The app marketplace is exploding. There are currently more than 2.2 million apps available for iPhones and 2.8 million apps available for Android devices. The sheer number of apps to choose from can make it hard to locate the valuable (and free) apps out there, but that's kind of our thing. These picks are among our favorites for free apps that make your smartphone smarter.
AirDroid (Android) is among the most impressive free apps. The functionality is great, the user interface is slick, and the advertisements are relatively noninvasive. AirDroid allows you to access everything on your phone from any computer, so you can text directly on your laptop (Windows or Mac) using a full-sized keyboard, receive notifications, access apps and more. AirDroid helps minimize the number of screens you're managing at a time by bringing them together in a seamless and efficient way.
Since businesses don't exist in a vacuum, most entrepreneurs place a high value on being informed. Flipboard (Android, iOS) is hands-down the best app for staying updated on the things that interest you most. This elegant app allows you to curate your own interest areas and then read about them in separate "magazines." You can either flip through all the articles that have been curated for you or select a specific magazine to read. I have magazines on subjects as varied as technology, world economics, news, recipes, travel and interior decorating.
This app is reliable and useful. AppLock (Android) makes it easy to manage the security of individual apps. You can lock apps down with a password, pattern or fingerprint scan and even hide specific data, including photos and videos. There's also a feature that allows you to auto-lock or unlock your phone based on location. This is helpful not only for business security purposes but also to prevent losing information. Many entrepreneurs use one primary phone for their business and personal life, and maintaining a separation is much easier with the features AppLock offers.
CamScanner on Android (or CamScanner Lite on iOS) doesn't have the greatest interface, but it's so useful it deserves to be on this list. CamScanner effectively turns your phone into a scanner. You can scan documents directly into a PDF format and then email it from the app. CamScanner is an asset for self-employed entrepreneurs who regularly deal with the back-and-forth of signing contracts with clients. CamScanner also allows you to secure sensitive documents with passwords, add annotations, and print or fax from the app.
Microsoft OneNote (Android, iOS) is still one of the best free apps for phones. The robust application is an organizational powerhouse, offering users the ability to create dynamic sharable notebooks that can hold word documents, photos, embedded videos, Excel workbooks and just about any other data files you can name. OneNote works with Outlook, which is helpful for fluid business use, and the growing selection of project management tools makes it more than just a place to store things.