With nearly a million apps in Apple's iTunes store, it’s nearly impossible for an app company to get noticed. I’ve found that a better way is to check with friends and see what they like. Word of mouth seems to be the most effective marketing approach.
So, here are a few apps I’ve recently been trying and like very much. How did I find them? Mostly referrals from other users.
While I've tried a number of apps that track business expenses and manage track time, this app has become my go-to product for managing both. It’s simple to use, comprehensive and flexible. For example, it lets you set different rates for different clients and use different currencies, whose conversion values are automatically updated over the Internet.
You enter your clients' or customers’ names one time to track both time and expenses. It prompts you to take a snapshot of your receipt and integrates it with the expense description. You can export your records, including the photos, onto your desktop or send a report by email.
The app allows you to establish custom categories, such as personal and business, and assign your expenses to either. One of its latest features is tracking mileage, which using your GPS to monitor locations and distance.
The product, along with other tracking apps, comes from Silver Software, one of the pioneers in creating products for mobile devices, going back to the Apple Newton. It's a product that shows a deep understanding of how such a product is used in real-life situations. ($5.99 from the App store; Apple only)
Remember those stand-alone card scanners that cost about $150? Now all of that functionality is in your phone thanks to ScanBizCards. It's a $2 app that turns your iPhone into a powerful business card scanner.
I learned about this app from a San Diego lawyer who I sat next to on a recent flight from San Francisco. I watched him take a stack of business cards and photograph them one by one into his iPhone. The display shows the card information and imports the data into your Contacts list, including Outlook, iPhone address book, Evernote, etc.
The scanning accuracy was very good. The image is automatically cropped, properly oriented and you can easily make corrections with the text entry window adjacent to the image of the card.
You can also scan both sides of a card, particularly useful when you take notes about the individual. Or you can attach a picture of the person. Available for iPhone, Windows phones and Android phones. ($3.99)
This Apple app tracks the long-term accuracy of your mechanical watch. It works by analyzing pictures you take of the watch dial over successive periods of time and then displays the daily error in seconds. It's an interesting product for those who use fine mechanical watches, which tend to be far less accurate than a quartz watch. Typical accuracy of mechanical watches is within 10 seconds a day.
To use, you take a close-up image of the watch face and move markers using the touch screen over the tips of the hands and the center of the dial. You can monitor the accuracy of multiple watches at the same time. ($4.99)
Of course, another way to check accuracy is to use the free Official U.S. Time app, which gives you accurate time checks, and then record the information by hand.
This app for the iPhone is one of several products that re-create one of the classic Hewlett Packard calculators from the 1970s and 80s. This particular 99-cent app from CuVee software does a superb job of re-creating the iconic HP-45, which, along with the HP-35, made up the world's first pocket scientific calculators.
Key clicks and displays are accurately re-created, and it uses reverse Polish notation for data entry, just as the originals. The company also offers a free version of the HP-67, a later model, along with a simulated paper tape displayed on the screen.
New smartphone stand,
camera timer app
For all smartphones, insert the Keyprop prong into the headphone jack, and Keyprop rests against the front panel to prop up your phone. Courtesy photo
KeyProp is a clever tripod and stand that fits on your keychain. The key-like device fits onto a phone using one of its connectors to prop up the phone for taking pictures, reading, watching a video or playing a game. It comes with an app, KeyCam, which provides a camera timer so you can be in the picture. Clap your hands to start the countdown timer.
Since Keyprop is on your keychain, you always have it at your fingertips. For all smartphones, insert the prong into the headphone jack, and the Keyprop rests against the front panel to prop up your phone. Adjust the angle of the stand by propping the stand on your keys. It works with phones, with or without cases or bumpers. The product is now on Kickstarter and will retail for $15. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alisonw/keyprop-simple-smartphone-stand-self-timer-app)
Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer" published by Financial Times Press. Phil can be heard on KOGO AM the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to email@example.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.