26 Apps to Make Your Phone the Best Personal Assistant Ever
A mobile device loaded with the right apps can truly help a person get ahead in business and life.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Mosaic (Free for iOS and Android)
"Steven Sodebergh's new app is the best entertainment experience I've had in a while. You have the opportunity to watch an entire show by selecting what points of view you want to see it from. The story doesn't change based on what you select, but rather you choose the type of engagement you have with the show."
--Patti Doyle, CEO of Vennli, a digital platform for growth strategy
Sleep Cycle ($30 a year after one-month trial; for iOS and Android)
"I'm a big believer in sleep. When I am sleep-deprived, I don't function well. Society as a whole doesn't value sleep enough, I believe. Many high achievers boast about how little sleep they need, but it is so important. Sleep helps your brain rid itself of harmful toxins. If you sleep too little, you don't have that clean sweep. Sleep Cycle monitors your breathing and wakes you during your lightest REM sleep. It allows for a smoother transition from sleep to wakefulness. It also records the restfulness of your sleep quality and whether or not you snore."
--Ebba Blitz, CEO of encryption provider AlertSec
Pipedrive ($12 per user, per month billed annually, after 14-day free trial; for iOS and Android)
"It's a CRM app I use religiously to understand our latest sales progress, activities and actions. As a CEO, you want to be up-to-date on this."
--Rajesh Kalidindi, founder and CEO of LevaData, a company that helps enterprises improve gross margins by reducing supply chain costs
WolframAlpha ($3 for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows Phone)
"I can't live without WolframAlpha on the phone and Ableton on the road. You have to rejuvenate as a CEO, and music does it for me."
--Josh Stella, CEO of Fugue, a company that automates cloud operations, eases public and private sector compliance, and simplifies lifecycle management of the AWS infrastructure service stack
Aha! (Starts at $59 per user per month; for web)
"We started using Aha! earlier this year, and it has allowed us to corral and control our product release schedule. It integrates with our software development issue tracker and enables us to coordinate releases, release notes, documentation development, and marketing. Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, wondering about the status of a project, I have one source of truth on the release schedule, and I don't have to wake someone up to get it."
--Abhinav Asthana, CEO of Postman, a toolchain for API developers
Notability ($10 for iOS)
"I review copious amounts of documents from contracts to floorplans to presentations. Notability allows me to hand-write comments (my preferred way to provide input rather than type) on almost any document type without having to print/write/scan/email. It also backs up directly to DropBox so you can access the files on your computer if needed."
--Michael Abramson, president of D1 Training, a fitness franchise utilizing the five basic tenets of athletic-based training to help people of all ages achieve their sport and fitness goals
Triplt (Free for iOS and Android)
"As the head of a multi-branded international company, I tend to use travel and news apps the most often, outside of the normal communication apps. TripIt keeps me organized while traveling. It updates me with travel itineraries and emails me notifications of flight changes. I can also use it to find alternative flights for last minute meetings or urgent travel requests."
--Peter Boylan, president of PJ's Coffee, a New Orleans-based coffeehouse
10% Happier (Free for iOS and Android)
"If you are easily distracted and pulled in one hundred different ways in a course of your day, this app is vital. The App includes lectures from the World's best meditation teachers and scientists. It has all the functions that a busy professional needs to stay the course, including reminders to meditate, tracking, and a variety of lectures. I use this while sitting on a plane."
--Shai Zelering, managing director of Brookfield Property Group, a global alternative asset manager with $265 billion assets under management
Office 365 (Subscriptions start at $70 per year)
"There are many days that I never log into a laptop because of travel or a busy schedule, and I never miss a beat with these tools. It is always amazing to me that we can run large, complex business basically from our phones."
--Jason Harrington, president of Ontario Systems, a provider of receivables management technology
Mint (Free for iOS and Android)
"I am completely addicted to Mint. It's the easiest way to stay on top of all my day-to-day finances and spending. It centralizes my bank accounts, credit cards, investments, etc... so I always have a clear picture of where I stand. Plus, Mint includes all kinds of useful features and notifications, which are great for my busy travel schedule and long hours at the office."
--Shawn Schwegman, cofounder and chief strategy officer of DemandJump, a customer acquisition platform
Classpass (Paid plans vary; for iOS and Android)
"As the creative director and brand manager for Bodyography, my work/life balance can become a bit one-sided. In order for me to make sure I am keeping up with my health and fitness I rely on Classpass. This app has changed the way I view fitness and gives me the opportunity to try a plethora of unique workouts. I can also use Classpass in many cities and even overseas, keeping me healthy, fit and focused."
