My Top Phone Productivity Apps
Spending too much time on your phone can rob you of your productivity more than endless piles of notes or a dysfunctional filing system. But, there some productivity-enhancing, stress-reducing apps that can’t help but top the must-have list for any smartphone…especially the iPhone or anything running Android. So, here are my top ten, not in any particular order because they’re all great.
Editor’s Note: Several apps have been added to the discussions below based on new features or useful functionality. ~Andrew
PI is the definitive personal management app for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android! Seamless calendaring and alarms, Google sync, GTD-based tasks including contexts (it also supports Covey and Toodledo), location-based reminders, multiple alarms and simple or complex repeating events, and massively customizable views. I also wrote an article for Lifehack on using Siri with third-party calendars like PI.
I love Evernote. Love it, love it, LOVE IT! I can’t stand most note apps. They don’t do anything except, well…, take notes. And they make doing it hard. Nothing kills productivity like having your note-taking ability made more difficult. Evernote lets you take text notes, snapshots inside Evernote, photos from your roll, and voice notes! Don’t have time to type a note? Handwrite it and take a snapshot with Evernote! Receive a business card? Snapshot with Evernote! This works with free accounts, too, but the $5/month premium gets you priority text recognition inside your photos…making them searchable. The premium upgrade also gets you the ability to store and access notes offline. And, Evernote backs up all of your notes online. I’m in the process of reviewing Workflowy, which is nowhere near as fully-featured as Evernote, but it is shaping up to fit the bill nicely for certain work styles.
iThoughts is quite possibly the best mindmapping app I have ever used. It isn’t universal, so you need two versions if you want to use it on your iPhone and take advantage of the HD features on your iPad. But, I can tell you the features make it definitely worthwhile. I love this app.
Pulse is a newsreader/aggregator that lays out the articles from your feeds in a visually-oriented thumbnail layout that scrolls like a filmstrip for each feed. Clicking a thumbnail opens the article and tapping the screen shows and hides the filmstrip, allowing you to view and scroll articles two ways. Many popular news sources are available for adding automatically, or add your own. Multiple sharing options exist. The only major missing one, in my opinion, is LinkedIn. The visual layout is nice and is an effective way to skim for interesting content. Sometimes, I want less news (relevant snippets) with little clutter, and Circa has been delivering that nicely with a clean interface. The app is undergoing an update and is reported to be back in the App Store soon.
News360 is another news aggregator that purports to learn what you want to see the more you use it. I’m waiting to see how smart it gets. But, it does effectively aggregate related content from many sources and make them neatly available. It also allows you to identify favorite subjects for extra aggregation. Some people consider using two news apps to be inefficient. It may be less efficient than one, but it doesn’t matter when you read as fast as I do and I haven’t found a single app that does everything I want, which is why I also use Newsrack to aggregate blogs. It has a great newspaper-headline-style layout for the iPhone, as well as a very effective list view with multiple options for reading single blogs or all unread messages. It also allows starring for favorites.
Searching for logins and passwords, and locking yourself out of accounts, kills productivity and creates a lot of stress! Avoid this problem with SplashID. Its user interface is intuitive, password-protected, and supports traditional and gesture-based passwords. It also comes with many predefined categories…web, bank, credit card, personal data, etc.
Scanner Pro for iPhone
Need to make a PDF in a hurry? Do it with Scanner Pro. Scan it with the camera, correct for brightness and contrast if necessary, and save it, email it, or upload it to DropBox. Password-protect it if you want.
Too many phones! Too many voicemail boxes! Too little time to effectively check them all! Solve the problem with Google Voice, which no longer requires an invitation. Have all (or just some> of your phones ring when your free Google voice number is called. Have all (or some) of the voicemail redirects go to Google Voice. If you wish, set up custom voicemail greetings for friends, family, coworkers, or anyone else. Or don’t and use just one. Set up custom times for when some of the phones ring if you get a call or a redirect from your Google Voice number. You can check the voicemail by dialing in, using a web browser, or the visual voicemail app.
Pageonce is billed as a personal finance tool, but it does much more. It aggregates your bank accounts, utility accounts, frequent flier programs, hotel frequent guest programs, and many additional payee accounts into one place. The new dashboard provides a handy overview and has an alert box. It also supports several messaging services, but there is presently no reply capability, so traditional messaging apps work better there. Choose a very good password, because there’s a lot of personal data in Pageonce and it only works because it can log in as you.
PrayerPartner for iPhone
PrayerPartner is the best prayer organizer, reminder, and tracking app I’ve found. And I’ve used several for years. With PrayerPartner, you can create your own categories to help organize your requests, assign each request to multiple categories, link a request to a contact, view all requests or only requests to be prayed for today, view requests in a category, view requests for a contact, schedule days to pray for a request, journal while you pray with dated journal entries, flag when a request has been answered, identify requests already prayed for today, share requests by email, email notes of encouragement to the request’s contact, customize the email templates, and listen to your music while you pray (if you like).
This article was originally published on January 22, 2011. Instapaper has been removed from the article due to the ability to collect, sort, and share via Evernote, Safari’s Read Later, and Dolphin’s article saving ability, which suits my reading style better.