10 top iPad 2 apps for start-ups
By Oliver Milman
For seasoned tech observers, the greatest surprise at last week’s iPad 2 unveiling was the appearance of black roll-neck aficionado Apple CEO Steve Jobs to do his customary presentation.
The iPad2 itself is, as widely predicted, slimmer and faster than before and has evolved from zero cameras to two. The jury is still out as to whether it’s a must-buy for small businesses when it arrives in Australia on 25 March.
“The industry so far is torn between deciding whether the enhancements in the iPad 2 are sufficient in light of the announcements by Motorola, Samsung, and LG to launch dual-core Android tablets,” says Joseph Hanlon, associate editor at CNET.
“No one was blown away by what was announced, but many tech analysts seem to think Apple has added just enough new components to make the iPad 2 a worthy competitor.”
Hanlon feels that the iPad 2 will be high up the list of desirable devices for certain types of small businesses.
“If a significant portion of your work life involves any sort of display, the iPad 2 is worth considering,” he says. “The new HDMI adapter will mirror the iPad's screen to a larger compatible display, and the iPad's touchscreen and gesture controls should make for some compelling presentations.
“It really depends on what sort of work a business is involved with. The new cameras should mostly be disregarded for photographic purposes as the low resolution image sensor makes both cameras only suitable for video conferencing.
“The extra horsepower could come in handy, but only if a business relies on processing intensive applications. Business should take an ‘if it ain't broke don't fix it’ approach it upgrading a fleet of iPads.”
Whether you are looking to purchase the iPad 2 or are happy with the original, the business potential of the devices is only unlocked through the array of available apps.
Here we run down 10 of the best iPad apps for small businesses to consider.
1. Dragon Dictation
There are several voice recognition applications out there, but Dragon Dictation has pushed its way to the front of the queue for entrepreneurs on the move.
The app is powered by a simple but easy-to-use system that allows you to speak and instantly see your text or email messages. Dragon claims that its voice diction is five times faster than typing on the keyboard.
The software has a correction feature to clear up any verbal spills and has a list of suggested words if you don’t speak clearly enough.
The app allows you to quickly form everything from text messages to longer-form emails. It also gives you the opportunity to update your social networking applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, and send notes and reminders to yourself.
2. Time Master
Already a must-have for many independent contractors and freelancers, Time Master allows you to make sure you make the most of your time, both in terms of efficiency and cashflow.
The app allows you to keep track of your time and expenses, allowing you to ‘punch in and out’ for particular projects. The app calculates the billing rate and allows you to display reports and timesheets for clients.
The timing system runs even if you’re not running the app and it can calculate extra billable expenses such as kilometres travelled or meals consumed. Worthwhile if you have a bad habit of letting client money that’s rightfully yours slip through your fingers.
“If billing is an essential part of your business then Time Master is your best friend, especially with the iPad's 10-inch screen real estate,” advises Hanlon.
Reading PDF files on an iPad is pretty easy. While there isn’t a native way to view files, you can download and view PDF attachments on emails fairly easily.
But business users often require a little more than that and GoodReader delivers. This app is not only a useful document viewer – it’s actually a powerhouse full of features.
Users can connect to their DropBox, Google Docs and MobileMe accounts to view any type of attachment including PDF and Office document file.
Once you download a file, you can go to the ‘Manage Files’ option to rename it, delete it or email it on to someone. You can also transfer files when you’re on a Wi-Fi network.
One of the best features of this app is the ability to make annotations. If you’re reading a PDF file you can draw and make notes on the file itself, save the file with those annotations attached and then email them on.
You can also read MS Office files but you’ll need a dedicated editor to play with and change them.
GoodReader is simply one of the best apps available on any platform and is an essential for any heavy iPad user.
The problem with mobile technology is that you’ll no doubt move from one area with internet access into an area without it. This can be frustrating if you’re reading something particularly gripping but can’t save it in time.
This is where the Instapaper app comes in handy. In short, this app lets you save online articles for reading while you’re offline using a special type of browser. While normal use has users access the Instapaper website to read articles, the iPad app does all of this for you.