--Lori Leib, creative director at Bodyography Professional Cosmetics
Zoom (Free and paid plans starting at $15 a month; for iOS, Android, desktop and conference rooms)
"Zoom is an amazing videoconferencing tool that is extremely easy to use on your computer. There's a very effective smartphone app, too. In my companies we do not phone, we Zoom! It's a game-changer. The ability to see someone's face and read their emotions is critical, and Zoom makes that work. There are a lot of other video conferencing products out there. None are as simple or as easy to use as Zoom, and Zoom's demand on bandwidth is much smaller too. The quality of videoconferencing it delivers on your phone is amazing."
--Evan Hackel, CEO of Tortal Training and author of the book Ingaging Leadership
"They take incredible care to make sure it works everywhere and without interruption. Boasting an entirely remote staff of 200-plus team members, we rely on Zoom for daily meetings, virtual coffee breaks, and company-wide check-ins. It allows us to stay connected from across the globe, and acts as a worthy substitute for face-to-face interactions."
--Sid Sijbrandij, cofounder and CEO of GitLab, an open source platform combining the entire DevOps lifecycle into a single application
"Zoom Video Communications is by far my favorite app. It has completely changed the way that I work. I have face-to-face meetings and share screens with anyone, anywhere--with one person or a group--just by pressing a button on my phone. It's essential for getting work done and I think it's more effective than email."
--Santi Subotovsky, general partner of Emergence Capital, an enterprise cloud venture firm
World Clock (Free for iOS, Android and Windows Desktop)
"Wordclock and Meeting Planner Apps by Time and Date.com and Xe.com are must-have apps for me. These Apps together allow me and my business to function globally in a very easy way. With clients, employees and partners all around the world I could not do business or make it to all the strategy calls I am part of without them. The Wordclock and Meeting Planner Apps allow you to plan and create meetings across multiple time zones and is easily added to your calendar so you never miss a beat, and Xe.com is a must if you work with or set prices in any currency outside of your own country."
--Laleh Hancock, CEO of professional services company Belapemo, founder and president of Global Wellness for All, and a certified facilitator for Access Consciousness
Flipboard (free for iOS, Android and web) and Pocket (Free or $45 a year for iOS, Android, Kobo and web)
"As a business owner, it's really important to stay up to date with current trends and what's happening in your industry. So, I use two apps in conjunction with each other, and they have both changed the way which I access and consume information. The first of these is called Flipboard, and what I have done is subscribed to all of my favorite websites and blogs which now automatically come into one central news feed. It's like my own personal newspaper, that has been customized completely for all the topics that I'm interested in and care about. Twice a day, morning and night, I flick through reading only the headlines to find the articles that I want to consume. However, I make a habit not to consume it then and there because I can get buried in an article which may take me five to 10 minutes when I could be doing other more valuable tasks. What I do instead is click on the share button, and then save it to another app I use called Pocket. Pocket then extracts all the information and allows me to consume that information when I'm offline. So, the next time I'm on a plane, which is at least once a week, I then read all of the articles which I have flagged as important that week. The other feature that Pocket has is to turn the text into speech, effectively turning those articles into Podcasts. This also means that I can read articles hands-free and eyes-free while driving my car to the office or meetings, which is another unproductive time which I can now call productive time."
--Dale Beaumont, business educator, speaker, author and founder of BusinessBlueprint and BRiN, an artificially intelligent business advisor
Audible ($15 a month after 30-day free trial; for iOS and Android)
"At SmartThings I work on connecting 'things' and devices to make life simpler so that I can focus more of my time on the activities I love most. The Audible app has done a very similar thing for me, making it easy to multitask and read by listening to great books while getting exercise at the same time. It's changed my life, helping me to read at least twice as much as I otherwise would have been able to find time for."
--Alex Hawkinson, founder and CEO of SmartThings, a company which turns homes into smart homes
Shopify (free for iOS and Android)
"In e-comm, everything needs to be done in real time, all the time. I use the Shopify app on a daily basis for our rapidly growing brand, Homesick. I can immediately jump into any order to solve a customer request, adjust promotional offers or inventory and track multiple revenue streams all from the app. This allows me to be immediately responsive in brand management from anywhere at any hour, and that's become invaluable to our growth."
--Melany Lynch, general manager of Homesick, maker of 100-percent made-in-America soy candles
Evernote (Free and paid plans starting at $35 a year; for iOS and Android)
"From both a business and personal perspective, I love Evernote. It lets me take notes on any of my devices whether at home, at the office, or on the road. And because notes are automatically saved via the cloud, I can see these notes across all of my devices too which makes staying organized seamless. As a person who travels a lot and has many different devices, this ability to collect everything in one place allows me to work smarter and maintain work-life balance, without having to worry about forgetting or losing track of important things."
