Mobile technology has the potential to streamline everyday workflows for geospatial professionals, but the sheer number of apps being produced and pushed onto mobile platforms can be overwhelming even for the most techno-savvy individuals. As with other products, price isn’t necessarily an indicator of value; marketers often price apps higher to influence consumers. Also, it is worth noting that if a good app isn’t selling as it should, the mobile platform (iOS or Android) will contact the developer to see if they want to drop the price or offer a limited time free download. Buyer beware definitely applies.

So which apps give you the best run for your money? Everyone with a smartphone or tablet has his or her own favorites. Here are some of mine. Although the specific apps I’ve listed are for Apple products, many of the same or similar apps can be found on the Android platform.

Best Free Apps

The free apps I use most often for business are email, camera, calendar, iBooks and weather. This might not be the most exciting list, but I use these apps more than any others on my iPhone. Most of these come preloaded on every smartphone.

The camera can be used to capture worksite conditions. You can add pictures to reports to add value (a picture really is worth a thousand words), and you can separate photos into albums to keep everything organized.

The calendar makes it easy to schedule meetings and jobs, and the automated reminders have saved me more than once. The calendar app will also sync with your calendar on your desktop and other devices so that they are all current without you having to enter each appointment separately in each device.  

Although iBooks no longer comes preloaded on the iPhone, this is one app I definitely recommend. This app will store PDFs, which is a great feature that surprisingly few people use. I have “Geodesy for the Layman” stored on my phone, along with my company’s employee handbook, our healthcare benefits, etc. No I don’t sit and read these in my spare time, but it’s a great tool when I need to quickly reference material and don’t want to use my data plan for an online search.

For up-to-date weather forecasts, look for free local news apps in the areas you work in most frequently. They will be more accurate than national apps, and most have interactive radar. (The local news app for the area where I live will even send weather warnings to my phone.)

Time Management Apps

If you’ve ever reached the end of your day and wondered where all your time went, then HoursTracker is the tool for you. I did have to pay for this one ($1.99), but after looking through the handful of other time tracking apps in the app store, this one had the functionality I needed and was reasonably priced. The best feature is the ability to add the common tasks that I do during a workday along with a rate. This information is stored in the app and makes it easy to switch between tasks. The app generates reports for the day, week, month or job that you can easily email to yourself or someone else.

Other time management apps can be found by searching for “time keeper” or “time management” in the app store.

Document Scanning Apps

At $1.99, TurboScan is a bargain. It scans any document, receipt, whiteboard, business card, etc. I love this app and highly recommend it. The app cuts down on the amount paper I have to keep up with, it lets me organize my scanned images and email them to co-workers, and best of all, it is easy to use. I find myself using it not only for work but to keep track of personal documents as well. It is nice not to have to deal with a regular document scanner and even better to have all my business cards on file.

Marketing Apps

Regardless of how you feel about social media, it is a cost-effective way to spread the word about your business. More and more companies and professional organizations are using these platforms to interact with existing and prospective clients, and mobile apps (most of which are free) make it easy to quickly post information and upload photos and videos.

For example, the Facebook Pages Manager app lets you quickly upload content to your page and obtain reports on how much attention your page is receiving. Wordpress lets you blog from your phone.

One of the least utilized but definitely beneficial apps is Yelp. This is a location-based app that searches for nearby businesses of all kinds and provides reviews from customers and clients. Although “professional services” is one of the Yelp categories, few geospatial firms are listed. I did a search for “land surveyors” in Texas, and to my surprise, only four results appeared. Business owners can create a free account on the back end at Yelp for Business Owners.

These are just a few of the apps that I find invaluable in my daily work and life. Please share some of your favorites below.