App happy: Mobile apps keep small businesses efficient and on the go

With all the buzz surrounding business use of "cloud computing," you might think the concept of conducting business anywhere -- on the road, in the board room, on a soccer field or in the gym -- was a new one. But small-business owners have been working on the go for decades. The arrival of mobile apps has just made things a little easier for them.

"A decade ago, an entrepreneur might have worked through her son's Little League game with a laptop balanced on her knees and then downloaded her completed work when she got back to the office," says Michael Alter, president and CEO of SurePayroll Inc. "Now, she can complete tasks such as running payroll or cutting paychecks on the spot, wherever she is, using the right mobile app and her smartphone."

If you're a small-business owner looking to make your mobile devices even more useful for business, consider these types of apps that can help:

Payroll/paycheck apps:

SurePayroll users can download a payroll app for either their Apple or Android devices. The app allows small-business owners to pay employees; track earnings, deductions, work hours, vacation, sick and personal time; set a check date; view payroll summary reports; access employee contact information; and run payroll with a single click. Taxes are paid and filed automatically. The Mobile Paycheck app allows employees to securely view current and past paychecks online from their Apple devices.

Seven Brands That Have Killer Mobile App Strategies (And How You Can Replicate Them)

Mobile apps are a difficult art to master, but when done right can offer your customers a way to interact with your brand on the go, furthering your value and seamless integration with their busy lifestyles.

When determining a mobile app strategy, it’s best to look at how some of the world’s biggest brands are doing it, and learn from their secrets. While your app may not achieve the virality and mass consumption of Uber or Snapchat, these giants can teach you a thing or two about meeting the needs of your consumer in a way that’s both interactive and intuitive.

Below, seven agency executives from Forbes Agency Council discuss the brands they see having impeccable mobile app strategies, and offer their advice for replicating their ”secret sauce” for your own.

The Best Mobile Apps To Succeed in Your Financial Goals

When most people think of saving money, they might jump immediately to sales, coupons, or something that involves a purchase. But the truth is, solutions to saving money might not be found where you expect them. In fact, mobile apps may be the secret to getting a handle on your finances. Let’s take a look at five mobile apps that can help users save money.

Better Records

There is a reason that companies spend so many resources tracking their finances. Unless you know where the money is coming in at and how it is being spent, it’s impossible to move forward on your fiancial goals.

Individually, there are apps that work wonderfully to help you take the guesswork out of navigating your spending habits. Apps like Cashbook allow you to see your money in new ways and can also show where your financial pitfalls are.


If you’re like the average person, tax season is a time of dread. Keeping track of your financial situation doesn’t just give you a financial advantage; it helps you find deductions every year. One of the most popular apps, Shoeboxed, records your receipts and categorizes them by expense at the end of the year.

Taxes made easy, right at your fingertips.


ISIS Has Launched A Mobile App—For Children

But don’t worry: it only teaches them the Arabic alphabet.

The Islamic State is well known for its technology savvy, and now it’s bringing it to a new group: children.

The Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, has developed a mobile application called Huroof that’s designed specifically to teach children the Arabic alphabet, according to the Long War Journal, a blog that reports on the “Global War on Terror.” The app was reportedly released by ISIS’s “Office of Zeal,” and will work on Android devices, though it isn’t available for download through the Google GOOGL -0.74% Play marketplace.

The Long War Journal posted several images of the app, which is brightly colored and includes the look and feel one would expect from any child’s app. However, the report claims that the app is “littered with jihadist terminology,” teaches children words like “tank,” “gun,” and “rocket,” and even depicts images of weaponry around the app.

How much are your mobile apps costing you?

There’s no denying the many advantages of phone applications. From online shopping and banking to whiling the time away with games, streaming, music, and e-books, phone applications are here to stay. If you leave someone with his or her phone, there’s no doubt he and she can spend a whole day using and playing with various apps.