--Jesper Andersen, CEO of Infoblox, a security company which controls and secures organizations networks from the core
Tile (App is free for iOS and Android; devices start at $20)
"I am in awe of my Tile app for my personal assistant. It helps me find my car keys and wallet with a click of a button. My wife loves it because when I am running out of the house I don't have to ask her, 'Honey, have you seen my keys?' In fact, I just bought some more for my luggage."
--David Berman, president of Zoom Video Communications
Todoist (Free for iOS and Android)
"I can see everything I'm supposed to do today, I can check off tasks and add new ones. It's super cool and it's free. And it works across all devices including my Apple watch. I've tried a bunch and this is the right combo of features, functionality and cost (zero). Definitely two thumbs up."
--Paul Wehrley, COO at HouseCanary, a data and AI provider for real estate
Gong (free for iOS and Android)
"Every business leader, regardless of their role, should know how prospects are reacting in sales meetings. That's why I love Gong. It records sales calls, and uses AI and speech intelligence technology to automatically surface insights about parts of calls that are most interesting to me. Instead of spending hours listening to the full recording of every call, Gong makes it easy for anyone to check in on the parts of the sales process where they can have the most impact."
--Scott Holden, CMO at ThoughtSpot, a search and AI-driven analytics platform making data accessible at human-scale
DoorDash (Free for iOS and Android)
"Success really does take a village, and that applies just as much to what is on your phone as it does to who is in your boardroom. Because I'm on the go a lot, I rely on a handful of apps that each eliminate a time consuming task so I can function at my best from any location and device. DoorDash makes sure I eat a real meal no matter how late I'm working or where I'm stationed. DropBox ensures all documents are accessible to me and my teams, even when we are apart. DocuSign moves contractual matters along so I don't become a bottleneck while traveling. And the United Airlines app makes planning travel much easier."
--Matt Gilbert, CEO affiliate marketing company Pepperjam
IFTTT Philips Hue Severe Weather Alert (Free for iOS and Android)
"I'm a trained emergency responder, and I like to know when I can help somebody I care about. So through IFTTT I've set up severe weather alerts for certain family members, based on where they live. It doesn't mean I'll fly in for every thunderstorm, but I rest easier knowing I'll get a heads-up for potential danger."
--Jesse Robbins, founder and CEO of voice platform Orion Labs
Siri (Free for iOS)
"I use an iPhone and tend to spend a decent amount of time in my car. I use it constantly to read me texts, initiating phone calls, reviewing/making calendar appointments and a host of other things like sports scores that I can do hands free while I am driving. It has made my car-time so much more productive."
--Rix Kramlich, SVP of business development at self-publishing and marketing platform Blurb
The Wall Street Journal ($33 a month after 4-week free trial; for iOS and Android)
"There is not a single app I can't live without. The apps I use the most are news apps--the Wall St. Journal, BBC and CNBC. But I limit my screen time to 10 minutes per day, twice a day. I don't want to become a news junkie. Plus, you can either read news or create news--and I prefer to create news. Frankly, I think we need fewer apps, not more. Another way to look at it--more nap time, not app time!"
--Atul Bhatnagar, president and CEO of Cambium Networks, provider of wireless broadband solutions
Slack (free and paid versions for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, desktop, and web)
"Out of all our communication options--email, text, and chat--Slack has proven to be the best for our team. It encourages active team collaboration across all the different channels of our business, and provides an archived history of all interactions for easy recall. We also appreciate Slack's integrations, making it easy to incorporate the app with tools we already use daily."
--David Kerr, CEO of Octiv, a platform for managing sales documents
"Slack has now become almost ubiquitous in the startup world, but we've been using it to communicate with our team for a couple years now and I can't imagine our workflow without it anymore. The entire team can instantly be on the same page regardless of their location, making it easier for my cousin and cofounder Adam and I to collaborate seamlessly (I'm in Arizona, he's in California). Slack is much easier to use than email, and keeps a log of the conversation unlike phone calls, so I can refer back to details and actions whether I'm in a meeting or sitting on the beach enjoying a beer."
--Matt Campbell, cofounder of BottleKeeper, a company preventing lukewarm drinking experiences
"Slack is proving incredibly versatile, on and off my phone. At Donuts, we live in Slack 24x7. It's a great way to have real-time discussions with my team, the threads are easy to manage from the phone form factor, and they're enriched by attachments, too. Slack is terrific."
--Bruce Jaffe, president and CEO of Donuts Inc., specializing in new top-level Internet domains