A mobile phone is pretty much an essential business tool these days – and not just for making calls. With smart phone apps and cloud storage, you can track tasks and contacts, manage documents and even dictate e-mails and translate foreign phrases. Here are a dozen apps that will keep you working even when business takes you out of the office.
Evernote: This app lets you write notes, clip material from websites and save pictures, audio and documents. It's all stored in the cloud, where it's accessible not only from your mobile device but from any computer. Evernote can search through all the material you store, even recognizing words that appear in photos so that a search for that word or phrase will retrieve the photo. Works on: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. Cost: Basic account free, premium $5/month.
CamCard: Business trips often end with pockets full of business cards that tend to get lost. With CamCard, you can use your smart phone's camera to scan those cards as you collect them, transferring the contact information straight into your contact list. Works on: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone. Cost: $10 to $15, depending on device and version.
Read It Later: Bookmark and save Web pages, and content from other sources such as Twitter, RSS feeds and some mobile apps, to read later, when you don't have an Internet connection – a good option for catching up on online reading during long flights, or just for keeping track of things to read when you have the time. Works on: Android, iPhone, iPod Touch (Web version works from BlackBerry and other platforms). Cost: Free.
Gist: See complete information about your contacts, drawn from your address books and inboxes, social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter, blog posts and news services, all in one place on your mobile device. Gist also helps you send notes and meeting confirmations to your contacts. Works on: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone. Cost: Free.
Navita Translator: If "on the road" means overseas travel, this app for translating words and phrases can help you get around and get things done. Type in a foreign phrase – from a sign, say – and get the English equivalent, or type in an English phrase and get a translation in any one of more than 50 languages. In some languages, the app will even speak the words for you. Works on: BlackBerry. Cost: Free.
BHive Tasks: While the BlackBerry has its own task management system, BHive Tasks adds features that are handy if you manage tasks on the go. The start screen lists tasks in categories such as today, tomorrow, next week and later. You can create tasks from e-mails and text messages, and enter multiple tasks quickly. BHive Tasks integrates with BlackBerry task management , which means you can sync it with Outlook and other desktop software. Works on: BlackBerry. Cost: $8.99.
Dragon Dictate (iPhone and iPod)/ Dragon for E-mail (BlackBerry): This speech recognition app lets you dictate e-mails and, on the iPod and IPhone, Facebook and Twitter posts and notes to yourself as well. You can also upload your contact list to its speech-recognition server, making it pretty good at recognizing names. The BlackBerry version is integrated with BlackBerry e-mail; open an e-mail first, then press one of the phone's side buttons to dictate. The iPhone version stands alone: you dictate text and then indicate what to do with it. Works on: BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. Cost: Free.
FlexT9: This Android app combines the speech recognition facility of Dragon Dictate and Dragon for E-mail with other ways of entering information into your Android device. "Type" by gliding your finger from letter to letter on an onscreen virtual keyboard, or "write" letters on the screen with your fingertip. The app predicts what you're saying, and lets you choose from predicted words. Works on: Android. Cost: Free.
JotNot: Scan single- and multi-page documents, receipts, business cards and whiteboards with your smart phone's camera, and save them to JPG, PDF or PNG files. You could just take a picture of the document, but JotNot recognizes document edges, cleans up the image and lets you put multiple pages into one document file. Once you scan a document, you can e-mail or fax it from your phone. Works on: iPhone. Cost: Free.
Jump Desktop: Sometimes, when you're away from the office and carrying only your smart phone, you need to be able to connect back to an office PC. Jump Desktop lets you do that, so you can fetch a file or use an application on your computer. This can be handy for small companies with distributed work forces – employees can be anywhere and still have access to their machines back at the office. Works on: Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. Cost: $9.99.
Skype: Mobile apps for the well-known Internet phone and video chat service provide a cheap alternative to long-distance phone calls, as well as a reliable option for video conferencing. Works on: Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch. Cost: Free.
DropBox: This cloud-based backup service stores files so they're accessible from any computer or smart phone. It can save travellers the trouble of transferring files to their mobile devices, or the common dodge of e-mailing the document to yourself, and provides a fail-safe for important presentations in case a laptop gets lost, stolen or broken. Works on: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad. Cost: Free (premium versions available).