Below is an estimate of how much monthly subscriptions and in-app purchases cost. Individually, their costs are negligible, but add them up, then you might be spending more than you realize. Here is a breakdown of how much commonly availed subscriptions and apps cost:

Streaming music Php 130 (monthly)

Renting a movie: Php 180 (per movie) (It’s Php 650 if you buy it)

Channel subscription: Php 200 (monthly)

Games: Php 45 – Php 400 (depending on the game)

International call services = Php 650 (monthly)

Monthly total: Php 1,260 (Php 130 + Php 180 + Php 200 + Php 100 + Php 650)

(Yearly total: Php 15,120)

Php 1,260 a month doesn’t seem so much, but that doesn’t take into account other subscriptions you have. Instead of renting a movie, you are buying. Instead of sticking to playing one game a month, you are playing two, three, or more games. With Php 1,260, that could pay for your phone, electricity, or water bills, and if you have those covered, you could put the Php 1,260 or at least half into a savings account, and you could save Php 7,560 a year or Php 15,120 if you save the entire Php 1,260 a month.

Does this mean you have to cancel all your subscriptions and stop your in-app purchases?

GoPro's new mobile apps take all the work out of video editing

Today, GoPro is rebranding and relaunching the two mobile video editing apps that the company bought back in February. One is focused on giving users an automatic editing experience, allowing them to create stylized videos with just a few taps. The other offers more fine editing controls, and is for more advanced users. But this isn't just news for people who own GoPros, because both apps — named Quik and Splice, respectively — will also work with footage that you've shot with your phone.

2015 wasn't a particularly great year for GoPro. The company's revenue and stock price fell, which led to layoffs and scaled-down financial projections for 2016. (In that light, it's also no surprise that today's news was announced just two days ahead of the company's next quarterly earnings report.) A big part of those struggles is the incredible smartphone boom. Millions of people around the world now find themselves equipped with phones that can shoot 4K, HD, and even super slow-motion footage.


The two new(ish) apps address this problem head-on, while also alleviating another: the headache of having too much GoPro footage to choose from.

Presidential candidate mobile apps grow 60% in the first quarter

The U.S. Presidential race is a gift that keeps on giving. In this case, app makers are benefiting, as candidate-oriented apps grew 60 percent on Google Play in the first quarter.

Tel Aviv-based IronSource reported that its Q1 data shows political apps have increased dramatically in the quarter leading up to the primaries and election.

“The app industry continues to be a fast-moving sector that evolves quickly and dynamically, making tracking tools like Fastest Growing Apps all the more important for developers looking to capitalize on shifting user interests to engage with their target audiences and drive growth,” said Omer Kaplan, chief marketing officer and cofounder of IronSource, in a statement. “This latest data reflects the increasing importance mobile and digital play in today’s election landscape, and illuminates opportunities for developers looking for new ways to target users and increase installs.”

Election-focused apps penetrated a variety of app categories in the Google Play Store, with such apps appearing in categories ranging from News and Entertainment (like popular Entertainment apps What Would Donald Say? and Hit the Politician) to Games, which included newly released apps like the funny title Trump Dump.

Of the 50 leading apps identified as being political, the majority were in the Games and Entertainment categories, with 40 percent in Games and 20 percent in Entertainment. Only 14 percent were in the News and Magazines category, indicating less interest in election coverage versus satirical candidate-specific apps.

Mobile apps vs. mobile Web: Do you have to choose?

There have been countless debates about the demise of the mobile Web at the hands of mobile applications. Who is winning? No one can agree.

One pundit sees apps dominating users’ attention. Another predicts apps will kill off the entire Web. As the saying goes, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

The reality is neither solution will go away, and it is a mistake to pit one against the other. 

The truth is both serve a useful purpose, and both have limitations in terms of meeting the needs of users in any given context.

Let us consider some key facts.

Biggest brands have it made
Mobile apps represent a small fraction of the total mobile revenue for all but a handful of the biggest brands.

Amazon has more app revenue than mobile Web revenue. Walmart is getting close to parity. Most are not even close. Why?

