Smartphone Apps to Save You Time and Money (part 1)

Lost? Need gas? Need to invoice a customer?
There’s an app for that.

According to a study by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, small business owners who use mobile apps save an average of 5.6 hours per week. The study
also showed that employees save an average of 11.33 hours
per week.

“Hours of paper-pushing, administrative work, customer research, extra driving trips and unproductive down-time due to, for example, a lack of access to key documents, add up very quickly,” says SBE Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan. “Mobile apps are allowing small business owners and their employees to get more time from their day and to focus on higher value work.”

The survey found that those small businesses are using:
• GPS navigation and mapping apps (68 percent)
• contact management (46 percent)
• remote document access (41 percent)
• travel planning (32 percent)
• banking and finance management (30 percent)
• social media marketing (27 percent)
• location-based services (23 percent)
• invoicing and time tracking (22 percent)
• delivery and shipment management (18 percent)
• expense tracking (17 percent) and
• processing credit card payments (13 percent).

To help navigate the thousands of apps available for businesses, we have researched and even tested some of these apps. The apps below are organized by category and will have a reviewer’s name if we were able to review it. Even if your phone isn’t listed, they may have expanded since publication. If you have an app that has saved your business time or money, then let us know by emailing Jennifer Taylor at jennifer@nasweeper.com.

GAS

GasBuddy(free) iPhone, Android, and Blackberry—Whether you have a small fleet of trucks or you just want to find the cheapest gas near you, this app is great. It shows you every gas station in your local area and its current prices per gallon.

GPS NAVIGATION AND MAPPING APPS

AroundMe(free) iPhone and iPad—This handy app uses your phone’s GPS to locate stores around you. Need a coffee fix? Click on the Coffee Shops tab and it will find all of the coffee shops around you. Other categories include: Apple Retail Stores, Banks/ATM, Gas Stations, Restaurants and even Weather. The downside is that the categories aren’t always comprehensive particularly for restaurants. Review by Jennifer Taylor.

Client Locator($4.99) iPhone—Once you set your destination on the map, you can see a list of clients in the area.

PRODUCTIVITY/TIME TRACKING

HoursTracker($2.99) iPhone—Track your hours for a particular job. Simply press the “Clock In Now” button to start the timer. It does have a handy manual entry function in case you forget. There are multiple viewing options to see where you’ve worked and for how long, and tallies your total time during that period. It has helped me track my time writing this article when I’ve remembered to use it. If you have multiple customers to see throughout the day, then it is a handy tool to have when you are billing by the hour or simply want to track your time. Review by Jennifer Taylor.

Clear($.99) iPhone—Make a to-do list in order of importance. If something becomes more important, then you can easily slid it up. Make several lists and cross them out as you finish. I really like this app especially when I finish a task and mark it off. Review by Jennifer Taylor.

Sales on the Go Helper($4.99 sale) iPhone—This app shows a person’s contact lists as pins on a map. It also allows you to keep a record of where you visited.

Shop Inspector($13.99) iPhone—The default app comes with 50 tests. It allows you to take pictures and record audio. The upgrade app allows you to create your own tests. If you have an iPhone 4S, then you can dictate your audit.

CONTACT MANAGEMENT

Business Card Reader($4.99) iPhone—Simply take a picture of a business card; the software will scan it, and its character recognition puts the right info into the right data fields for your phone’s contacts.

Business Card Reader—($9.99) Blackberry—Just take a photo of the business card and it is added to your contacts.

NOTE TAKING

Evernote(free) iPhone, Android, and Blackberry—Gather notes, voice memos, ideas, or snapshots on your phone, and the app syncs them with your computer (PC or Mac).

The app also offers a voice-recording module and takes advantage of the iPhone’s camera to snap photos of things you want to remember. It was ranked as one of PC Magazine’s top 10 business apps.

Total Recall($7.96) Android—Automatically or manually record calls, lectures or meetings, or leave yourself an audio note with Total Recall. The app works on most Android devices and even syncs with Evernote.

GroupMe(free) iPhone, Android, Blackberry, even flip phones—It allows you to easily send a group text message to your staff, co-workers or members of a professional association. The messages appear as if you’re in a chat room, so everyone can see and respond to everyone else’s comments.

TRAVEL PLANNING

Kayak(free) most phones—You may be used to the bigger sites, but my husband was able to find us a rental car at a third of the normal price. Kayak is a meta-search website that searches all of these sites at once, delivering the lowest-possible airfare in one simple click. Review by Jennifer Taylor.

CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS

iTerminal—The app is free, but an account with iTerminal will run you $25 per month, and each transaction costs 30 cents plus 2.29 percent of the total amount. It works via Wi-Fi and 3G, and it verifies credit card numbers as you enter them, giving instant feedback for approved or declined charges. The app supports all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Rated as one of PC World’s Top 10 business apps.

Square(free) iPhone, iPad and Android—When you sign up, you will receive one free reader to plug into your phone. You can order additional readers or buy them from a retail store for $10 with a $10 rebate. You will pay 2.75 percent per transaction. Customers can opt to receive an email receipt. It works fairly well, but does better with iPhone 3Gs or above. Review by Jennifer Taylor.

INVOICES

FreshBooks(free app; service has a free 30-day trial) iPhone, Android, Blackberry—You can send professional looking invoices to your clients. It automatically sends late payment notices. You can also pull your time and expenses into the invoice.

Invoice2Go($9.99 after a free 30-day trail) iPhone/iPad—Create, preview and email professional invoices and estimates in seconds. Invoice2Go is a fast and easy way to estimate, bill, collect and report. There are more than 20 built-in invoice styles to choose from, so it’s actually fun going through the choices, selecting your template and designing your own.

Look for part 2 in the May issue. For more detailed information, see the SBE Council study at www.sbecouncil.org.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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