As a stunt, Wired had its CES reporter crew cover the monster Consumer Electronics Show this year with their smartphones alone. No laptops, no tablets, not even a stand-alone camera. Better them than me!
But wait a minute. Was this really just a stunt?
Thanks to a lot of business-friendly smartphone apps, it’s becoming quite possible to make your primary computing device a smartphone. You’re not going to want to write a novel, reconcile your 2013 books, or design your next marketing campaign on one, but you can do a lot of other stuff. All you need are the right apps.
Head to Google Play and pick up these 10 apps, and you’ll turn your phone into a powerful mobile office.
Google Docs has one big shortcoming if your office is locked in to Microsoft Office: It doesn’t do a great job of handling Office document formats. That’s where Quickoffice comes in. It not only lets you create and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, but it also lets you view PDFs and save files to your Google Drive. If Microsoft Office is part of your normal work routine, then you want Quickoffice.
That said, if you’re an Office 365 user, you can also use Office Mobile for Office 365. I prefer Quickoffice myself, and Office Mobile doesn’t work with all Android devices. For example, you can’t use it with either the 2012 or 2013 Nexus 7 tablet.
I’m not on the retail side of life, but I have many craft and artist friends who live and die by their point-of-sale software and hardware, and they swear by Square Register. With one device that can attach to their smartphone or tablet, they’re ready to make sales. Another worthwhile alternative to Square Register is Intuit GoPayment Card Reader.
If you do a lot of business travel, you know what a pain it can be to find a taxi when you need one. Ease that pain with Uber, which lets you summon a car with your smartphone. You can pick between yellow cabs, black towncars, and private individuals. Better still, all payments are handled through the app via Google Wallet, PayPal, or a credit card locked to your secure account.
The downside is that it’s only available in 32 North American cities and just about that many others around the world. But if most of your business is in the cities it does cover, you’ll love this app.
Splashtop Remote Desktop
Android and its apps are fine and dandy, but sometimes you can’t settle for anything less than access to your Windows PC or Mac. That’s exactly what this app gives you. Splashtop mirrors your full desktop to your device. Problem: The app won’t work with all smartphones, and it works better by far on a tablet. There are several variants of the Splashtop app, targeted at tablets, gaming, personal use, or enterprise deployment. If you find a version works for you, it can come in incredibly handy.
As the years come and go, technology advances by leaps and bounds. But for some reason, we’re still using little paper business cards!
But there is technology to help you handle those cardboard artifacts. ScanBizCards (available in a free Lite version and $4 Premium version) scanner lets you scan in business cards, add notes to them, and then—and this is the good part—export them into such customer relationship management platforms as Salesforce, SugarCRM and Zoho CRM.
I don’t don’t like on-screen keyboards myself, so I use a Droid 4, which has a small, but real, QWERTY keyboard. But those are going the way of the dodo, and for on-screen keyboards, SwiftKey is a godsend. It seems as if everyone I know who doesn’t use a physical keyboard uses SwiftKey. Because it predicts (with great accuracy) not just the word you’re typing but the word after that, its users are far faster and more productive with their on-screen typing than are those who use the “biblical” method of on-screen keyboarding, a.k.a. “Seek, and ye shall find.”
Is there anyone who doesn’t use this do-everything, record-everything, note-taking program on his smartphone? I guess anything is possible. “Note-taking” sounds so simple, but Evernote lets you co-ordinate, organize, and access your notes and data like no other program.
A program that I’ve found to be quite handy in conjunction with Evernote is Genius Scan+. It turns your phone into a smart scanner that can straighten out your images, detect page frames, and save them as color or black-and-white images in PDF or JPEG. With Evernote integration, you can save them in your ever-growing Evernote notebooks and stacks.
TripIt Travel Organizer
If you’re like me and your travel plans are scattered hither and yon, TripIt is the personal travel organizer you’ve always needed. I may still wait too long to make my plans, but at least now, when I finally make my reservations, all I have to do is forward my hotel, airline, car rental and restaurant confirmation emails to email@example.com to create an instant itinerary. And if you use Gmail or Google Apps, that happens automatically. It’s the kind of brainless, easy-to-use travel app I’d been waiting for all my life.
Lookout Security & Antivirus Premium
Here’s the simple truth. For all the hype about Android malware, if you just practice safe Android usage, such as avoiding dodgy websites and never, ever downloading programs from third-party Android stores, you’ll be safe 364 days of the year.
Oh. Wait. There are 365 days in the year. For that one extra day, you want Lookout to protect you. There are plenty of other good Android antivirus programs, but I keep coming back to Lookout like an old and trusted friend.
LastPass Password Manager
Speaking of security matters, have you ever considered how many passwords are sitting unprotected on your Android phone? Or worse, sites and services you have set to automatically log in? Think about it for a moment. Then consider how easy it is to lose your smartphone. Now, run, do not walk, to the Google Play Store and get LastPass.
There are dozens of other worthwhile Android business programs, but these are the ones that work best for me, my friends, and my co-workers. Are these useful enough that you’ll want to replace your notebook with your phone? I doubt it, but, they're useful enough that if all you have at hand is a charged-up Android phone, you’ll still be in business. And that’s what it’s all about.