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12 Business Apps You Should Be Using

Ian Blair

 

Mobile devices are lifesavers for overworked small business owners; they connect you to your clients, employees, advisors, and vendors. But with the right apps, they’re also powerful partners in managing your work, and keeping your job-life balance intact.

If you’re like most busy people, your smartphone or tablet is loaded up with pages of apps, some you use daily, but many more that failed to deliver the time-saving benefits or convenience they promised. If that sounds like you, take heart. We’ve compiled a definitive list of apps for business that deliver on their promises and really do take some of the stress out of managing your business. You might even find yourself deleting some of those rarely used apps hogging up your screen and replacing them with these essential apps for business owners.

Evernote – Free (premium paid versions available)

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Image via iTunes

We’ll say this right up front: Evernote will become an indispensable tool but you have to jump in with both feet and commit to it. If you download Evernote and then just play with it, using it as a web clipper or a to-do list, you’ll completely miss out on its time- and stress-saving features. Did you know: ?

➤You can replace PowerPoint with presentation mode and turn your notes into slides.

➤Evernote can digitize your paper documents, including business cards—even receipts; just photograph them in-app and Evernote extracts the data and stores it as text so you can search and retrieve it.

➤You can chat with others in-app using Work Chat, and share notebooks and content with read-only or edit permissions, cutting down on huge email chains. You can also email directly into Evernote.

➤Evernote integrates with just about everything, from calendaring apps to IFTTT; you’ll find all sorts of new uses for Evernote every time you browse the app center.

Most business owners, once they’ve invested a little time and effort, quickly become Evernote evangelists; you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without it.

Trello – Free (monthly fee for Business Class)

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Image via iTunes

There are a lot of project management apps to choose from, but we love the easy-to-use drag and drop board layout and its deep integration with the other business apps and tools we use the most, such as Slack, Evernote, and DropBox. Its clean and intuitive UI means you’re up and running as soon as you download the app, no steep learning curve like with other, more complex PM apps.

And Trello is no slouch at agile project management, with budgeting, task management, issue tracking, learning and support, collaboration, expense tracking, and reporting. Three pricing tiers make it extremely affordable for even small businesses on a budget, and enterprise clients will find no lack of functionality compared to pricier options.

Sunrise Calendar – Free

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Image via iTunes

If productivity is important—and as a business owner, it has to be—you need a full-featured calendar, preferably one that integrates with all the other productivity tools you use on your mobile device. That’s where Sunrise excels: All your favorite apps work seamlessly with your Sunrise calendar, so you never miss a deadline, due-date, reminder, or notification. Pair it with your Evernote app, and you’re well on your well to much more efficiently managing your time and tracking your productivity.

Spark – Free (iOS and Apple Watch only)

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Image via iTunes

It’s a well known fact that email is one of the biggest time sucks in your day; one study suggests that the average American worker spends over six hours a day on email. Spark is the smart inbox that can tell if an email is personal, a newsletter, a notification—you get the idea—and groups them together for batch processing with an intuitive gesture-based interface. You can snooze your inbox and set it to alert you if something important comes up. You can even create a library of one-tap quick replies so you can respond to an important email on the go. You can even dictate a response if you don’t feel like tapping one.

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If that’s not reason enough to love Spark, it also integrates with your favorite work apps like Evernote, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, and it incorporates natural language smart search so you can easily find whatever you need from your inbox. Need to find that attachment from Sue? You can search “attachment from Sue” to find it. There are also personalization and customization options with a host of widgets.

Slack – Free

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Image via iTunes

This is pretty much the ultimate communications app for a busy team of co-workers. Slack is wildly popular with the multitude of companies who use it, and like most of the business apps on our list, it integrates seamlessly with the most valuable tools and services you use. Slack lets you communicate in real time with co-workers, in groups or one-to-one messages, and share documents, images, and videos. It also has a robust search function so you can find everything related to anything you care about. Get your teams started with Slack and you may find you’ve replaced internal email completely—and how cool would that be?

Cloze – Free (paid premium options available)

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Image via iTunes

 

Have you ever forgot the name of that marketing VP you met in Chicago? Or maybe you can’t remember the last time you touched base with Josie, the potential client who requested a case study. If that sounds like you, you’ll want Cloze. Cloze is a virtual personal assistant tool that searches all your apps and matches all your contacts with every interaction you’ve had with them—phone calls, emails, meetings, social media interactions, document exchanges, even your notes on Evernote—so all their details are right at your fingertips. It even lets you search the way you think: You can type in “VPs in Chicago” and you’ll find your elusive marketing contact with ease.

Upgrade to the Pro version and connect Cloze to your mobile provider for automatic call logging. You also get features such as notifications when a contact opens an email or clicks on a link, reminders when it’s time to reach out to a contact, an easy-to-read agenda view, and complete company history views that show all your interactions with everyone in a particular organization.

