A May 2011 study by the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council found that small-business owners estimate they personally save an average of 5.6 hours weekly by using mobile apps. Seventy-five percent of small businesses using mobile apps report average employee time savings of more than 11 hours a week.
What's more, a survey from AT&T reports that more than a third of small businesses say it would be difficult if not impossible to survive without mobile apps. And while it can certainly be argued that AT&T has more than a passing interest in the subject, it's undeniable that mobile apps are clearly a big deal with small business.
So with so many small businesses jumping into mobile apps, what are the most popular? It seems there are as many "Best Apps" lists as there are web pages. (A Google search — appropriately, a mobile Google search — brings up 667 million hits.) But several seem to show up repeatedly:
Dropbox™ This free app makes it easy to manage and access multiple files by users in multiple locations, making it a great aid to mobile professionals. The basic service is free and comes with 2GB of storage, with more file space available at reasonable subscription rates.
Evernote®. Another free service that lets you record voice messages, make text notes, store photos and virtually "jot down" all those brilliant ideas that always seem to come to mind when you're nowhere near your office. Save them to Evernote, and retrieve them later on.
RightSignature™. Upload a contract or other document, and clients and customers can sign them electronically on their smartphone with the touch of a finger. It's fast, easy and just $14 a month.
Quickoffice® Pro. A reasonable monthly subscription fee lets users access and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and other Microsoft Office documents locally or remotely.
Skype®. Unlimited, free Skype-to-Skype calls, instant messaging and video chats on iPhone®, Android® and BlackBerry® smartphones.
There are hundreds if not thousands of mobile apps designed for small business. And while most handle subjects of interest common to many companies — finance, productivity, data analytics and more — some are highly specific. Services like BestVendor can help guide you to the apps businesses similar to yours use most.
Time permitting, there are those 667 million pages on Google.
One more note about mobile apps for those with an entrepreneurial bent: Inc. magazine cited Mobile App Design as one of the best industries for starting a new business. Something to consider.