That smartphone in your pocket or handbag is itching to be put to better use. Clever software have developed smartphone applications (apps) that make small business people's working lives easier and more productive. If only they would use them.
Here are some of the best small business apps for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones:
Virtual assistant software: whenever Telecom Business Hub Wanganui owner Shane Nottage sells an iPhone 4S he activates an app called Siri. Siri allows users to press one button and tell their smartphone what to do. If the user says: "remind me to call Shane at 6pm tomorrow" the reminder is set on the smartphone and synced to Microsoft Office or other calendars. One voice command can cancel or move the rest of the meetings for the day, or find and dial a telephone number while the user is driving. There are alternatives such as Skyvi for Android and Vlingo for BlackBerry.
To do lists: to do lists are as old as writing itself. They went digital a few years back and can now be carried around in your pocket. Taskos lets users create written or voice activated to do lists on their Android smartphones and syncs with Google Task. There are dozens of to do list apps for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. Some, such as reQall sync with Outlook. This app, and others, can also link to the smartphone's GPS to fire up location-aware reminders such as "pick up the dry cleaning" when it senses that it is near the drycleaners. Choosing the right app for you can be difficult. Try three, says Nottage. Whenever he wants to add new functionality to his phone he downloads the two or three most popular apps in that category, and uses all three for a week. Once he has decided which works best for him, the others are deleted.
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Note taking apps: people like somewhere to jot down notes, record expenses, or just have a brain dump. Once upon a time their diaries or Filofaxes were used for this purpose. These days apps such as Evernote, MobileNoter, and OneNote have taken over. These apps can be used to take notes and save other information such as PDFs, web pages, pictures, and videos. The notes are stored in a digital filing cabinet. Whatever the type of note, task reminders can be attached for follow-up. A good setup allows users to sync their notes to an office PC or laptop and to the cloud using storage such as Microsoft's SkyDrive.
Voice over IP calling: roaming charges can be expensive. Business guru Debbie Mayo-Smith gets over this by making calls on Skype when she's overseas. She finds "free" WiFi hotspots for the cost of a coffee to make Skype calls. Skype to Skype calls are free, or she can pay by the minute to call landlines and mobiles. Finding free hotspots is easy. Google "free WiFi" and the city's name and you'll find websites such as Freewifiaustralia.com. Or head to the nearest Starbucks or McDonalds store, which offer free WiFi access in many countries. Google Voice is an alternative to Skype.
Time tracking: plenty of businesses owners and staff need to track their time. The sometimes tedious process is made easy if the time tracking device is your smartphone. Gleeo Time Tracker for Android and HoursTracker for iPhones are both excellent tools for this purpose. Time tracking can also be useful for anyone who wants to become more efficient. Tracking and analysing time for a week or a month can be a very useful exercise for business people.
Below are some more useful apps worth checking out. Similar apps can usually be found for the different operating systems:
Quickoffice Pro (iOS)
CamCard: Business Card Reader (iOS)
Dragon Dictation (iOS)
Do Not Disturb (BlackBerry)
Documents To Go (BlackBerry)
Remote Print (BlackBerry)