According to a report published in early November 2008 by Canalys (canalys.com/pr/2008/r2008112.htm) Apple has surpassed RIM and Microsoft to become the second largest smartphone provider in US and the world. In addition, JD Power and Associates released a survey indicating that the iPhone ranks highest in terms of customer satisfaction (jdpower.com/Business/ratings/smartphone-ratings). Apple received a score of 778 out of 1000. (By comparison, Blackberry received a 703 and Samsung had a score of 701.) What’s interesting is that this was not a survey of general consumers; the survey was titled “Business Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction.”
Apple must be pleased with these results. One of the reasons they introduced the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade was to make their phone more attractive to business/enterprise users. One of the most important enhancements was support for MS Exchange. Suddenly, business users were able to use their iPhone to access Outlook and Entourage info available on corporate Exchange Servers. However, it was the ability to install third-party software on the new iPhone that really opened up the device to business/enterprise users.
Big league business apps
Since the introduction of the iTunes App Store the number of business oriented applications has been growing. Here are some of the big league players:
Free (but the user must have a Salesforce.com license)App Store Category: Business
Salesforce Mobile lets you quickly access all of your Salesforce information via the iPhone. You can view and edit your Salesforce records, including Accounts, Opportunities, Leads, and Custom Objects. You can create new records, delete old ones, and log activities and meetings.
$69.99 App Store Category: Business
FMTouch lets you import your FileMaker database files to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Once there, you can view and edit them, create new records, and sync them back to the FileMaker database on your laptop or desktop. Unfortunately, it has a $69.99 price tag, and that’s in addition to the cost of FileMaker on your laptop or desktop.
Salesforce Mobile and FMTouch are two of the most well-known business apps available for the iPhone. The rest of the article will look at a few applications which are not as well known, but have the potential to greatly improve the productivity of business users.
$9.99; App Store Category: Finance
I don’t do a lot of business travel, but when I do I HATE having to keep track of my expenses. JetSet makes expense tracking simple and intuitive. And since it is resident on your iPhone, it is always with you, helping to ensure that every expense will be recorded in real time. In addition, at the end of a trip, JetSet makes organizing your expense records simple.
The app includes 15 different expense categories and many more sub-expense categories. This means you can quickly add a new expenditure with a few quick taps. The built-in business calculator makes it easy to split costs, add tips, etc. JetSet even lets you attach a picture to new expenditures, which means that you can take a photo of a receipt as soon as you get it, and include an electronic copy of it with your expense report—no more lost receipts! The images are also stored as part of the Photo Album so they are easily synced to your computer.
JetSet makes it easy to prepare an expense report by listing items in categories. In addition, it includes powerful integration with Google Docs and Microsoft Excel. Expense reports can also be prepared on the iPhone and e-mailed to the appropriate person using the Mail app.
The program includes a database of airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies (including phone numbers and Web links). It can also grab information from the Contacts app, making it easier to attach contact information to expenses. JetSet is a powerful, feature rich, and intuitive program that takes excellent advantage of the iPhone’s powerful capabilities.
Growing number of business apps
Many other business apps are worth taking a close look at:
($9.99; 37signals.com) lets business professionals access calendar events, reminders, journal entries, and information stored in their Backpack account. The application even allows users to post Backpack journal entries to Twitter!
($9.99; 37signals.com) lets you manage contacts and tasks stored in the Highrise CRM service.
($9.99; chapura.com) lets Outlook users sync their tasks with their iPhone or iPod Touch.
(Free and $9.99 versions; saysoftware.net) lets you keep your Google calendars in sync with your mobile device.
($1.99) keeps you in sync with your Google contacts.
In addition to the titles listed in App Store’s Business category, many of the titles listed in other categories (Travel, Weather, Healthcare & Fitness, Productivity, etc.) are directly or indirectly helpful to business users.
Apple introduced the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 2.0 update to make the device more appealing to consumers and open up the device to business users. The ability to install third-party apps was a big part of Apple’s strategy, and the ever growing number of titles available through the App Store is contributing to its success.
Evernote is a superb electronic notebook Web service and application that’s great for storing Web clippings, e-mail, and more. I wrote about it in the first issue of iPhone Life and mention it again because a series of updates have made it one of the most important productivity tools I use. The more important enhancements include the ability to edit plain text notes, store notes on the iPhone for off-line access, and the improved stability and speed of the app.
In addition, I appreciate Evernote’s ability to automatically sync notes between different computers. I can start a note on my iMac, continue working on it on my MacBook, and finish editing it on my iPhone. Best of all, no matter which device I am using, I always have the most current version of the text available.
Evernote is so valuable that we’re now using it to track pastoral issues at our synagogue, with all of the members of the clergy sharing a single account. The Evernote iPhone app is free, as is the basic Web service. We use their “Premium” service, which is available for $5/mo or $45/yr and includes 500 MB of data upload and priority OCR scanning.