As of July 2015, you could choose from 1.5 million iOS apps and 1.6 million Android apps. Of course, quantity doesn't equal quality. Even so, there are thousands of good apps among the millions—many of them free—that can make your small business more productive, cost-effective, and competitive.
As a mobile apps reviewer, I'm always checking out the latest. Here are 10 free (and freemium) apps—in no preferential order—that every small business should consider.
Free Small Business Mobile Apps
1. Project Management: Trello
Freemium project management tool Trello (Android, iOS, the Web) is the digital equivalent of a whiteboard for organizing projects. You can dedicate each Trello board to a specific project. Within the board, you have lists. And within the lists, you have tasks. You can easily drag and drop tasks from one list to another; assign tasks to collaborators; and post comments and file attachments for other collaborators to see and act upon.
Trello will help you visualize all your projects and move pieces around as needed. Plus, you get so many useful features in the free version, you probably won't need to spring for a paid plan ($3.75/user/month and up).
Trello lets your organize projects into "boards" with lists and to-do items that you can share with collaborators.
2. Knowledge Database: Evernote
Every business needs information to run, from articles you find on the Web to email messages and paper documents. Evernote is the best all-around repository for organizing all this information.
Evernote is ubiquitous, with apps for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices, as well as the Web. The Evernote Web Clipper makes it easy to clip Web articles to a designated Evernote notebook. Evernote's mobile app, as well as its Scannable iOS app (free), make it easy to use a smartphone camera to capture and OCR paper documents and add them to your Evernote account. Everything is keyword-searchable and synched across all Evernote apps.
The free version offers plenty of features; it even lets you share notebooks with, as well as send in-app messages to, your collaborators. Paid versions start at $25/year/user, while Evernote Business costs $12/year/user.
3. Social Media Marketing: Hootsuite
Every small business needs to be on social media, at least to some degree. Yes, that sounds painful. But Hootsuite, a social media dashboard for Android, iOS, and the Web, removes a lot of the pain. Using its free plan, you can send one status update to three of your social media accounts simultaneously (or post different updates individually to each account).
Hootsuite connects to your company's Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ pages, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other networks. You can schedule status updates to run later, too. Pro plans ($10/month) include more features and analytics but, like the free plan, limit you to one team member. For multiple team members, you'll need an Enterprise plan (prices vary).
4. Team Chat: Slack
Slack, a popular real-time messaging tool for teams, runs on iOS, Android, Windows, Macs, and the Web. The free plan offers plenty of features for small businesses, including multi-team support and up to 10 integrations with other services, such as Dropbox. Slack lets you organize colleagues by project, department, or topic, and you can create private groups for confidential messaging. Slack has a free plan with plenty of features. Paid plans start at $6.67/user/month.
Slack, a free instant messaging tool designed for teams, offers lots of useful features.
5. To-Do List Management: Wunderlist
Microsoft recently acquired Wunderlist, a to-do list manager with native apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows desktop, Mac, and Google Chromebooks. Wunderlist is also accessible via the company's website and via plug-ins for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Sharing to-do lists with colleagues and assigning them tasks, is easy. Because Wunderlist constantly syncs across all apps, you can see when a colleague has completed an assigned task. You can group lists into folders by dragging one list onto another. The free version is more than enough for average users. If you require more capability, the $5-per-month paid plan provides an unlimited number of tasks per list, among other features; the Wunderlist for Business plan costs $5/user/month.
6. Time Tracking: Hours
Hours, a free iOS app, was one of the first time-tracking apps available for Apple Watch. On the Watch, you can tap a button to start, stop or switch a project's timer. You can also dictate notes to your time entries using Siri; adjust start and end times manually; view a currently running timer; and receive notification reminders to start or stop a timer. Apple Watch coolness aside, Hours is a full-featured iOS app that also now syncs time-tracking with FreshBooks.
The Hours time-tracking app lets you view, start, and stop timers for projects on an Apple Watch.
7. Marketing Content: Adobe Slate
Adobe's gorgeous (and free) Slate iPad app makes it oh-so-easy to create visually arresting, Flipboard-style online marketing content; design skills not needed. Turn just about anything—a newsletter, product brochure, Pinterest-like blog post, customer success story—into a visual presentation that you can share on social media or post on your website.
Slate integrates with iCloud photos, lets you embed email links in your presentations, and more. It doesn't support audio, however; for that, you should consider Adobe's equally sweet iPad app Adobe Voice (also free).
8. Business Travel: TripIt Pro
Recently, TripIt Pro saved me $81 by alerting me that the price for a flight I'd booked months ago had dropped in price. I contacted the airline—TripIt Pro even gave me the phone number—asked for a credit, and got it.
You'll need to pay TripIt Pro's $49 a year fee to get its "Flight Refunds" feature. But you get lots of other goodies, too, including real-time alerts regarding flight delays, cancellations, and gate changes; alternate flights, in case you need to change your itinerary quickly; and "Seat Tracker," which alerts you if a desired seat on your flight becomes available.
TripIt's free plan is a good starting point, as it organizes all your travel in one place; syncs with your calendar; and lets you share your plans via email or on social media. But if you're a frequent business flyer, you'll want to upgrade to TripIt Pro.
TripIt offers apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile.
9. Email: Spark
You can choose from about nine billion email apps (only a slight exaggeration), and I've tried many of them. I recommend Spark, a free iOS app with a useful Apple Watch extension.
Unlike many iOS email apps, Spark supports Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and iCloud. Spark lets you decide what actions will result from a left or right swipe across a message; most apps make that decision for you. Options include marking messages read/unread; deleting or archiving; or moving, pinning, or snoozing messages. You can have multiple email signatures and easily switch between them with a swipe.
Something else to love: Spark shows all your email attachments in one view and connects to multiple cloud accounts, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, OneDrive and iCloud. One downside: Swipe isn't optimized for iPads.
10. Leaving Voicemail: Slydial
Need to return a business call but don't have time to chat? Slydial is a free app for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. When you make a call via Slydial, your call goes straight to the person's cell phone voicemail immediately (U.S. only)—eliminating the risk that the person you're calling actually answers. Though the service is free, you may have to listen to an ad before being connected. Or you can pay $30/year to remove the ads.
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