The first ten Android apps a professional should download

The first ten Android apps a professional should download

Summary: Business professionals are warming up to Android. For those picking up their first Android device, here are 10 highly useful apps to get you started.

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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.

1. Swiftkey

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).

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2. Whatsapp

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.

4. Evernote

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.

5. Tripit

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 plans@tripit.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.

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6. Google Finance 

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.

7. Linkedin

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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.

8. Accuweather

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.

9. Google Translate

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.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Software

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51 comments
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  • Thank you for not making this article into a PHOTO Gallery !

    I was able to assess the value of your recommendations with a single web page. Please share this technique with others at ZDNet as they seem completely at a loss on how to present a list without a Gallery of some sort !
    WhatsApp and Genius Scan look interesting. Thanks for the information.
    jkohut
    • Amen!

      The gallery format is almost always inappropriate for the material being "communicated." It only makes sense with data like astronomical images or other material where the image is the core content.

      I will almost always avoid a "gallery article." (A recent contribution to the list of all-time-best oxymorons!) A few contributors have gotten smart and do dual format presentations, but too few.

      Attention, contributors! You do not succeed in communications if your chosen format turns off your potential audience before they get started.
      mdwalls
    • Thanks as well

      I almost skipped reading this article.
      (I don't have/want a tablet or smart phone, my netbook does just fine, but I do try to keep up with the trends)
      radu.m
    • I agree too

      The gallery is terrible to navigate.

      Another good app is either HP eprint or Epson iPrint. It's useful to be able to print easily and you can do it over LAN or WAN. HP can also search and print to "public" printers I think.
      LarsDennert
    • There is a site that is worse than zdnet

      If you hate photo gallery, slideshow type presentation of articles, check out eweek - they have been so over-used, I just avoid that site altogether.
      mrdt
    • Couldn't agree more.

      If galleries are supposed to be click bait, would ZDNet be so kind as to calculate the hits on this page and weight in the glowing reviews of the format and compare with galleries? For a gallery, how do hits per page taper off?
      Beast Of Bodmin
    • Thank God

      The ability to read an article of a list of items on ZDNet without hitting the damn next button because its in stupid slide show format.
      Non-Euclidean
  • Completely Agree jkohut!!!`

    The gallery format is unbearable. Hard to even read articles on ZDNet.
    heathman
    • Lack of gallery should not mean lack of pictures

      Galleries are something, when used, should be contained within an article and not the article itself. I for one do like a lot of images - ideally thumbnails with pop out full pictures so that I can look at just the ones I am interested. With a subject like apps then function and form are both pretty important. I am just saying this because I wouldn't want authors ditching galleries altogether - I would just like to see them used properly
      cymru999
  • Photo gallery is horrible.

    Really appreciate that the whole article was on one page instead of 10+ clicks of photo gallery.

    BTW, google finance do seem to have some issue. It doesn't copy all of my stock details from the web version and shows only a subset. If that issue is resolved, it is a great tool.
    Still, I would call this list as the great 5 apps for Android. And use the first 5 of the list for those.
    dheerajnagpal
  • Data Usage

    3G Watchdog is the no 1 app I tell everyone to down load, the number 1 thing you dont want to do is go over your data usage & this has a fantastic easy to view widget.
    newwales
    • it may be a nice widget

      But this functionality is in the settings section of your phone. You can set the phone to issue a warning or stop using data at a certain point. It also shows you the biggest users of data over a week period, but you can also expand it over an entire month. You can even click on the programs and disable their data usage unless WiFi is available.

      Not sure why I would need an extra app for that.
      marque2
  • Decent list - Except for WhatsApp

    Overall this is a good list EXCEPT for WhatsApp.
    YOU BETTER know your corporate policy about who owns your contacts before installing an App that harvests them like WhatsApp.
    Personally I avoid doing business with business people who use WhatApp they do not get my personal phone number because of the way they scan and store your address book, your contacts as a business professional should be important to you. Just as the contacts of your competitors should be important to you. WhatsApp is to much of a liability.

    gTalk, or LiveProfile both would make a better tool though really email/SMS is the way to go because there isn't much on Android that isn't selling your info to the masses.
    Stephen_81
    • WhatsAapp - Stephen's comment

      I installed this as colleague wanted me to have it so he could send free messages. Once installed (and I did check what it was supposed to access first) I did another check and found it was so intrusive - I immediately, if not sooner, uninstalled it. Nuff said.
      brizone8
  • CamScanner should be on any business traveler's phone.

    Those darn receipts are too easily lost and scanning them to email with your expense report is a pain. Use CamScanner to take a picture of the receipt, as soon as you can after receiving it. CamScanner will intelligently enhance the picture, crop it, convert it to a pdf, and then send it to your DropBox, email it, or Skype it.
    billfly@...
  • I wonder if if there will me memory space for them all????

    Here's me cannot get Audible on my kids Samsung phone as it's reporting the memory is too low. There's hardly anything downloaded and it's reporting 30meg free and 144 meg is used. All of the apps that can be shifted to the SD card have been and I can't be bothered with this hassle any longer. I've given up on my Android phone completely (but still use my Asus tablet alongside ipad mini - I prefer the AV support, hdmi, and sd/usb slots for films etc)

    I'm using my Blackberry Torch for work and an iPhone for personal/work stuff too. It's just far easier to synch and maintain. Google will need to get a grip on the basics as far as I can see... Synchronisation is RUBBISH and App space is RUBBISH, lack of physical dock is RUBBISH. So... I'd swap my kids Android phone for an iphone right now but my wife won't let me.
    johnmckay
    • You may be ableto

      to free up some internal storage by removing the automatic updates to the preinstalled, non-moveable apps that aren't being used. When I hit the 15mb warning icon, I freed an extra 20mb on mine by getting rid of an update to Google Reader (now defunct) and YouTube (perfectly usable in the browser) - a box comes up saying you can continue to use the "factory" app and you have the storage back. Also worth getting something like CleanMaster (which is moveable to SD) to quickly unclog the accumulation of temporary junk in internal storage every few days.
      I2k4
  • swiftkey functionality is built into the stock android keyboard

    I prefer to type everything out but the keyboard on my Nexus 4 using Android 4.2 will allow you to swish around to spell words if you like. It works fairly well. If you type normally it gives word suggestions as well that you can just tap on in order to avoid spelling the whole word. What phone is this guy using?
    marque2
    • The Google Keyboard is also available via Play

      Like you, I use a N4, but to get the new Google Keyboard I had to go to the Play store and install it. Folks using older versions should be able to grab it. There are no version restrictions from what I can see and it integrates well with all apps.
      High Tech Troglodyte
    • Just because it's a Keyboard app...

      ... doesn't mean to say it's the same as (or built into) the Google keyboard app. Swiftkey has other functionally besides - the 'swish' functionality (Swyping) was only a recent development.
      Lost In Clouds of Data