by Bill French on 12/01/10 at 5:00 am
We all dream of a simplified business life; a single device with everything at our fingertips, the ability to go wherever and whenever without the nagging feeling we’re going to miss something or underperform in our jobs without access to our big desktop computers. Over the past few years I’ve often imagined what I would need on my iPhone if stranded on a remote island with a magical 16 gigabit Wifi connection beaming from the top of every palm tree.
Is it possible to ditch the desktop and survive, or perhaps even thrive in everyday business solely on an iPhone? Perhaps it is possible, but this is a contextual question only answerable given a specific business role. For a software development geek, the Castaway scenario – even with an iPhone and a 100 GB Wifi service would result in certain insanity. But for a small business person, especially someone in a role such as sales, business development, management, or logistics, it might be possible to leave your theater-sized display behind and doing so may actually be more productive.
Since the possibility of ditching the desktop, and going all-iPhone all-the-time, is a personal and contextual argument, the remainder of this article will provide general guidelines should you choose to give it a try. At the very least, the applications and approach I’ve assembled here will serve as a reference for carving out a stable mobile methodology that will pay big dividends the next time you’re sent on one of those unanticipated trips to Zimbabwe, or when the next unprecedented ice storm bombs your community into the dark ages for a few weeks.
The iPhone Alone Strategy Begins With Power…
Whether stranded or intentionally on an iPhone-alone binge, you must have a reliable power strategy. This review of CallPod is relevant, but my all-iPhone office would ideally include extra power adapters from Apple that I could strategically place where I spend a lot of time such as one for the bedroom, another in the kitchen, and one in the family room. Each automobile would ideally have its own power adapters. Rounding out the power struggle would be a Solio Mag, the top rated solar charger for iPhone.
EMail and Communications
There are many options in this class; GMail is my favorite because it can be accessed through the Safari browser or via the iPhone Google app , but you could use iPhone’s email client with any POP or IMAP service just as well. I also like the ability to manage spam and other services in GMail and of course, GMail search is stellar. Palringo is my choice for an MSN-like instant messenger and if you want something with video and voip support, give Fring a try. Skype (of course) is also a recommended choice in this class.
Your voice, nothing more. Seriously, don’t even think about typing! Get a copy of Dragon Dictation . Almost every article I write is at least partially developed, if not almost fully written with assisted voice recognition from Dragon Naturally Speaking. The new Dragon Dictation app for iPhone is a killer solution for rapid, accurate and simplified text-to-iPhone capture.
Customer Relationship Management and Social Media Monitoring
Hands down, Gist wins this debate. Gist for iPhone is good and getting better with each update. Gist is designed to take advantage of information regardless of where it takes root, but there’s also some secret sauce under the cover – the ability to understand which people and companies are important in the context of your overall information sphere. It provides a near-real-time roll-up of awareness and related content about people, companies, events and the conversations that bind them.
Two products stand out in this class in terms of authoring and managing office documents – Documents To Go Premium and QuickOffice Mobile Office Suite . I favor QuickOffice because it has the ability to read and write standard Microsoft Office 2007 formats including DOCX and XSLX, but both products are great if you’re trying to work with Microsoft Office documents. ReaddleDocs deserves some consideration if you plan on reading a lot of PDFs and Office documents – they have some advance reading features.
Cloud Storage Services
Cloud computing is a broad term that encompasses a wide array of services and resource configurations; cloud storage, specifically as it pertains to iPhone narrows the amount of research and number of vendors that should be explored, but it’s still a significant body of services that can be considered. I’ve tried many, but I always seem to come back to DropBox (which also happens to be our Editor-in-Chief’s favorite app). If you’re really security-minded or you need serious amounts of storage, Pogoplug is the right solution – check out our comprehensive review.
This is an easy one – Cinch from BlogTalkRadio delivers good performance but most important, agility from your iPhone. This is one of the simplest apps to use – fully streamlined, stupid-simple instant podcasting for non-technical people.
There are a slew of options in this class, but I always seem to settle in on Things after trying the others. I’m not a list-maker but I do need to track loosely arranged information and “Things” has always worked well for my limited requirements. For bigger capture and storage requirements I recommend Evernote . The iPhone app is elegant and very functional for recalling images, photos, and anything graphically captured including photos of hand-written text.
Document and File Collaboration
There’s a sea of options for collaboration. The 800 lbs gorilla, at least when it comes to hype is Google Wave. Waveboard is a hybrid Native/webapp that provides push notifications for new waves and somewhat speeds up access to Google’s Google Wave iPhone optimized site. While it is still in beta (like most Google apps), it is worth playing around with if you can secure an invite. Personally, I’m pretty satisfied with the Drop.io cloud service and Droppler for iPhone
Project Management and Team Collaboration
I’m a big fan of Basecamp for lightweight project management and team collaboration and fortunately, there are three really good iPhone clients to choose from; Insight, Sherpa (A Basecamp Companion), and Sherpa (formerly Encamp for Basecamp). I’ve used both Sherpa’s and Insight while I’m really familiar with Insight, the latest version of both Sherpa are very good apps.
Online Publishing Tools
There are two fundamental requirements in this class – web site/blogging and micro-blogging. I’ve never been a huge fan of WordPress . My bias stems from my work on MyST Blogsite, but I have to give WordPress two thumbs up if I were trying to go all-in with my iPhone. The WordPress authoring app for iPhone is elegant and functional, and WordPress itself can provide your blog and basic website requirements all in one solution.
Micro-blogging and participating in real-time social media with Twitter is a toss-up between HootSuite and Tweetdeck . I prefer HootSuite because it provides an integrated feature for RSS integration into Twitter accounts. If your business involves publishing on the web you’ll need to get comfortable with analytics on the iPhone, and Analytics app is my favorite – simple, to-the-point, no fluff, just the basic data.
With dozens of ISP choices, I have to go with GoDaddy in spite of the confusing web user interface. The GoDaddy iPhone app is a little more functional than the web UI and it provides all the essential features to manage your online presence, domains, and email accounts.
Mobile connectivity is a key factor if your goal is to go totally iPhone. WifiFoFum is a handy Wifi scanner for seeking out those unknown hotspots – I use it a lot when visiting unfamiliar areas. I also like Boingo’s $10/month service because I hate logging into hot spots through Safari, but you’ll have to decide what’s best for you in your locality and budget.
Pull The Plug and Survive or Thrive
With this array of apps and services, you could certainly survive, but I suspect someone will do this and actually thrive [eventually]. If you’ve already traded in the desktop for an iPhone, or you have some app recommendations, please let us know.
- Pogoplug: Get A Terabyte of iPhone Cloud Storage By Recycling Your USB Drives
- iPhone 4G: Killer Smartphone Will Change Mobile Business Collaboration – Six Apps To Watch in 2010
- Wirefly Mobile iPhone Backup: Necessity or Just Another Costly Distraction?
- Documents To Go for iPhone: (Almost) Microsoft Office in the Palm of Your Hand
- Box.net; Enterprise-ready Document Collaboration for iPhone