Small Business Help

Top 10 productivity tools for the iPhone 3g

Joseph Patterson | October 19, 2008

I’ll admit it; I am in love with my iPhone 3g.  I’m going to do my very best not to make this list sound like a raving product endorsement for the iPhone, but rather, provide what I’ve found to be the top 10 apps for productivity on the go, all available for the iPhone 3g.  These applications are in no favored order, simply at random.


Please raise your hand if you’ve EVER emailed something to yourself (at one of your 17 different email addresses) just to get the note/photo/message off your phone and onto a stationary computer.  Ok.  You may put your hands down now.  Exactly.  We’ve all done it.  Evernote solves this problem in one mighty handy app.  Evernote lets you send notes, pictures (both from the camera and/or your iPhone photo library), and voice memos to yourself and stores them in an online databank that you can access from anywhere in the world.  Not only is this a great ‘never lose it’ solution for yourself, but a great way to be sharing mobile content and docs to a team that may be half way around the world.

Published by Evernote, this is a free app with a limited 40MB/month upload, or you can upgrade to a $5 monthly fee for 500MB/month, or go for the grand slam breakfast at $45/year for unlimited access.  Personally, I’ve yet to exceed the 40MB/month.

QuickBooks Online

Got my mind on my money, and my money on my iPhone?  If you’re a small business owner or CFO, Snoops’ words have never been clearer.  Intuit Labs’ app for iPhone gives you all your financial data within easy reach.  Since I personally don’t use QuickBooks (I mean…I’m rollin’ in the dough, but not THAT much dough), I had a couple that are small business owners take ‘er for a drive with me and give me their thoughts.  I did do the setup phase for them, which took all of about 2 minutes.  Tim and Jamie both liked the interface and how easy navigation was.  Once data had propagated, we put QuickBooks for iPhone through its paces and it didn’t flinch.  We were able to verify current bank and credit card balances, track accounts receivable and payable, run a balance sheet including profit and loss statements, and view employee, vendor, and most importantly customer lists.  Jamie found the ability to find a vendor and contact info with an address within Google maps a very handy feature.  The only downside that we found is that the QuickBooks app is purely read only.  No data can be added or modified from the mobile version.

Published my Intuit, the QuickBooks Online application requires a QuickBooks Online subscription ($10/month), or some friends that are more than happy to let your view all their financials (thanks folks!).  If you’re on the fence, go ahead and take QuickBooks for a free 30-day spin.

Quote Sheet for iPhone

Here’s a really handy on if you’ve got anything to do with Sales.  If you’ve ever been out on the road and needed to get back to your laptop and find a suitable Wi-Fi area to check in on customer quotes and access the company’s current pricing rates, you know it can be quite a hassle.  Quote Sheet for iPhone cuts out the middleman and makes all the data you need (and then some) available in the palm of your hand practically anywhere.  This little gem will help you monitor the company pricing, quoting, and CMS and allow you to email quotes directly to the customer.

Furnishing Industry Software produces this potential dealmaker and includes a web portal for customers to access their quotes.


You didn’t really think that I could NOT mention our smokin’ hot TSheets Touch app did you?  At the risk of at least a ‘are you kidding me?’ email from the boss at the end of the hallway, I’ll admit, purely for the sake of compare and contrast, I did test out a few other mobile time tracking apps.  Granted, I’m clearly a bit biased here, and perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m already very familiar with the TSheets interface, but the TSheets mobile app IS the best mobile time tracking solution I’ve tried.  I won’t get into what I found wrong with the others, but as far as simplicity and functionality on the go, TSheets has got the crowd beat, hands down.  With TSheets you can manage multiple job codes and see working totals for the day, all at a glance.  Not to mention the familiar interface, powerful reporting features and ease of use the TSheets Touch app is like having your entire TSheets account with you on the go.

Published by…us, the TSheets app is free, and can be used with any one of our competitive pricing programs.

Google Mobile App

Hey, it’s Google.  I mean, really, what would we do without Google?  Think of the Google mobile app as having the power of Google within your phone.  Based on what your search criteria is, the Google Mobile app will deliver results either from the web, or anywhere else in your phone.  This includes searching through your contact list.  You can search for contacts obviously, but you may have attached notes or other info to a particular contact that iPhone’s native search would come up empty on.  No sweat for the Google app.  Oh, and did I mention that it’s tied to your GPS, thereby making it location aware?  In other words, type in pizza, and the Google Mobile app will deliver results of pizzerias in your immediate vicinity.  I’ve ever put this to the test and typed in beer.  Low and behold, Google led me to the nearest watering hole flawlessly.  In terms of making your iPhone an all around productivity workhorse, the Google mobile app might just be that ‘killer app’ for iPhone.

Published by Google Inc. this app is free and should be on your iPhone right now.

Heap CRM

Ah yes, either love ‘em or hate ‘em, CRM’s are a necessary reality for just about any type of business you’re running.  Instead of searching for a Wi-Fi area, booting up the laptop, making a phone call into the office to check on the Sterling Cooper account, and flipping through notes you made at the last business lunch, how about simply launching the best handheld CRM I’ve ever seen?  Heap CRM can manage a wide variety of tasks for you so that you’ll never miss a beat.  This CRM ties messaging, calendars and contacts together in one handy package that makes the relationships between them all crystal clear.  Now fully integrated with Google Docs, users can link, create, or upload files for convenient team sharing across Google Docs.  In addition to all the CRM goodness, Heap will also run reports and export them, should you so choose.

