My Top 10 picks for iOS productivity apps

My Top 10 picks for iOS productivity apps

Summary: As a guy who spends a fair amount of time on the road, I need to be productive when mobile. Read on to see my top 10 productivity apps for iOS

TOPICS: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad

These days I'm on the road a lot. That means that I rely on my iPhone and iPad more than most people. To that end, people always ask me what my must-have iOS apps are. Below is a list of my current top 10 apps that keep me productive.

If you ask most sales people or people that travel a lot, they'll tell you that filing expenses is a pain. This is where TurboScan comes in. Gone are the days of carrying a ton of receipts around. Instead, either at the time that you're handed the receipt or shortly thereafter, launch TurboScan, put the receipt on a surface and then take a picture of it. TurboScan then offers a variety of options, including cropping to the area you want to capture, taking pictures in color, rotating the image, and more. In my case, I launch the app, take as many pictures as needed, name the session and then forward it as a PDF. I then verify that the PDF ended up in my e-mail and toss the paper receipts. All that's left after that is filing the expenses, but now I don't have to worry about a misplaced receipt.

I'm a practitioner of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD). As a result, I'm all about categorized lists. I think I've probably used just about every Todo list program on the market, not to mention having created my own from time-to-time. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, so I used to always end up gravitating back to a plain, electronic piece of paper. Well, thanks to Wunderlist, that habit is finally in the past.

What's special about Wunderlist is that you can easily create a task or a list. From there you can move your tasks around, add new lists, add notes to a task, due dates, flags, and more. The best part, though, is that Wunderlist works on every platform out there. There's a great Mac client, that just happens to look and function just like the web-based one, and there are mobile apps for every platform. In addition, the offline support is perfect, allowing you to go through all of your tasks, move them around, and then sync back up to the cloud. You also have the ability to share a list with friends. There are some things I would improve with Wunderlist, like the ability to put a task into more than one list, and support for attaching documents to a task, but for now, Wunderlist is 99 percent what I need. By the way, the company is teasing the release of Wunderlist 2, which will feature a completely overhauled experience on all platforms, so stay tuned.

If you bill your time, or are just curious where all of your time is being spent during the day, look no further than OfficeTime. The iOS App couldn't be easier to use--the only hard part is remembering to use it.

In all seriousness, it's incredibly useful. To start OfficeTime you launch the app and then either prep it with projects beforehand, or add them effortlessly, on the fly. For example, imagine that you're about to start working on a project. You simply launch the app, tap new session and then tap start. That's really all you have to do to start tracking your activity. Later you can assign a project to the task you just started tracking, and even go into more detail about the project, if you so desire. You can also email your report directly from your iOS device, as an Excel doc, Numbers, and more.

I bill some of my time to projects so this has been a great way to not only see how much time I've been spending, but also see where my time went during the day.

I've used a number of products in the past to track my time, including ones that run in the background on my computer and record each time I switch programs or windows. OfficeTime works well for me since I can effortlessly track my time and then sync to the cloud or create a report all from the app.

Gmail / Sparrow
When I first started writing this article, I had Sparrow listed here. Not too long ago, Sparrow was acquired by Google (link), and now Google has released a new and improved Gmail client for iOS. The reason it makes my list is that it has support for multiple Gmail accounts, labels, archiving, and just about everything you can do on your desktop. I especially like its offline abilities, since I tend to compose, file, and overall manage my email while in flight, and then sync up once I land.

As for Sparrow, you can still download the latest version, which lets you input any e-mail account you want, not just Gmail.

If you tend to be on your iOS device and still need to stay in touch on Google Talk, VTok is my preferred app. Like all of the apps in this list, VTok is effortless to use. You launch the app, put in your GTalk username and password, and then start chatting up your friends. It includes support for status messages, and runs in the background, so you can do other things on your iOS device and then receive an alert when someone is chatting you. Recently I was on a conference call and was still able to chat with my co-workers while participating on the conference call, all from my iOS device. Another great feature is the support for free video and voice calls to your Google contacts over Wi-Fi and 3G. That's actually how I first was introduced to it, since FaceTime used to be a Wi-Fi only option, and Skype required Skype on both ends.

Good Reader
I've written about Good Reader in the past, and it continues to be a must-have app for me. These days I not only use it for opening and reading documents, but I also load it up with all types of media before hitting the road. Most days I have a bunch of Word Docs, PDFs and PowerPoints that I'd like to read, left open on my computer. Now, before I go mobile, I connect my iPad mini to iTunes, and drag over PowerPoints, PDFs, Word Docs, and even videos, to the Good Reader app in iTunes. Then when it's finally safe to turn on electronic devices, I catch up on my reading, or movies, by just taking my iPad out of the bag and launching Good Reader. I also use Good Reader to store documents that I want to save on my iOS device.

