Apps keep this mobile world rolling along, and they play a vital role in helping small business owners stay effective and competitive while on the road. With 1.2 million apps in Apple’s iTunes store, there are plenty of unsung heroes—apps that are worth your while, but most likely have escaped your attention.
The following are 10 lesser-known iOS apps that I use regularly, both in my small business as well as for personal reasons. I list them here in alphabetical order.
10 Unsung iOS Apps
This free camera app combines two great features: (1) a self-timer with countdown notification for selfies or group shots (with your iPhone on a tripod); and (2) a time lapse mode, which lets you take a series of shots one after the other. When you use both features together, you can take an entire series of self-portraits, which is great if you’re taking your own LinkedIn portrait or just goofing around with co-workers or friends.
Liberate your mailbox from unwanted catalogs and other junk with this free app. After setting up an account, you can use PaperKarma to snap a photo of the offending mail’s address label. The app’s minions will contact the mailer on your behalf and tell them to nix the junk mailings. You can view the status of your requests within the app, too.
Figure 1: PaperKarma
This free app lets you snap a photo or use one from your iOS camera roll and turn it into a postcard that’s sent via snail mail to one or more recipients. It’s an ideal way to send a personalized thank-you card to professional or personal contacts. Example: If you hit it off with a new business contact, you could take a selfie with them, and then send them a thank you Postagram later with the photo. Sending a Postagram costs $1 in the U.S. and $2 outside the U.S., but those prices include postage. And each Postagram includes a pop-out 3 x 3 photo.
An excellent GPS app with turn-by-turn directions and it's yours for free. Among the many features I like is the ability to search for a point of interest while I'm following a route in the app. So if you’re riding along the highway and feel sudden caffeine cravings, you can do a quick search to find the nearest Starbucks and add it to your existing route.
There’s also a Share ETA feature that I love. At the beginning of your route, tap the Share ETA button to quickly send someone an email or text, and the app calculates when they can expect you. Recipients receive a link to let them track your progress, too.
You'll find plenty of free GPS apps, such as Waze and Google Maps—each with its benefits and drawbacks. Scout is my current favorite because it’s easy to use and gives me good directions.
Figure 2: Scout
Perhaps one of the most indispensable apps available, and yet you don’t have to pay for Slydial. In a nutshell, the app lets you dial directly into someone’s voicemail and leave a message instead of actually, you know, having to talk to them. It’s all about being efficient with your time, of course, and not about being anti-social. One thing that concerns me, however: the app hasn’t been updated since August 2013.
This free app is much more than just a replacement for Apple’s anemic iOS Calendar app. It’s more like a virtual assistant that keeps you clued into what’s going on during your busy day. For example, the app links with social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The benefit is that as you go into a meeting with, say, Michelle Obama, you could get up to speed on what she’s been doing via her tweets and Facebook status updates. The app makes it easy to join conference calls without having to enter passcodes; get maps and directions to your appointments; and a lot more.
This free app is the best software I’ve found for tracking billable time. And trust me; I’ve blown through at least four other time trackers. I like Toggl because it works as an iPhone or as an iPad app. It includes free desktop software for Windows and Mac, and everything syncs to your Toggl account online. The free version gives me all the features I need, but some businesses may need to opt for the $5 monthly plan—which is still a great bargain.
This app will set you back $2, but it's a big improvement over the iPhone’s free Voice Memos app. It captures much better quality audio recordings; gives you the ability to choose from different quality settings; works with external microphones; and more. In-app purchase features add fast, slow, rewind, and forward buttons (a necessary $1 purchase), an audio trimming tool ($1), and an audio boost feature ($2) that reduces noise and boosts the audio quality of a distant speaker’s voice (such as a presenter in a conference room).
Are you a light sleeper? You'll love this $2 app, especially when traveling and your routine has been thrown upside down. You can choose from more than 40 sounds, including Ocean Waves Crashing, Rain on Car Roof, Rain Storm, Camp Fire, Frogs at Night, and Clothes Dryer. Maybe I’m unimaginative (or just really a high-maintenance sleeper), but I prefer the plain and simple White Noise. You can also get the free White Noise Lite app, which includes far fewer sounds (but does include the titular sound).
Figure 3: Yahoo News Digest
Unlike most news aggregators, Yahoo’s free app—made for the iPhone and iPod touch—is updated just twice daily, in the morning and early evening. You get a curated list of the top 10 news stories, each served up in a format that’s easy to navigate and to read on a small iOS screen. The app augments the mercifully brief articles with relevant tweets, maps, Wikipedia entries, and such. This is a great app for those times when you’re standing in a long grocery store check-out line.
James A. Martin is a marketing consultant specializing in SEO, social media, mobile apps, and business blogging. Follow him on Twitter and Pinterest.
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