Last year I joined the smartphone craze and got myself an android phone. As a business owner, I can't ever go back. Before, every time I left my office, I needed to bring my clunky laptop with me and power it up for even the most trivial piece information. Now, my phone acts as a pocket personal assistant with applications I never imagined possible 5 years ago.
Beyond having access to web browsing and advanced calendar syncing, and some other clearly advantages of having one of these devices, there are a number of applications that can really help you make the most of your time AND technology while on the road. The 6 following apps are (in my opinion) the bare essential for any business owner with a smartphone to help you run your business on the go. Of course, the business applications certainly don't end at this list, and we made our recommendations as general as possible so they apply to all platforms and solutions. So whether you own an iPhone or Android, if you own a business and you don't use these apps, you're missing out.
- Mobile Office Suite
There aren't many businesses that don't use some form of office suite software. That is: word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software bundled together. But being able to open and edit these files is no longer enough. Today, many businesses use these formats for collaboration and communication for important office/business documents. And now with cloud computing as the biggest business fad for the current decade, you must be able to access these documents from everywhere. Enter smartphones.
You probably aren't going to do major editing to a powerpoint presentation or spreadsheet on your smartphone, so when looking for office suite apps, the most important feature to consider is remote access. The bare minimum for this type of system would be Google Docs. It's free, easy to share and access remotely, and the mobile app is capable of just about anything any of the others can. The problem is, it requires an “all-in” commitment to Google Docs, which isn't always the most elegant solution for when you're still in the office.
Some of the paid apps solve this issue with greater elegance and are compatible with other forms of cloud computing solutions (as well as Google Docs). QuickOffice Pro ($14.99) is just one. So depending on your needs and/or current systems, you may need to find the right app for your specific situation, but the idea is relatively universal:
- File Sharing
The next step in cloud computing for your business on the road is file sharing apps. Beyond your simple office documents, you may have a need to have access to images, videos, or a number of other formats while away from the offices. The above office suite's don't cover this issue.
While there are a number of apps and solutions for sharing files to mobile devices, again what works best for you depends on your needs and current systems. The following video (of the free GoAruna app) should give clarity to the advantages these apps have for business owners on the road:
- Remote Desktop
Continuing on our trend of mobile/remote access apps, we can take it one step further: remote desktop apps. These apps give you direct access to any computer desktop that you set up and is online. The downside to cloud computing applications is that the files you have access to are limited to those that you have shared or uploaded to your cloud storage service. With remote desktop apps, you have complete access to a computer, it's programs and files from anywhere.
Picture this: you're working on a project from your computer at work and leave for home. However, something comes up and you're stranded, unable to get to work. With one of these apps, you can access your work computer from home and either work directly on the project from your smartphone or email/upload the necessary files to complete your project from your home PC. It's not a great solution for collaboration, but rather a personal solution for having the ultimate remote access to your work from just about anywhere.
While I've tried a few free solutions that were a bit less than capable, there are a number of inexpensive alternatives that work just fine. One app is called Jump Desktop ($0.99) costs less than a dollar and has a good amount of positive feedback. My personal favorite is called Splashtop Remote Desktop ($4.99) and costs less than $5 and is described in the following video:
- Note taking Apps
Something I use my phone for on [nearly] a daily basis is to take notes for meetings, ideas, and reminders to myself. As a business owner, I have no room for mistakes or lapses in memory. So being able to use my phone for this purpose is an absolute must.
That's why EverNote (Free) is one of my favorite business apps. Not only is it great for quick notes, but the advanced features (which I haven't even scratched the surface of) make it dynamic and terrific for business owners of all kinds. Probably the most useful feature, (as you might guess) is the collaboration and sharing options. It is quite simply like having a personal assistant that never makes mistakes with you 24-7.
- Business Card Reader
One of the first apps I installed on my smartphone was a business card reader. With it, I can take a quick snapshot of a business card and the program interprets the content on the card and adds a contact to my phone with all pertinent information. I no longer needed to take the time to put each contact in individually. A true time saver.
Like many apps on this list, there are a number of solutions both free and paid. And like many (i'm sure) I'd tried a few before I finally found one I liked. CamCard Lite (free) was the most accurate and therefore fastest of the few I tried before it. Just know the free app has limitations and if you are a true networking professional, you may need to pay for the full version ($6.99) or look elsewhere. But again, it usually comes down to personal preference.
Please forgive me if this sounds like a rant rather than advice for apps on your smartphone, but if you don't yet have one, start a LinkedIn profile today. It's not just a great way to network within your niche to other business professionals. It's THE way to network. It's the new business card. If I ever delete CamCard lite, it will be because of LinkedIn. It's both a recruiting device for employers and the new resume for potential employees.
And if you also happen to have a smartphone, add the free LinkedIn app so you can connect with new business associates on the fly. Unlike exchanging business cards, connections through LinkedIn are dymamic and potentially more impactful. You can't miss out on this ultimate business tool, especially if you are a smartphone owner…believe me.