best apps small business

Pop quiz: Without looking, do you know how many business apps you have on your smartphone? (And yes, you can count your go-to game app. After all, in ancient times, when everyone worked in office buildings, the break room still counted as office space.)

According to the small business survey “Survival of the Fittest App,” from virtual phone service eVoice®, you probably have very few. Nearly half (44 percent) of small and midsized business (SMB) owners have only one to five business apps on their phones. Just 27 percent say they use six to 10 apps for business. Given that more than 600 new apps hit the Apple App store every day, small business owners like you are clearly careful about bringing new apps into your routine.

So, what must a mobile app do to earn a place on your phone’s screen? Here are three ideas emerging from the eVoice SMB survey, ideas that can help you select (or decline) that next new business app making big promises.

1.    Make sure the app is intuitive

Remember when users had to learn a new handwriting language to use a stylus on a Palm device? No more. We now demand our productivity tools be intuitive and simple to operate the instant we install them. You should expect no less from a mobile app.

Thirty-seven percent of eVoice survey respondents say they know within a week if an app is right for them. One way to know immediately is if the app doesn’t take much time to learn.

Before downloading a new app, review the details in the app store, paying close attention to the screen shots. It should all look user-friendly and easy. If you sense that you’ll need to download a manual to figure the thing out, find a better solution. (The app’s page doesn’t have screen shots? Bad sign.)

2.    Try before you buy

More than a third (39 percent) of survey respondents say they will consider buying a business app only after trying it for free. If that new app you’re eyeing is going to be such a boon to your productivity, the app makers should make a free version available for a trial period.

Taking our eVoice virtual phone system as an example, we allow users free trial access to the full service, including the mobile app. If you can’t verify a new tool will add value to your business processes, why bother investing any time into it?

3.    Look for apps that help you communicate

The value of a mobile app is that it lets you conduct business from anywhere that you’d otherwise need to complete at a desk.

Nearly half of SMBs say the most important type of app is one that lets them communicate on the go — apps like videoconferencing service Skype or virtual phone solution eVoice.

If an app lets you attend a meeting virtually, or take a call routed from your business’s virtual 800 number to your seat at the football game, that’s worth adding to your routine.

Mike Pugh is Vice President of Marketing at j2 Global, Inc., a pioneering provider of cloud-based communications services including eVoice®, a phone system for small businesses and eFax ®, a cloud-based Internet fax solution.