts
Efficiency Points: Note 5 (1), L90 (1). Total: 2 pts
Sharing/Storage Points: 1 pt
Total Score: 6
PDF Scanner App Champion
1st Place: Google Drive
After tallying up the points, Google Drive’s built in PDF scanner has the most to offer overall. No limitations for sharing or cloud storage was the tipping point in my opinion. The best part… most of you probably already have Google Drive on your Android device, so you already have this functionality!
- Embedded within the already “must have” Google Drive suite of built in applications. All of your tools are in one place.
- Easily shareable to any cloud storage service or supported app on my devices.
- Unknown feature to many users. Searching for “PDF scanner” or “document scanner” in the Google Play Store will not help users discover this capability in Google Drive.
2nd Place: Tiny Scanner
Tiny Scanner was not far behind. Add Amazon Cloud Drive storage support directly into the app, and Tiny Scan is just as useful to me as Google Drive, and has a better UI. This is light and powerful PDF scanner option.
- Password protection for app. Keep your documents safe.
- Smallest document file sizes
- No native sharing to Amazon Cloud Drive
3rd Place: Office Lens
Office Lens just isn’t for me when it comes to my PDF scanner needs. I utilize it more for business cards as the built in OCR is fast and allows me to add the info directly to my contacts list. Students may also find the whiteboard scanner feature particularly useful, but I have not thoroughly tested it myself.
- Adjustable resolution
- Great integration with other Microsoft applications of Android
- Best page detection thanks to the live frame that’s visible during acquisition
- Only cloud storage option is OneDrive
- No picture in picture when cropping a document.
No one is going to go wrong with any of these 3 applications when it comes to mobile document scanning. The choice is more a matter of personal taste and individual needs. They are all free so nothing is stopping you from utilizing all 3 of them for their strengths, I do.
If you can’t find a PDF scanner app that meets your needs among these 3, then you probably need to purchase a portable document scanner.
Do you agree with my opinion on this PDF scanner app comparison? Let me know in the comments below.