Toggl Time Tracker – Free (premium Pro plan available)

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Image via iTunes

If you need to track your billable hours for clients or just want to get a better idea of how you are spending your day, you’ll appreciate Toggl. Toggle the timer with a tap and log your billable time to the second; you can create virtually unlimited projects and clients and even sync your time reports with most project management tools such as Trello, Asana, and Basecamp.

Toggl also works great for teams working on multiple projects; it creates awesome color-coded reports so you can see where your group is spending its time. Separate billable from non-billable time, assign time across multiple clients and projects, and export your sheets to clients in easy-to-read pdfs to support your invoicing.

TripIt Trip Planner – Free (Pro upgrade available)

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Image via iTunes

If you’re a regular traveler, you know it’s a pain to keep track of all your frequent flyer numbers, itinerary and confirmation numbers, seat assignments, schedules—the list is long and unappealing. TripIt takes the place of an administrative assistant and compiles complete itineraries for you by combing through your emails and extracting the essential information. You really don’t have to do a thing; it recognizes most travel vendors, including third-party sites such as Hotwire and Travelocity, and what it misses, you can simply forward to the app straight from your inbox.

TripIt syncs with your calendar apps, too, and prepares complete itineraries, including check-in times, with step-by-step directions and maps, all of which are available offline, a real lifesaver for frazzled travelers searching for WiFi. Upgrade to the Pro version and get real-time flight alerts, points and mileage tracker, seat tracker, and flight finder.

Buffer – Free (paid plans available)

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Image via iTunes

If you’re doing any social media marketing—and frankly, who isn’t?—Buffer is a must-have for managing your profiles and posts and keeping on top of your social analytics. Buffer lets you schedule your posts up to a week in advance and even suggests optimal times to post based on when your followers are most active. Most small business owners find that once they get in the habit of Buffer-ing their social media presence, they not only save considerable time, they are able to focus more on the social aspect of social media: Engaging with their audience, responding to comments, and joining the social conversation.

The free version is for individual users, but you can upgrade to the Awesome plan or the Small Business plan and manage up to 25 accounts with 2,000 scheduled posts, RSS feed integration, and team contributions for up to five team members.

Workflow – $2.99

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Image via iTunes

This handy app automates many of your most frequently performed tasks, saving you time and aggravation. More versatile and powerful than IFTTT and Launch Center Pro, Workflow comes pre-loaded with over 200 common actions and has simple drag-and-drop capabilities to easily create your own custom workflows for tasks you do often. You can launch tasks from within the Workflow app or within apps using the Action Extension. There’s also a Today widget to really crank up your efficiency.

Another reason we like Workflow is that it plugs into other business apps like Evernote and DropBox. True mobile independence for business owners is a real possibility when all your apps play well together on your mobile device.

GoToMeeting – Free (subscription plans available)

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Image via iTunes

This is pretty much the simplest way to host virtual meetings with multiple stakeholders; just issue an invitation and the recipient clicks a link to join. No messy punching in phone numbers and access codes, just a tap to connect. Set up and name a private meeting room for recurring meetings and attendees can join just by searching for your You can also share screens, share “presentership,” video conference, or even chat within the meeting app. You have the option to record all or portions of the meeting, as well.

GoToMeeting also plugs into your calendaring app to schedule events, alerts, and reminders. It’s part of the GoTo suite of products that also includes GoToTraining and GoToWebinar, which are worth a look for certain businesses.

Slice – Free

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Image via iTunes

If you do a lot of online shopping for supplies or materials for your business, you’d probably appreciate a way to know where your packages are at all times and when prices drop for an item you bought, especially if you are eligible for a low-price guarantee refund. Slice does all that and more, connecting to your email accounts to automatically extract shipping information and track it in real time on a clean, attractive map interface. It tracks shipments from all the major carriers, including FedEx, DHL, UPS, and USPS, and sends push notifications to keep you up to date.

It also sorts and manages your online receipts, categorizing them and tracking totals using visual displays like charts and graphs so you know how your purchasing compares to your budget. The Price Drop alert lets you know if a purchase you recently made is eligible for a refund based on a new lower price on the web, a feature small business owners really appreciate.

 

That’s our list for the 12 essential apps for business and we think you’ll find that each of these apps really delivers on its time-saving, productivity-enhancing promises. As a result, you can focus your efforts on making more money. You might not need every one of these apps for your particular business, but it’s definitely worth giving the freebies a try—you never know how useful a business app can be until you use it for awhile.

What personal productivity and business apps do you have on your mobile device that you can’t live without? Share your suggestions and recommendations in the comments below and let’s start a conversation.

 

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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