Smartphone apps can be a massive drain on your wallet and time, or a powerful productivity tool; it’s all in the apps. Here are a few of the tools that can turn your smartphone into an asset, whether you’re trying to get more done at work, or just improve your personal life.
1. Dropbox (Android, iOS)
Dropbox is the easiest and most popular cloud-computing service available, and it’s a must-have if you find yourself stuck on public transportation or in a waiting room, with nothing but your smartphone. Dropbox allows you to drag-and-drop any files you want to work on into a shared folder, which you can access from any computer that has Dropbox. Being halfway to work and realizing you forgot to send in files from your home computer can be a major productivity drain; if you have Dropbox, you can start working on a file from home, finish it up from your smartphone on the way to work, and have it ready on your office computer by the time you arrive. Unless you need to edit videos or high-res graphics, you’re not likely to exceed the 2 GB offered with the free account. (Cost: free)
2. Sparrow (iOS)
Sparrow is probably the best mobile email client on the market—it’s slick, easy to use, and unlike other email clients (looking at you, Thunderbird), surprisingly quick and easy to set up. If you’ve never tried a unified email client before, you might not see the benefit of it; but once you set it up, you’ll wonder what you did without it. Especially for smartphones, where every task takes just a little longer than it would with a keyboard and mouse, running between multiple email services can be a huge waste of time, particularly if your job requires you to check email several times a day. Having it all filtered to one place can make a huge difference for your responsiveness and productivity. (Cost: free)
3. Evernote (Android, iOS)
This app is meant to be “an extension of your brain”. You can create task lists, to-dos, voice reminders, and save photos, all in a searchable database accessible from any number of devices. It’s great for budgeting, recipes, project management, brainstorming, lecture or seminar notes, and any other part of life that would benefit from a little organization. It has a distinctive, easy-to-use interface on both Android and iOS devices; a great all-in-one productivity app. (Cost: free)
4. TeuxDeux (Android, iOS)
Just taking the time to enumerate the day’s goals can be a powerful source of structure and purpose. If you want a pared-down, hipper version of Evernote, TeuxDeux is a great pick. This app is the mobile extension of the free TeuxDeux (pronounced “to-do”) browser service—it’s nice to have a to-do list on your laptop, but it’s a lot better to have it accessible wherever you go. TeuxDeux has a very simple, attractive interface, and you can set goals for a specific date in the future, as well as a “someday” option for longer-term, more abstract goals. The mobile app was designed with iOS in mind, so it can be buggy on certain Android phones—Samsung users reported having to refresh the app to display items, but LG phones seem to run it just fine. (Cost: $2.99)
5. QuickOffice (Android, iOS)
File format is a major obstacle in accessing your work files from your smartphone; QuickOffice allows you to access Microsoft Office documents and PDFs from any smartphone (including the iPhone). The app also includes a cloud-storage service, so you can access any file from any device you register. This app can be a great boost; the only reason it isn’t higher on the list is the price. (Cost: $14.99)
Julia Peterson is a writer for AndGeeks.com, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews on cell phones and related topics. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby.