With 20,000 Apps, iPhone is Ready for Business

According to iPhone tracking site, Aptism, Apple's iTunes catalog includes more than 20,000 iPhone apps. In that rabid App Store competition, some of those apps have proven themselves as knock-out business tools. And the iPhone is riding the crest, challenging RIM for the business crown.

After Apple introduced Exchange Server support, many IT departments began begrudgingly accepting the device. For individuals without an enterprise AT&T plan and their own Exchange Server, Apple offers MobileMe for over-the-air contact and calendar syncing. New iPhone support for Google Sync takes individuals and small businesses further, enabling group calendars, even though push email isn't yet an option. But the real power is in the apps.

The apps are the business-end of the iPhone
That 20,000-strong catalog of the App Store is itself the killer app for businesses. I've tried hundreds of the programs and browsed through thousands, and even then, I'm surely missing some great tools. Still, these are many of my favorites on which I rely.

Several PowerPoint remotes caught my attention, and I like i-Clickr best. This app controls live presentations, advancing and rewinding slides from the iPhone. Even better, it shows the current slide, preview of the next screen, or talking notes in your hand.

Various apps can control your PC from a distance, using VNC. For its ease-of-use, especially when reaching behind home routers, I like LogMeIn Ignition. This proprietary software securely--and effectively--lets me manage far-away PCs.

I'm on the fence of the getting-things-done religion, but I like managing lists of tasks. Remember the Milk has a bunch of sync options, making it ideal for entry with a PC keyboard and iPhone reference. I also like Things, but its desktop support is Mac-only.

Password organizers are crucial to keeping your login data secure but available for reference. Of the many options, SplashID is great for syncing to the PC program. I easily enter data with a full keyboard and carry around my encrypted information on the phone.

An equally sync-able note program, Evernote, works well with its web and PC counterparts. I can type most of my notes at a computer, but iPhone entry works great in a pinch. Even better, the iPhone adds more ways to save notes, including pictures, in which Evernote can identify and search text.

Look for the iPhone to be the must-have device to navigate trade shows and events. Even though it was clunky, the Macworld Expo app was a great reference at that show. I gathered company and booth information, even locating vendors on a map of the exhibit floor.

Dozens of voice recorders offer overwhelming choices. Try Jott for a nifty transcription service; you record short notes, and the tool returns them as text. And simply named, Recorder works great for simple audio capture, transferring files to a PC when finished.

You can find dozens of restaurant review and city guide programs, which are great for picking hotspots on the road. I especially like the ones that make reservations, such as OpenTable, so I can waltz in like a regular.

Yes, the spike to 20,000 App Store titles hit soon after the taste arbiters in Cupertino loosened the gates. (I quickly estimated more than 130 fart-sound apps or at least those savvy enough to include that search term.) But my list only scratches the surface of the business-savvy iPhone apps. Originally a consumer toy, the iPhone is stealing RIM's fruit.

Zack Stern is a freelance technology writer and editor based in San Francisco.

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