Benedict Evans summed it up most succinctly: “Do people want to put your icon on their home screen?” The answer for most brands is “no.”

Does this mean retailers should not create native mobile apps? Absolutely not. But the goals are different.

Apps are for retailers’ most loyal customers by definition – who else will download your app?

So instead of a generic shopping app, consider a VIP program for your best customers, delivered through an app. This will not only drive more revenue from these customers, it will also make their experience better.

Nordstrom, for example, targets its most loyal customers via a mobile app that delivers store notifications and promotions based on where those shoppers happen to be.

Nordstrom customers can also see real-time inventory of stores closest to them.

Another example is Dick’s Sporting Goods. The company has focused its efforts on its iPhone app as a digital hub for the company’s Scorecard rewards program. It targets special promotions for its most loyal, active customers.

The apps versus mobile browser discussion is really about audience segmentation and user behavior patterns.

While apps are ideal for nurturing loyalty, the mobile Web is preferred for convenience and reach.

A recent Forrester Research report shows shoppers prefer to buy from mobile sites while on the go.

Journalism, computer science students develop mobile news apps

Journalism and computer science students showcased their mobile news apps that do everything from making it easier to identify LGBTQ-friendly businesses to locating bike racks on campus on Saturday. 

The event was part of UT’s Mobile News App Design class, in which journalism and computer science students team up to design iPhone apps. Over the semester, teams were asked to develop ideas, program them into iOS apps and promote their work with social media campaigns.

Robert Quigley, the journalism lecturer who led the class, said the curriculum helped students from diverse backgrounds learn to collaborate.

“This is an important class to have students working together on these cross-functional teams and learning to work with each other,” Quigley said. “Journalism and computer science students definitely think about things in different ways, and in the real world, you’re going to work with people who aren’t all in the same major.”

Local software developer Jeff Linwood, who taught the coding portion of the class, said this year’s apps were a major success.

“For the first time, we’ve actually had all our students get their apps into the App Store,” Linwood said. “This is a first for this class and it’s really exciting. So you can just go ahead and download their apps onto your iPhone, your iPad.”

Mobile apps Line, Kakao flourishing among young Asians

L: Forget Facebook and Twitter.

Two of Asia's biggest social media players, Kakao Talk and Line, are growing by making mobile messaging apps an integral part of the lives of young Asians who prefer to communicate more privately instead of shouting out in virtual arenas and risking troubles with trolls -- or disclosing aspects of their lives to their parents they'd rather not share.

Kakao Talk is the top messenger app in South Korea, with more users than Facebook or Twitter. People use it to hail cabs and transfer money, advancing toward a cashless society. Even South Korean government officials prefer Kakao chat rooms for communicating with colleagues as opposed to email.

In Japan, where Line users outnumber those on Facebook or Twitter, people buy cute digital stickers to link to messages and use the app to search for music and jobs.

In doing so, the apps are serving as test beds for digital services, demonstrating ways the latest trends in technology and communication can be integrated with daily life in the 21st century.

Above all, they are making money, although some of their products, such as digital stickers, would be a hard sell in other markets. Silicon Valley investors and tech startups everywhere are watching closely.

Here's a look at Kakao Talk and Line, Asia's top messenger app companies.

KAKAO TALK: Headquartered on the southern island of Jeju, South Korea. The app was released in 2010.

OWNED BY: Kakao, South Korea's No. 2 Internet search engine, which counts former Naver CEO Kim Beom-su as the largest shareholder.

NUMBERS: 48 million active users globally, including 40 million in South Korea. Sales at the owner of Kakao Talk reached 932.2 billion won ($808.5 million) last year.

HITS: Kakao Talk itself and its cute emoticon characters. The company was able to build on the success of Kakao Talk when it launched Kakao Story, an Instagram-like service which was at one point more popular than Facebook among South Koreans. But its user growth has been slowing. The latest big hit is Kakao Taxi, an Uber-like taxi hailing service.