Published by WBP Systems, Heap CRM really puts the M in CRM and gives you time to stop and smell the roses, all without missing a beat.


Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  But DT…you’re telling me that the Apple iPhone is literally a computer in my hands, what the heck do I need to connect to a computer?  Isn’t that exactly against the point?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, the iPhone IS a computer in the palm of your hand, but no it will not do everything a full-fledged laptop will do.  While you might be able to carry 99.44% of everything you’ve got with you on your iPhone, there are still the occasional times when you’d love to call home and check in with your main rig.  That, or just perhaps for some unknown reason, you left tomorrow’s presentation on your desktop and didn’t sync it to go with you.  Enter stage right PC2Me.  PC2Me allows you to access your desktop remotely from any safari browser.  I put PC2Me through its paces, and it does just as advertised.  I accessed all files on my laptop at home, launched iTunes, Firefox, and even Photoshop.  Sadly, I couldn’t get World of Warcraft to size correctly in the iPhone window, so sorry road warriors, you’ll have to wait to get home to venture off into Karazhan.  While this app is designed mainly for personal use and accessing your own stuff, enterprise users can take a look at 1stWorks Corporations’ big brother package: Files2Phones.  The Files2Phones upgrade includes the ability to actually transfer files to your phone from your desktop (although, I did manage to achieve the same thing by publishing a file to Evernote).

Published by 1stWorks Corporation, PC2Me makes accessing your (or any one else who grants you access) computer desktop from anywhere in the world a snap.

nobosh Answers

Ok, here’s my opportunity to use a marketing buzzword: Crowd sourcing.  If you’re not already familiar with nobosh, brother, you’re missing a massive source of free (and often quite good) information.  Nobosh is an open forum for business and finance professionals to ask questions, share information, and get answers to some mighty tricky questions.  While it may not be the primary function of the site, I’ve often found that nobosh is also a great temperature gauge when it comes to the market in general (have a look at some of the questions going around a few weeks ago while Wachovia was in a tizzy).  Covering topics ranging from marketing your next great idea to planning for, and affording that house in the Caribbean upon retirement, nobosh’s got your covered.  While the nobosh answers app doesn’t fall directly on the productivity bottom line, it IS an invaluable resource and could very well have the answer to that deal breaker/maker situation you’ve got on your hands.

Published directly from the folks at, nobosh answers is like having a team of industry experts at your beckon call.


IM?  UM?  We all scream for…..fring!?!  With a funny name but not so funny features fring is the iPhone mobile IM application you’ve been searching for.  While there are a number of IM apps out there for iPhone that will allow you to stay in touch via MSN, AIM, or GTalk, fring is the first application to integrate Skype on the go.  Let me say that again, fring brings Skype to your iPhone.  You can use all of the features you’re used to with Skype on fring including the ability to make and receive calls along with instant messaging.  Well, why don’t I just call them you say?  Do you really have the phone number of every person in your Skype contact list?  Yeah, me neither.  A call to my cousin in Connecticut did reveal that there was about a 6-7 second lag between us, but still one heckuva lot cheaper than a long distance phone call, and highly functional, as we also tested a file transfer.  Fring and Skype on your iPhone aren’t going to beat any internet speed records, but when you think about the technology and relaying involved, pretty impressive stuff.   Think of fring as the adium to mac or trillian to pc for your iPhone.  One simple application will tie your Skype, MSN, ICQ, SIP, Google Talk, Yahoo!, AIM, and even twitter altogether.

Fring for iPhone is published by fring and will keep you connected to all your IM contacts including Skype.


Expenses.  Got ‘em?  Sure we all do.  Got that little folder part in the back of your Moleskin where you stuff the day/week/monthly expense receipts, with the hope that you can sort it all out in an excel sheet?  Or is that just me?  Either way, you know it, I know it, there’s got to be a better way of handling these #*&# receipts. Xpenser is the answer you’ve (I’ve) been looking for.  This very slick and user-friendly interface can track your expenses in a wide variety of ways.  Feel like typing them in?  Ok, but personally, I’d rather watch the grass grow.  Xpenser utilizes voice recognition software and allows you to track your expenses via a phone call, similar to, but for tracking where you spent money and on what.  If you’re in the mood to email your expenses to Xpenser, can do.  How about an SMS to Xpenser when talking isn’t really appropriate. (yes, I did sms myself two movie ticket expenses…thanks Matt!).  Better yet, IM your expenses via AOL, MSN, and Google Talk to Xpenses.  Still not enough?  Send Xpenses a twitter if you like.  In other words, there’s just about every mobile option available to track your cash.  Xpenser has both a web portal interface and management readily available directly on the iPhone.  If you’re getting paid per mile on that four state road trip you’re making, don’t sweat it, Xpenser can track and calculate that mileage for you.  Got that convention in London next month and don’t want to be bothered with converting the Pound to Dollar?  Again…Xpenser has got you and your fish and chips covered.  Xpenser allows for managing multiple clients and accounts (a godsend for freelancers) and exports to a wide range of applications.  Fair enough, you’re probably still going to have to hang on to those paper receipts, but at least the filing’s done.

Publisher by Xpenser, this expense tracker will have you done and sorted with a rather mundane task in no time at all.

So there we have it folks, my personal selection of Top Productivity tools for the iPhone 3G.  All of these apps will help you shave minutes, if not hours off your daily routine, and hopefully provide a bit of enjoyment along the way.  While no one app is going to be life changing, combine them all together with the powerful processing of the iPhone, and you’re on your way to productivity nirvana.

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