With all of the noise still going around about Apple Maps, I find Scout to be indispensable. I've written about Scout in the past, and it continues to be a daily use app for me whenever I'm on the road. The interface is easy to use, and the app grabs real-time traffic, does spoken directions, and even updates and reroutes on the fly. Most days you can even get the full app for either a discount or free. In my case, I paid $10 for it for a year, and it's well worth the money.

This is one of those apps that I use daily, even when not on the road. I mentioned about how I sync documents and media to Good Reader. Well, Instapaper is even easier to use. Just install the plug-in to your browser, or e-mail articles to yourself, and the Instapaper app does the rest. You can instantly read through all of the articles that you saved to Instapaper, whether on or offline.

I'm a daily Google Reader user. I have more RSS feeds than I can handle, so over the years, I've moved them into a variety of different categories for easy skimming. To that end, an app like Newsify is a must for me. While the Google Reader web-based interface does a great job, Newsify presents your feeds like a magazine, similar to Flipboard. What's different, though, is that Newsify has great offline support. This way I can catch up on all of my news while disconnected, which I tend to enjoy doing not just on a plane, but after a long work day. It also allows me to bring all of my Google Reader categories mobile, so I can instantly switch to feeds about Technology or Lifestyle, in one click.

Hulu Plus
Speaking of disconnected, I was a user of Netflix until I discovered the magic of Hulu while traveling. For just $8 a month, approximately 12 hours after my favorite shows air, I can enjoy them on my iOS device. I should mention that not all shows will show up on your iOS device, but there's enough to choose from that I find myself watching Hulu Plus to catch up on a lot of the shows I've missed. I also enjoy browsing some of the older shows or highlighted clips. The interface is super easy to use, so if you watch TV with any regularity, this app is the ultimate for keeping up with your favorite shows while on the road.

Do you have your own list of favorite apps? If so, share it below.

Topics: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • Wunderlist...

    I used Wunderlist to share my purchase list with my wife between our devices (2 iphones, 1 ipad, 1 MBA, 1 Imac).
    If graphically nice, the app was so slow to refresh and used even to make the MBA get mad with Processor and Mem usage.
    Just for a simple text list...
    But the showtopper was the terrible sync between the devices. It had to be done manually as most of time there were misses between the devices, and other times doublons...

    I switched to Things 2, that uses a cloud sync service that is very efficient. And light...
  • Taking notes and sending structured reports with ipad

    iTakeNotes has been released on the appstore recently: the principle is to formalize notes during the meeting and get a meeting report as soon as the meeting is over in pdf and in .txt if you want to review the format. They provide audio recording and camera so as not to lose any data during the meeting. The app exists in english and french and a spanish version is on its way, it is a very productive tool for those who spent desperate time formalizing their meeting notes.
    • I dont think you are doing real work

      If you were doing real work you wouldn't be using a toy.
      probably you just want to make a fashion statement to impress your boss and get a raise.

      The true is you got your ipad to get wealthier, is a well known fact that people using Apple OSX have a superior income...
      • you bet I am

        I am doing a real work in consulting and I spend long time in meetings and more time after those meetings assembling notes in a report and getting sign off from every one. That's how I got the idea of iTakeNotes.
        Seriously I have been using it in all my meetings recently and believe it or not, it saves me a LOT of time. Also recording the conversations and using them to refine the minutes is very productive. I have also used it for making business reviews, using the pre formatted template just saved me some time.
  • love OfficeTime

    I have used the Mac OS version for 7 years. Excellent product and very good support.
  • Mail

    I have numerous (>10) gmail accounts that I take care of (multiple NPO's/boards/blah, blah, blah). Although I have and use gmail for iOS, I have found that the built-in Mail client works just fine and as of today still seems to be nicer to work through than gmail. I would love to hear someone's thoughts on why one is better than the other, just because I haven't really felt a big difference.

    Calendar is essential for managing appointments/meetings/etc., and integrates with all my google (and other) calendars. Is there a better calendar app?

    As for to-do's, Remember The Milk is great, especially because sharing and sending to/from my assistants is easy.

    One thing I keep wishing for and waiting for but I still have yet to see is a replacement for the ancient Palm. I have yet to find a suite of calendar/to-do/contact/note/expense/etc. apps that integrate WITH EACH OTHER. When I look at Joe's contact sheet, why can't I see all the events/notes/to-do's/etc. that involve Joe?

