Put these top-rated mobile apps to work for your business

By Andrew Kirk

The multitude of desktop apps to help business owners run their companies are nothing short of miraculous, but how many of those apps have good mobile versions?

And how many of those “there’s an app for that” ideas are actually worth the download and time to learn?

You’re not alone in wondering. There are dozens of articles recommending apps for professionals—but you don’t have the time to read all of them.

This is a topic the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce knows is important to the business community. It invited Beth Ziesenis, author of “The Big Book of Apps,” to speak at its March annual meeting and also held a breakout session on using technology to solve productivity problems.

Dallas DeCoria owns A Better View, which provides residential and commercial facility services in Tri-Cities. He said he loves Zubie for fleet management. He values how it automatically tracks his vehicles and provides a variety of data in reports.

Ben Anderson, owner of cnctNOW, which provides social media management in Tri-Cities, said he uses several apps for managing various social media accounts, bank accounts and Google services. He recommends Canva for making images for social media, Keep Notes for staying organized and Google My Business to optimize his presence on Google business searches.

Chris Nokes of Hot Mess Burgers & Fries food truck said he uses the Instagram and Facebook apps daily to promote his business and relies on Square Point-of-Sale for transactions. He also recommended Fiverr for creating logos.

There’s a reason Square is so omni-present: people love it. More than 112,000 people have rated it in Apple’s app store and given it an average of 4.8/5 stars. But perhaps you haven’t heard of PayPal Here POS. It’s slightly cheaper than Square and comes from PayPal’s stellar design team. With 4.5/5 stars (from more than 3,250 reviews) it’s less popular, but an option if you can’t or won’t use Square.

For accounting needs, some entrepreneurs rave over FreshBooks Cloud Accounting. With a 4.8-star average, more than 7,400 reviewers find it to be a useful app. Is it right for your business? Note the reviews praise its accessibility for users with minimal understanding of accounting. Also, that it has quite a few bugs, but they’re forgivable considering its ease of use. If one has a good understanding of accounting, the bugs are not worth the trade-off. Those who don’t need a simplified system much prefer the functionality and reliability of Quickbooks Accounting. Note it has 4.7 stars average from nearly 15 times as many reviewers. Quickbooks has a full suite of products with high reviews: Self Employed (4.6 stars), Go Payment Point-of-Sale (4.8 stars), Payroll (4.2 stars) and Connect (4 stars).

Invoice by Wave has a small but enthusiastic fan base (4.6 stars). It doesn’t replace the desktop version, but this mobile app allows quick access to points of data. For this, Wave fans are grateful. Candid reviews say Wave’s concept for the mobile version is admirable, but execution is faulty, with too many bugs. For invoicing exclusively on a mobile device this may not be the best choice. If seeking a competent desktop program with an app to check data or a status, Invoice by Wave could be useful.

Expensify: Receipts and Expenses (4.7 stars after more than 62,000 reviews) does something very difficult moderately well: it converts photographs of receipts into text documents. The transcription saves time, but then the app categorizes and codes the receipts as well. This allows for automatic submissions for expense reimbursement or instant reports. Expensify is popular with large corporations with hundreds of road warriors, as well as small startups. There are several apps boasting photo transcription and Expensify is rated among the best.

Slack (4.2 stars) is one of many apps offering office communication and collaboration solutions. No one app—either for desktop or mobile—seems to own the genre. Several offer similar features and it’s where they differ that people find their preference. Slack desktop and mobile allow the user to create several digital “rooms” for posting tasks, managing progress, communicating and sharing documents. This makes it a little tricky to set up, but once the right team members are together in the right place, the features are noted as easy to use.

For communicating, Skype (4.4 stars) is by no means the only option, but it’s arguably still the most popular. Its video conferencing tools are easy to use for meetings and job interviews. It also has excellent chat and messaging features. If an office uses it frequently for conferencing, Skype’s other communication and collaboration features may be adequate.

Asana: Organize Tasks & Work (4.7 stars) may be the most-recommended app by business bloggers. The desktop version is highly rated for task and project management and the app is fantastic for checking in. The few poor ratings appear to come from teams who have tried to use the mobile app exclusively for project management and found its functionality limiting. 

Evernote Notes Planner & Organizer (4.5 stars) gets enthusiastic ratings from users for its note sharing, table-creation features, editing capabilities and text formatting. Some reviewers complain the company offers zero customer service, saying emails and messages are never answered. Yet the features are so good, according to the positive reviews, the app is worth the hassle when bugs arise.

Some mobile apps are fantastically useful in personal lives, but lack features needed to use them for work, and vice versa. Trello Organize Anything (4.7) is beloved because it works for every situation. Reviewers report it’s great for managing grocery lists, pet medications, family after-school activities, as well as work projects. Project managers praise it as shoulders above the plethora of reminder apps and to-do list organizers. 

Basecamp (4.7 stars), like Skype, has been around a long time and is considered “adequate” by hundreds of companies. It offers sharable to-do lists, message boards, chat rooms, schedules, documents, check-ins and other features for tracking projects.

Mailchimp (4.8) survives in the competitive field of marketing apps because of its ease of use. Originally a newsletter service, Mailchimp today is an all-in-one marketing app allowing you to monitor various campaigns and audiences. The high ratings reflect the ease of checking on campaigns and allowing users to make adjustments.

Not every professional has to travel frequently, but those who do rave over Tripit: Travel Planner (4.8 stars average with 155,000 reviews). According to users, no other app beats its features for syncing every transportation, lodging and rental booking, confirmation and reservation into one place to manage all.

Also popular: Fuze for Business (conference calls, messaging, video conferences), RescueTime (time management), Proven (hiring), Wunderlist (to-do lists and task managers), Toggl (track your work time for better time management or to bill work hours), Nimble (relationship manager for prospective clients or hires), and LogMeIn (access your various work and personal computers from your phone), Airtable (lets you create your own organizational databases), DocuSign (no more faxing documents back and forth), Layout (lets you make photo collages for social media with low stress), Hoopla, and Overdrive (library apps allow users to consume audio books for free to stay on top of bestsellers and the buzz in your industry).

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