The essential Android business apps

Your phone is now your digital briefcase, your ever-present business companion.

android for work
Credit: Google+

Despite the tendency to feel that getting work done from your smartphone means you’re “always working,” there are still those moments when it’s liberating to be able to finish off a quick task or respond to a company message without opening your computer.

I find that the real key is knowing the type of work you want to do and getting your setup right. This is especially important when you head off on a trip or you’re at a conference where you’re more likely to have access to your phone when you’re crammed in a presentation or running from one room to another.

If you’re looking for a guide on what you need, or just some ideas for getting started, let us offer you a helping hand. There are plenty of good apps and services that you may not have heard of, or maybe you just need a tip about how to make them work best for you.

Think productivity

A good place to start is the essential apps for staying productive. Any Android device is going to include the default suite of Google services, of course: Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Chrome, and more. What you need to know isn’t just that you need to download them, but how to maximize their utility.

The first tip I often like to share is that Gmail can handle Microsoft Exchange email accounts. This is a life saver if you don’t like the idea of needing to use multiple email apps for all of your accounts, such as if you have a personal Gmail but a work-issued account run by Office 365.

exchange gmail android Greenbot

You can get a Microsoft Exchange account’s email inside of the Gmail app.

However, if you prefer Outlook or deeper integration with the entire Office 365 suite, then you may just want to grab the official Outlook app. Microsoft has done an admirable job of making its core services not just appear on Android, but work rather well. Word is very good compared to Docs, and PowerPoint is far more capable than Google Slides when it comes to creating or sharing presentation slides. Microsoft’s cloud- and mobile-first strategy means you aren’t making any compromises when you get an Android device.

word pin to home screen IDG

Word for Android has a familiar interface for those who use it regularly on the desktokp.

While some apps, particularly for the consumer space, often launch first on iOS, that gap has narrowed substantially. And in the world of business and productivity, I’ve found that Android versions are now right there in terms of usability and design with their iOS counterparts. And of course if you use G Suite, you’ll get the best and deepest integration with Android. 

An important trend is to be willing to venture outside the Google sandbox. Communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Hipchat, and others are gaining popularity and reducing the dependency on the inbox.

slack threads Slack

Slack's threaded conversations are one way the service is constantly iterating.

If you need to save articles for later, Pocket is probably the best of the bunch, but Instapaper still does an admirable job and recently made premium free.

Travel smarter

The modern business life is going to put you in the air and on the road often. That’s where the real value of making sure you have everything set up for your smartphone comes in, as you’ll have access to little bits of information without the need to pull out your laptop.

Business travel can sometimes be more complicated than when it’s for pleasure because you have more time-sensitive events on your itinerary. Meetings, names to remember, and sticking to that itinerary is much easier to manage when you have a smartphone that does the thinking for you.

To help you along, you can first look at Google’s tools. Google Trips automatically organizes your trip based on the details that are inside of your Gmail.

google trips Greenbot

Google Trips can truly be a one-stop shop for all your travel details.

The same concept extends to Google Now, which displays cards for your flight, hotel information, and will ping you about points of interest if you want to break away from the seventh hour of the on-stage presentation.

But how to get around? By now you probably know all about Uber and Lyft. The former recently announced deep integration with Google Maps. You can now fetch a ride and follow the driver’s rush to your location right within Maps.

Stay connected

We often forget that the second half of the compound word in smartphone is phone. Sometimes, however, you need a smarter and more capable one. Or maybe just a second line to separate personal and business contacts.

There are some good second-line choices on Android. In general I’m a fan of Line2, as it has a good interface and handles the duties of calls and texts very well.

line2

Line2 puts an entire phone number and communication capabilities inside of the mobile app.

Another option worth looking at is Cloud Phone. Along with handling a second line, it can manage a conference call, record a conversation (be sure to get permission), and will read your voicemail transcriptions. It’s not free, however, with plans starting at $10 per month.

Finally, there’s been some rumors about Google Voice getting a major reboot. The service has been stagnant for a number of years, so this would be most welcome. We’re not sure how this is going to look, as to whether it means deeper integration with Android, other Google services, or just more features like what you get with some second-line apps. We’ll have to wait and see.

Keeping tabs on your tabs

But you don’t need to delay in finding out how to keep track of all those expenses. There are many good ones in this category like Expensify, Concur, and Expense Reporting

I’ve taken a particular fondness to Expense Tracker, as it has a Material Design-friendly interface and a lot of tools for managing the myriad numbers of receipts and different expenses that you’re likely to accumulate on a business trip.

expense tracker Google Play

Expense Tracker is one of several good apps for keeping you sane when it comes to tracking expenses.

Finally, I also enjoy Splitwise for, well, splitting the bill. This way someone with alligator arms can’t weasel their way out of it. This can of course be used for when you get together with friends or for a household of roommates that share expenses.

splitwise Google Play

Splitwise will leave no doubt about who owes what.

The app ecosystem and built-in Google tools give you just about anything you may need for the world of business. A little bit of forethought and putting everything in place is all that’s really necessary for making your Android device a great productivity companion. It’s a fast-moving space, so be willing to experiment and explore the latest tools when they arrive.

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