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Monday, 18 March 2013 22:03

7 Must-Have (Free) Mobile Apps to do Your Job Better

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In the six short years since Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s iPhone to the world—with his famous 4,000 Starbucks lattes prank—smartphones have become for many people, an absolute necessity in their lives.


The smartphone may also well be the most important productivity tool in—and out of—the office. This year an estimated 200 million workers will tap into mobile business apps to collaborate and conference, access and edit docs, check email, chat and more on the go. 

But there’s one dirty little secret: Most mobile business apps kill more time than they save. I preview hundreds of apps on the job at HootSuite, a social media management tool used by Fortune 100 companies, mom-and-pop businesses and five million users around the globe. And I see countless apps that make big promises and don’t deliver. They’re non-intuitive, with clunky interfaces. They have tiny user bases and no customer support. They make simple tasks - like making a to-do list - ridiculously complex. 

But the best of the bunch really do make working on the go easier. These seven free mobile business apps - a mix of tried-and-true classics and road-tested upstarts - merit a spot in the phone of any office warrior this year.

Brewster: Instant Rolodex - Between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - not to mention your email client - you likely have hundreds, if not thousands, of colleagues and customers you interact with. Brewster is a handy mobile app that pulls in contact info and other details from all of those platforms and creates eye-catching, in-depth profiles for each and every person. Using a “relationship algorithm,” the app automatically sorts contacts into “favorites,” “trending” and other lists, and even sends out gentle reminders when you’re falling out of touch with someone. Another benefit: Brewster is fully searchable - not just by name, but keyword, location and even photo. 

Here on Biz: Meet your LinkedIn contacts in real life - Virtual connections are great, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. With Here on Biz, you can instantly see which of your LinkedIn contacts (as well as other LinkedIn users) are physically nearby, segmented into visitors and locals. Request a connection and you can chat directly via the app, ideally setting up the kind of in-person encounter that gets results. Here on Biz proves especially useful at conferences when trying to make sense of a sea of new faces and maximize meeting time. The app is free to use, though it is somewhat limited by the fact that only LinkedIn users actually running the Here on Biz app show up in searches. 

HootSuite: All your social media, anywhere - Yes, HootSuite is my company. But it’s not just fatherly pride when I say HootSuite Mobile is an amazing app for handling social media on the go. Just like the web version, the app allows for publishing to all of your social networks - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc - from one interface. You can schedule messages for optimum times, attach files and photos and shrink links, all with a few taps. Advanced users can even set up streams for monitoring customer feedback on social networks, track clients and keywords across different platforms and more. But don’t just take my word for it. Says Mashable: “[HootSuite is] the premier dashboard for companies looking to get analysis of their social media efforts.” 

Dropbox: Your hard drive, anywhere - Here’s an oldie but goodie. According to urban legend, Dropbox was hatched back in 2007 when MIT grad and founder Drew Houston got fed up with always forgetting his memory sticks around campus. His solution: a seamless, cloud-based system to sync files across all of your devices. Just drag files or folders into the Dropbox folder, and they’ll sync across phones, PCs, laptops, tablets, etc., automatically. Edit from anywhere and changes are saved and synced (You can even access older and deleted versions of files). Dropbox gives you 2GB for free (or up to 18GB if you refer friends) and has paid plans for users with bigger needs. You can also designate certain files as favorites, making them available offline - especially handy for frequent flyers and off-the-grid travelers. 

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