(This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer)
Josh Davidson is the owner of ChopDawg, a software development company based in Philadelphia. For him, like many small business owners, mobile applications have had an enormous impact on the way he runs his company.
“I’ve been doing this for 14 years and we’ve never been able to work smarter or more efficient, thanks to the mobile apps we use,” he says. “We’re able to do things today at such a more expedited and well-organized pace than ever before.”
Sound familiar? It should.
In 2021, consumers and small businesses spent almost four trillion hours using mobile apps and paid more than $320,000 at app stores every minute of the day during the year — an increase of nearly 20% from previous records in 2020. All of this is according to a recently released report from mobile data and analytics company App Annie.
Of course, the largest part of this consumption was for games and social media. But mobile app use has become a staple for most businesses, regardless of their size. So what mobile apps are most popular year?
Not surprisingly, email leads the list and the most popular email applications are Microsoft Outlook and Google’s Gmail. But messaging has also expanded to social platforms which means that many small businesses are also using the tools provided by Facebook and LinkedIn to communicate with their customers and teams.
I use ZohoMail. Other popular mobile email apps include Aqua Mail and ProtonMail. ChopDawg’s Davidson likes to use Spark, which brings together all messages into one place and helps him prioritize responses. But email is just the start.
Thanks to so many employees and contractors working remotely, online collaboration suites have become critical tools for businesses of all sizes. Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace and Slack are among the most popular mobile apps that help business owners and their employees share documents, emails, videos, conversations and notes about their customers and projects.
Box is also a popular online collaboration tool among my clients and Dropbox is frequently used to store and quickly retrieve files. Jotform is utilized by many of my clients for an easy way to create mobile forms that use conditional logic, accept payments, generate reports, and automate workflows. A handful of my more technical clients use Apache’s OpenOffice software, an open-source suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases.
Davidson’s team also uses an app called Figma to help remote workers share their ideas on a virtual whiteboard as well as Jira and Confluence to help manage projects and create a knowledgebase of questions and answers for issues that come up on his client engagements.
Brad Tornberg, a technology specialist in New Jersey recommends the mobile app from Trello for project management. Other great project management and database mobile apps are provided by Basecamp, AirTable and Asana.
Most small businesses now have customer relationship management (CRM) systems to help them track activities, opportunities, quotes and leads from both existing and potential customers. All of these platforms include powerful mobile apps that allow both sales and service people to monitor and enter customer and prospect information from wherever they are.
Mark Schmukler, who runs Sagefrog Marketing in Philadelphia — relies heavily on the mobile app provided by HubSpot. Tornberg, a Microsoft Partner, not surprisingly likes the Microsoft Dynamics mobile app. Other popular CRM mobile solutions come from Salesforce and Zoho.
Many of my clients have downloaded mobile apps from QuickBooks, Xero, and other accounting applications to help them do invoicing, check balances and get financial reports on the go. Most also use mobile payments solutions from PayPal(and its subsidiary Venmo), ApplePay and Square to collect money at the time of sale or make payments on the fly.
A few are expanding their use of human resources mobile apps from Paychex, ADP, and BambooHR to allow their employees to view their payroll history, manage their vacations, expedite onboarding and update information used in performance reviews.
Running a small business means wearing many different hats, so being as productive as possible is key to staying profitable.
Tornberg uses TapeACall to get real time transcriptions as he’s speaking (another great transcription app I like is Temi). He also shows his clients how to do things by capturing his screen movements using Loom. While most collaboration systems provide note-taking tools, Davidson likes Notability and GoodNotes and I’m addicted to Simplenote — both applications are fast and sync across devices.
Besides using many of the apps mentioned above, I rely on my airline, hotel, rental car, Uber and Lyft apps when I travel and frequently check flight status on FlightAware. I use Curb when taking a Philly cab. I listen to music and podcasts on Spotify.
I get my news from Feedly, Reddit and (of course) The Inquirer. I sometimes do mobile calls on WhatsApp and Zoom. I watch movies and read books on my Kindle app. And, like Schmukler, when I want to chill, I like to use Calm.
The takeaway is that mobile apps have become critical technologies for small businesses — and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
“We’re more mobile than ever,” says Davidson. “And what’s fun about it is that there are new apps to try out every year.”