    Is there such a beast, or am I still stuck without?
  • Miss Palm Apps Too

    @ m0o0o0o0o

    +1. Yes, I miss these as well. Not found as good a suite as the Palm apps you mention.
  • All in one app to manage your business activity

    Hi, in the past, I used Wunderlist because I am a fan of GTD method, but for some months now I use Beesy which takes a good part of the GTD method but also includes all my professional tools in one app (calendar , appointment, meeting, report, manage my tasks, tracking my projects ...) In addition, it syncs with Evernote which to me indispensable, otherwise Good Reader is great!
    CM Conseil
  • App for managing documents on the road

    Hi from Neat! We wanted to comment because we firmly believe it is crucial that we provide consumers and small businesses with tools that enhance their productivity and provide simple ways to manage personal information effectively. Our new NeatCloud and NeatMobile services offer useful features beyond remote back-up, such as sync, sharing, and collaboration, and reporting functionalities, which we believe are key components of a comprehensive cloud-based information management solution. Our Digital Filing System provides users with a holistic way to acquire, access, back-up and share important information from anywhere. To learn more check out:
  • IOS For Games, Android For Productivity

    The recent Ars Technica smartphone review does a good job of summarizing the pros and cons of both the major mobile platforms. Apple is known for good 3D hardware, but Android has the integrated Intents system which makes sharing information between apps work better than any other platform--essential for anything productivity-related.
    • Fine, if you think that, but....

      ...where are all the top class Amdroid productivity apps if what you say is true. By top class, I would include well designed, optimised for form factor and covering the widest catagories of productivity ie not just note taking and filing system apps, also strength in depth.
      Not trolling you, am interested since we have both os's in the house and finding that matching the wide variety of ios is pretty impossible. Also, functionality is pretty much a wash IMO.
  • Total productivity in one app

    For those looking for a superior productivity app that does it all, instead of hopping between a clutter of one-trick-ponuy apps, please take a look at LifeTopix:
    Whether you are a parent, professional, or a productivity hero, it is simple enough for your daily lists, notes, tasks, and more — and powerful enough for your most challenging home and work projects.
  • GTD - Task Manager for Evernote users

    Application that sync with Evernote notes and allow user create Task out from it ?

    Yes this is possible and now it's on market !
    Check it here

    For more information go to webpage
    Marek Kulesza
  • NOTESDECK for notes! Evernote Simplenote Dropbox and iCloud in one app.

    I'm using NotesDeck right now - so my notes show up on all my devices instantly (iPad, Mac and iPhone). NotesDeck syncs with Evernote and Dropbox and Simplenote (!!!) so all my notes from other apps are already in it.

    So much cleaner than that yellow Notes app. Much more professional. ---->
  • Kanban for 1

    Kanban for 1 is a productivity app based on personal Kanban, a way of managing people's personal productivity, reducing the stress of doing too many things at once and generally approaching the day in an organised and effective manner.

    Since multitasking is usually inefficient, to say the least, personal Kanban is designed to help people tackle one thing at a time, while visually tracking their progress of work, or through tasks, from start to finish.

    More info on:
  • I use to improve productivity on the road

    This app on iPad and iPhone allows me to access any file from my remote PC or Mac, cloud drives like Dropbox, Google Drive or Email attachments like Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Best of all this app is free in the app store. You can check more details at
  • This is a must have. iDailyPlan

    I would suggest to take a look at iDailyPlan. It's fantastic and full of functionalities... Cash flow, Planning with Calendar, Tasks and a lot of things fundamental for business. I found it here
  • An extra app on this list

    Great article Joel. We have developed the Braintoss app (now iOS only) specially for the people who are always on the road like you. For example when driving/cycling (we are Dutch) you can drop your thoughts straight into your inbox (in one click) and simply enjoy life away from a keyboard. People are always in the run and multitasking and I am sure you have gone through that one time where you forgot something and after a while trying to think what is it again. Braintoss is answers this problem where you can speak, snap or type your thoughts and Braintoss will send it to your inbox! :) See
    Sonia Harjani
  • New app in Time Management Magazine

    Hi Joel,

    You should keep an eye on Beesy, I saw on Time Management Magazine that they offer new features like actions templates, drag & drop to organized note (agenda/participants),1 clic to generate meeting minutes and sync all data with DropBox and Evernote. You can also find an article on AppStorm, it's really an interesting productivity app!
  • SmartTM is for me the best one!

    I use SmartTM app and I find it the most effective, efficiend and smart task manager ever. SmartTM totally changed my approach to task management, before I tought that TM is really hard to implement, but with SmartTM I started using GTD in a one week, and with success!