iPhone applications get down to business

InfoWorld picks the best iPhone apps for connecting with business systems and boosting mobile productivity

With its revolutionary design, the first-generation iPhone captured consumers' hearts. But for the device to be welcomed into the business world, Apple understood that it had to address enterprise e-mail and security limitations. That's why the iPhone 3G (and iPhone 2.x software) introduced Microsoft Exchange support, secure VPN and wireless networking, and remote management.

Still, it takes quality applications that connect workers to corporate systems -- and innovative new programs -- for any mobile platform to have a corporate life. Both of these needs are being met by independent developers -- from moonlighting programmers to the largest software firms. Trouble is, with more than 10,000 iPhone applications, how do you separate the garbage from the gems? We've begun the sifting for you and present 25 recommended applications organized in three general categories: communication and collaboration; office and personal productivity; and sales-force automation, customer relationship management, and business intelligence.

[ View InfoWorld's picks for the best iPhone apps for communication and collaboration; office and personal productivity; and SFA, CRM, and BI. | See also "Eight easy steps to iPhone security" and "iPhone 3G enterprise scores are in." ]

Our selections include mobile front ends to corporate mail and groupware servers; clients to Oracle, Salesforce.com, QuickBooks, and other business apps; software that syncs contacts, calendars, files, and folders with your Windows or Mac desktop; and remote control clients for accessing desktops and other systems directly. Other handy apps use handwriting recognition or speech-to-text technology to turn the iPhone into a notepad or memo recorder -- or let you make phone calls or surf the Web using voice commands.

Most of our choices are free or low-cost native applications, available through Apple's App Store and installed through iTunes. A few work with the iPhone's Safari Web browser, where you simply point to any iPhone-enabled Web server. Either way, productivity should get a boost with these polished offerings.

We didn't include jailbreak apps in this collection. Since our "Top 10 iPhone apps for the techie," a number of native SSH, telnet, and TCP clients have become available. Still, a few jailbreak apps still have no counterparts in the App Store. For instance, the Orwellian-sounding Mobile Spy application lets you monitor your iPhone user's activities -- be it an employee or your teenager -- via a Web portal (where access is $99.97 per year, per phone). Mobile Spy runs undetectable on the iPhone 3G, recording SMS text messages and related phone numbers, plus all inbound and outbound call information.

Naturally, in a sea of applications that is expanding daily, more are on the horizon. Keep an eye open for DataViz's mainstay mobile productivity suite, Documents to Go ($29.99), which is coming to the iPhone in the first quarter of 2009. As with the Palm, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile versions, the upcoming iPhone version will let you work with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files. Further down the road, likely in late 2009, Microsoft indicated that the upcoming Office Web will run on the iPhone, through the Safari browser.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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