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7 Smartphone Apps That You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

7 Smartphone Apps That You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

Social Media AppsAs a professional virtual assistant, I’m all about boosting productivity and improving efficiency. But when it comes to managing day-to-day tasks, communicating effectively and keeping my finger on the digital pulse, few devices afford me more productivity gains and efficiency hikes than my trusty iPhone.

But don’t think I’m about to start singing the praises of my iPhone – I’m not. While it’s been great, this post is all about the benefits of smartphones in general and in particular, how pivotal they can be when we’re ‘on the go’.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you’ll already know some of my top productivity tools. And while the following list focuses solely on the apps I use on my iPhone, there are a couple which crossover to my iMac too.

Mail

Okay, so first up, quite predictably, is email. Being able to receive, read and reply to my business emails right from my smartphone is absolutely fundamental. It means that I can immediately check if a message requires an urgent response and send one accordingly.

If I don’t have time to type something verbose on my phone or the email requires a more in-depth reply later, then I can send a brief message in the meantime simply acknowledging receipt. This keeps my clients informed and their minds at ease.

Asana

Everything I have to do on a daily basis is recorded in Asana. And the fact that there is an associated mobile app boosts my efficiency no end.

Asana enables me to keep track of every task and stay up-to-date with progress from my team members. The mobile version allows me to create new tasks as they come to mind and update existing ones with further info if needed.

Facebook Pages Manager

While the regular Facebook app for smartphones is great for personal profiles, the Facebook Pages Manager is indispensable for anyone who administers a business page – like mine!

Not only can you see notifications as they happen, but you can also garner valuable insights from the analytical data that’s available. Moreover, you can administer several pages all from one app. It really is a versatile solution for keeping abreast of your public pages while on the move.

Buffer

Buffer is the epitome of productivity and efficiency and the fact that I can access it from my smartphone, makes it even better. Literally, from the palm of my hand, I have a complete overview of all my social networks.

I can schedule updates to be posted as I think of them and also check how my previous posts have performed with the built in analytics. It even boasts Buffer’s URL shortening capability, so I can paste web links and they automatically get reduced as they’re posted.

Dropbox/Google Drive

I use both Dropbox and Google Drive. They’re intrinsically the same and mean that I have access to all my crucial files and documents no matter where I am.

While I don’t tend to create new documents and type for hours on my iPhone, having access to my crucial files means I can send them to clients and check them ad hoc if required. The fact that everything syncs up automatically with the cloud in the background, means that I never have to worry about manually copying my data.

XE Currency

I live in France and have clients all over the world, so keeping track of foreign exchange rates is something that’s pretty fundamental to my business. The XE Currency app allows me to see right from my phone the current market rates. It automatically refreshes and also features a calculator for converting currencies quickly.

Furthermore, you can setup numerous different foreign currencies and see the exchange rate quickly and efficiently across them all.

Twitter

Much like I use the Facebook Pages Manager for my business page, I use Twitter to keep track of my tweets. While Buffer has a lot of great features, there are times when the official app still gets the nod.

It has a familiar interface, works flawlessly and offers the full range of Twitter features that I need. That’s why it still retains a place on my phone, even when there are other applications that purport to do the same.

So that’s seven smartphone applications that I utilise while I’m ‘on the go’. It could have been a longer list, but these were the ones I felt I used most often while not in front of my computer.

Are there any smartphone apps that you couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Smartphone Addiction: Are You?

N.B. This blog post was written in June.

The Eurostar was running late, trespassers on the line, I still had an hour left to kill and I was bored of my magazine and my iPhone so I thought I would write a blog post.

While sitting in Gard du Nord station in Paris waiting to board I looked around and noticed that pretty much everyone in the vicinity was using a mobile phone, mostly smartphones – I was using one too! I tell a lie there was a woman reading on her Kindle, not her phone.

I have read a few blog posts recently about smartphones, one in particular I remember because the title was ‘Are you sleeping with your smartphone?

I’ve had my iPhone for 2 years now and it goes everywhere with me, currently it is sat on my lap underneath my netbook, while trying to write this post on the Eurostar with it going round bends fast, it’s not easy… The French girl next to me is asleep and I just had to rescue her iPhone from the floor as it flew off the little lap table!

I use my iPhone for many things, I don’t sleep with it but it is the first thing I pick up each morning before I have eaten breakfast and taken a shower. I check my email (business and personal), then I check Facebook (again business and personal), then I check Twitter for any mentions or retweets and I thank those people. I then pop over to Buffer to post out my automated ‘Thanks for following’ tweet to any new followers (I use Ifttt.com to automate this). I think I then get out of bed and get ready for work.

During the day it will sit next to me on the desk and will bing every time I receive a new email or someone retweets or mentions me, I take a quick look to see if it needs an instant reply and if not then I carry on with work. In the evening when I have finished work for the day I sit on the sofa watching the TV and flick through Flipboard, starring things in Google Reader to be added to Buffer, or emailing the links to Buffer instead.

Rumor has it, the iPhone 5 is being released in October and I have a dilemma about what to do. I live in France but my iPhone is currently on a contract  in the UK with Vodafone.

I have a good deal, I get 10 free texts per day back to the UK which does me just fine, as I use WhatsApp with some friends and also plenty of friends have iPhone’s so we can use iMessage for free. I also get 25Mb of Internet free per day, which in general is fine because I don’t tend to use 3G a lot, but there are occasions (like yesterday) when my phone decides to sync so much data that I go over my data allowance and Vodafone send me text messages every few minutes to inform me. I make no calls with my iPhone in France and incoming calls are directed straight to Voicemail so I can decide whether to call people back. It costs me 75p connection charge for up to an hour for every incoming and outgoing call I receive or make.

My dilemma in September when my current contract comes to an end is whether to get a French contract or upgrade my current UK contract. I will lose my 10 free texts back to the UK, but I will gain Internet access (probably not limited). Any calls I make to the UK will no doubt cost more than 75p though, but I never make calls in France and if I do I have a landline to do that (with free calls). Another problem I foresee if I get a French iPhone is that it will be connected to the French iTunes store which I had issues with recently with my iMac purchase. I am English, I want to buy English apps and products even though I live in France.

I use my iPhone for everything, but I wonder whether sticking with my UK contract is the better plan. When I use my iPhone outside of the home (and wifi) it is only to check social media channels and email which I tend to keep within the 25Mb limit anyway.

I’m a freelancer, I work from home and sometimes I need to be flexible with my working environment.  That means when I am out and about I need to be able to check my emails for anything urgent, or take calls from clients during working hours.  In the summer I’d like to sit outside to work, so having a smartphone means I can continue to work away from my desk.

So what would you do?  

I’m not even sure I can upgrade in the UK if I live in France, I think I need to do some more investigation.  I will be totally lost without my iPhone, maybe I shouldn’t upgrade at all and keep my iPhone 4 – do I want to risk losing the contract altogether?!

I guess this concludes that yes, I am addicted to my smartphone!