Most of the business executives and technology professionals I know who have given up their BlackBerry over the past few years have switched to iPhone, and the industry numbers reflect that (even if some of them are now tempted by the Q10 to return to BlackBerry).
However, in 2013 I've been seeing a lot more professionals picking up Android phones. I don't know if that will be reflected as a larger trend in surveys or studies later this year, but since I've been getting more questions and requests for app advice from these professionals, I thought I'd put together a quick list of the first 10 apps they should download on these new Android devices they are using for business.
Something I haven't included on this list are corporate email/IM apps or office suite apps. Those are largely going to be based on what your company uses for its messaging and productivity software. Clearly, Google Apps users will want to download Google Drive and Microsoft Office users will want to download an office suite app like Docs to Go or Kingsoft Office.
I've been using an Android device as my primary business phone since January 2010 when I switched from a BlackBerry Curve to the Nexus One. I'm now on my fourth Android device, the Samsung Galaxy S4. Based on that experience, here is my list of 10 apps that most business users can benefit from when they are getting started on Android.
You can count me as one of the many business professionals who missed the BlackBerry's hardware keyboard when I moved to full touchscreen device — until I started using Swiftkey. Before Swiftkey, I simply didn't respond to as many emails on my touchscreen device as I used to on BlackBerry, and I saved emails that required a response of more than a line or two until I got back to my laptop. Swiftkey lets you swipe across the keyboard with one finger in the general direction of the letters you want to make up a word and then it predicts with startling accuracy the word you are making. SwitKey 4 finally turned me into a converted skeptic of this technique, and it's the main reason why I'm now writing longer emails on my phone again. In fact, I've gotten so used to Swiftkey's magic that I regularly have to stop and remind myself that I can't use its techniques when I switch over to my personal phone (an iPhone 5).
One of BlackBerry's other big advantages has always been BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), an advanced texting and mobile instant messaging client that offered status indicators on each message you sent so that you knew immediately if the message was received and/or read. Although BBM is now coming to Android and iOS this summer, there are now third-party apps that have the same functionality as BBM and are available across virtually all mobile platforms. The leader of the pack is Whatsapp. Oh, and it also works over your data connection so you don’t have to get ripped off by SMS charges.
3. Genius Scan
Smartphones have not only replaced most point-and-shoot cameras, but the cameras in smartphones can also replace most of the functions of two other technologies, scanners and photocopiers, once they are paired with the right app. Genius Scan is that app. With it, you can take photos of a multipage document, order the pages, turn it into a PDF and then save it to Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.net, Evernote or SkyDrive. Or, you can just print it or email it.
Obviously, you don't want to use this to store highly sensitive company information (unless you're using Evernote Business). But, Evernote can be a tremendously useful tool for note-taking and information retrieval. For example, I'll often use the mobile app to take notes at an interview with an expert or a lunch meeting, and then by the time I get back to my desk to write up an article or a business document, all of my notes are already synced back to the Evernote desktop app so I can immediately reference them or quickly copy-and-paste the parts that I need.
Tripit remains the best app I've found for keeping track of travel itineraries (although Google Now is starting to catch up). Part of Tripit's magic is that it's powered by some excellent backend systems that automate things for you. You simply forward your confirmation emails (or use the Gmail plugin to do it automatically) for your flights, hotels, rental cars, and reservations to email@example.com and it automatically organizes them into trips with all your details and confirmation numbers. Bonus app: Travelers can also use the Trip Advisor app to check the ratings of hotels, restaurants, and local sites.
If you work in the corporate world then you typically are going to track market performance and business developments, since the stock market is traditionally considered a future economic indicator. The Google Finance app gives you almost real-time updates on the various international stock markets and lets you set up portfolios so you can track market segments like tech or healthcare or aerospace and the most important companies in those markets. While it doesn’t offer all of the great data you can get on the web version of Google Finance, and some will argue that the Yahoo Finance app is better, the integration with Google Now and the nice Android widget make Google Finance my pick.
Linkedin used to just be an online resume network, but it has methodically added more and more business-friendly features to the point that it's become an indispensable professional tool. The mobile app in particular can help you quickly look up who to contact at a company or research a business associate that you're about to meet for lunch or quickly send a connection request to someone important you just met (before you forget their name at the end of the day). Linkedin has dedicated a lot of resources to improving its mobile apps recently, and with more people using the service to share links and updates, this is arguably the most valuable social media app for professionals.
Whether you're traveling on business in a new city or just trying to decide what to wear to work in the morning, the smartphone has become the go-to source of quick weather information. There are tons of weather apps and widgets on Android, but the one that offers the best combination of convenience and in-depth information is Accuweather. The app itself has in-depth meteorological data, hourly and daily views, maps, and video. But the two things that I like most about Accuweather are the temperature indicator that it sits in the upper left corner of the status bar and its handy half-page widget for at-a-glance weather information.
If you work in a growing, expanding business or a larger organization then there's an excellent chance that you now work with people in other countries and you have to overcome the language barrier — even if they speak some English (today's de facto international business language). Whether you're studying another language to help bridge the gap, translating documents or emails, or just quickly looking up translations to words or phrases, the Google Translate app will be a valuable resource.
10. Speed Test
Despite quad core smartphones with LTE chips and 2GB of RAM, we all still run into situations where our phones lag while doing simple things like loading web pages or sending files or downloading images. While it's easy to get frustrated with the phone, the problem is often with your connection — even if you've got five bars on your connection icon. The best way to quickly tell if you're being limited by your connection is to fire up the Speedtest.net app and see if you're experiencing any lag in Ping (latency) or Download/Upload speeds (bandwidth). This will tell you if your cell site is overcrowded or if your Wi-Fi connection is throttled or overloaded. Switching between Wi-Fi and mobile broadband or simply slightly changing location may solve the problem.