Computerworld's favorite smartphone apps

A roundup of our best-loved 31 apps for the iPhone, Android phones and other smartphones.

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On the job

Dragon Dictation

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Dragon Dictation

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Dragon Dictation allows you to dictate memos or messages which you can then send out as SMS messages, e-mails or as posts to Facebook or Twitter. Using it is simple: Click the "Tap and dictate" button and speak slowly and clearly. It's not always 100% accurate -- if you speak quickly, it's more likely to jumble words together -- though it's surprisingly close most of the time. If you need to clean up your dictated message before sending it out, you can do so by pressing a small keyboard icon and then typing any corrections. -- Ken Mingis

Dragon Dictation

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: None

Price: Free

Evernote

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Evernote

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In an era of information overload, Evernote helps you keep track of your data. The service stores Web pages, images, files and your own notes. It then syncs that database across multiple desktops and the cloud and lets you search by content or tag. It will even perform optical character recognition on text within images. The mobile app is not as robust as the desktop version, but it does let you easily add to or tap into your stored Evernote info. Snap a photo of a wine label, for example, and it will store the text of that vintage you've enjoyed. Scan or photograph business cards and import them into Evernote, and you can search for any text on the cards. Unlike the desktop version, you'll need an Internet connection to access all your data. -- Sharon Machlis

Evernote

OS reviewed: WebOS

Other OSes it works with: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile

Price: Free

MindNode

MindNode

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The ideal mind-mapping tool is simple, unobtrusive and doesn't interrupt the stream of consciousness. MindNode's simple interface is perfect for brainstorming, diagramming and developing ideas and projects effortlessly. I first discovered MindNode as a Mac app that met all of those requirements in spades -- and the iOS version with its tactile feel actually beats out the Mac version. Even writing on a dry erase board doesn't offer the ease of transcribing and developing an idea that this app does. I've used it to outline articles, figure out IT project requirements and even plan a move -- all of which MindNode made unbelievably easier. -- Ryan Faas

MindNode

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: None

Price: Free

Quickoffice

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Quickoffice

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There are a lot of Office-type suites available for every smartphone platform. Quickoffice is easily my favorite. It comes in multiple variations with varying price points. The free version has limited appeal since it only allows viewing of some Office documents (which iOS supports on its own). The Mobile ($4.99) and Connect Mobile ($9.99) versions for iPhone offer full editing of both Word and Excel files using a very clean, easy-to-use interface. The difference between the two is that the Connect Mobile version allows you to access and share files via common cloud services including Dropbox and Google Docs -- a feature well worth the extra $5 given the clunky file management in iOS. There is also an iPad-optimized version for $14.99 that adds support for viewing and creating PowerPoint documents (it also makes great use of the iPad's larger screen). The iPad version actually delivers an overall better experience than Apple's iWork apps. --Ryan Faas

Quickoffice

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Symbian

Price: Free up to $14.99 (depending on feature set)

Springpad

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Springpad

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Springpad could easily be the digital version of an overstuffed wallet. Random thought? Store it in Springpad. Want to record audio? Save a bookmark? Yep -- Springpad. You can even scan bar codes or take photos for storage and quick access later, either via your mobile or the Web. It's very user friendly and visually appealing. For example, I just saved a YouTube bookmark for HBO's Flight of the Conchords comedy with the label "Must watch more." In fact, I feel like I should be using this Swiss Army Knife of tools for more, but I know I will find a way -- over time -- to reach critical mass. I'm not worried, though. Unlike the saved receipts, stamps and other bulk from my actual wallet -- now lying in a pile of papers on my desk -- Springpad's pile is sortable by date and searchable. -- Mike Barton

Springpad

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: Android

Price: Free

Square

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Square

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My wife sells pottery at weekend craft shows. Taking credit cards used to be a big problem because wireless scanners are expensive. Then we found Square. You download the software, and they send you (for free) a little plastic square that plugs into the headphone jack of your smartphone. You can then process charges for VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards. The processing costs less than competing services; there's no monthly minimum and no per-swipe charge. The percentage you pay from each transaction is also competitive. The program is easy to use: just enter the amount and swipe, then the customer "signs" the touchscreen. You can send a receipt to the customer by e-mail showing the date, time and location of the purchase -- you can even include a photo of the product. And your money will be in your bank account the next day. Easier and less expensive than the alternatives, Square is a revolutionary combination of an app and a service. -- Alfred Poor

Square

OS reviewed: Android

Other OSes it works with: iOS

Price: Free app; 2.75% for swiped transactions; 3.5% plus $0.15 for keyed-in transactions

VIP Access

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VIP Access

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If you have used one of the two-factor identity credentials such as the SecurID key fobs from RSA, you know that it is easy to misplace them or leave them home when traveling. A better alternative involves using software token credentials that are stored on cell phones. Symantec's VeriSign Identity Protection services provide a simple means of two-factor authentication for a wide variety of purposes such as e-mail, Web logins and VPN network remote access. Once you register them to your account, you bring up the app on your phone and enter the timed six digit code to authenticate yourself. If you use PayPal or eBay with VIP, there are no fees to download the app or use it. However, for other services -- such as if you want to integrate it with your existing banking app or use it as an access key for your VPN -- then you have to pay Symantec a per use fee. -- David Strom

VIP Access

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile

Price: Free; other fees vary depending on service

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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