After the Instapaper app is installed, users can click on the options tab in the Safari browser to select “Read Later” and have that article sent to Instapaper. Articles can also be sent from RSS aggregators like Reeder as well.
When you access all your articles through Instapaper later on, they’ll be formatted into an easy-to-read interface. You can also file them in different folders and these are reflected through your account on the Instapaper site as well. You can also share articles through different social networks.
If you’re constantly looking for online content to read, but don’t necessarily have all the time in the world to read them at once, Instapaper is a must-have.
If you’re going to own a tablet device, you’re likely using it as an eReader as well. But there are so many eBook apps to choose from, and it’s hard to pick which is the best – but it’s fair to say that the Kindle is a safe bet.
The app itself is free, and you’ll need to sign up an account with Amazon. But once that’s done, you’ll be able to browse all the books through the Safari browser – which isn’t really a pain since it’s so well designed.
Once you buy a book, it will be synced to your account and you’ll be able to download the book itself into the Amazon app. A full list of your books is available for viewing and you have to simply choose the cover of the book you want to read.
A number of features are available on the bottom of the screen as well, including font size and brightness.
The iPad may not be a dedicated eReader, but with the Kindle app, it might as well be.
Many apps attempt to pull together a ‘dashboard’ of your social media and work activity, but few do it as attractively as FlipBoard.
The app is a social magazine, or what the developer itself calls “your personal magazine”. It aggregates data from your social feeds like Twitter and Facebook, and turns it into a magazine for you to read.
So not only does the magazine give you social updates and tweets, it also aggregates any links, photos, videos and any other media that your friends are sharing. Status updates appear as break-out quotes and photos are given more precedence over text.
The app was actually co-created by a former iPhone engineer, and the company has managed to gain over $10 million in venture capital.
FlipBoard is an original take on digital publishing in tablet format, and for free, you’d be crazy to miss experimenting with this one.
The demise of business cards has been predicted for some time. Despite the rise of electronic alternatives, however, it’s still customary for entrepreneurs to brandish small pieces of cardboard when meeting new contacts.
To avoid the cards you get in return piling up into a dusty heap, there are several apps that allow you to store these details on your iPad.
CamCard is the most popular business card reader on the market. You simply download the app, point it at a business card and take an image.
The app automatically downloads the information on the card, in any one of 12 languages, and files them neatly for you to access on your iPad. Now, all you’ve got to do is ensure your contacts return your phone calls.
8. Splashtop Remote Desktop
Steve Jobs may say that Apple is in the business of creating “post-PC” devices, but many businesses still have a traditional computer along with smartphone or tablet technology. Splashtop allows you to bring the two closer together.
The app enables the user to control multiple desktops or laptops directly from their iPad. You can open applications, browse the web and open files without having to operate the computer directly.
There is a slight lag in the time it takes to update features, but this is a minor quibble. Splashtop is a great tool for integrating your technology and is particularly useful for entrepreneurs who spend a lot of time making presentations.
One of the major gripes about the original iPad is its lack of a camera. The iPad 2 has gone two, rather than one, better with the inclusion of two cameras, opening up new areas of possibility for businesses.
One of the most obvious advantages will be the ability to make Skype calls. It’s rumoured that Skype will be bringing out a new app specifically for the iPad 2 and it will be worthwhile snapping it up.
The current version is more than good enough, of course, to allow you to slash your phone bills outside the office as well as inside it. The latest version allows you to call over 3G, as well as send instant messages and texts.
One of the major advantages of the iPad 2, much like its predecessor, is the ability to use its large touchscreen for creative endeavours.
Penultimate is one of the most freeform apps available on the iPad, allowing you to directly sketch, doodle or write with your finger or stylus, much like an actual notebook.
Ideal for jotting down entrepreneurial ‘Eureka’ moments, you can store different pages on Penultimate in a carousel application and even email them to others in PDF format.
If your jottings are particularly inspiring, you can present them to others via a screen or projector by using the iPad VGA Adapter
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