25 Smartphone Apps Every Leader Should Know About

Confession: I really like technology.

As a child of the 70s who remembers having to get up off the couch to change TV channels, I am in favour of anything that makes life more productive, more rewarding or more fun.

 

After all, why not get ahead on the mission by becoming more efficient? I think that’s exactly what the right apps help you do.

Just so you know, my experience of all these apps is through Apple products but most of these apps have Android or other equivalents.

While you’ll know and use some of these apps, I hope there are some new ones too. Not all the apps listed are free apps (although many are), but for the price of a coffee or less in most cases your life is more productive. And one or two are web apps (websites) and don’t have an app for your phone or tablet. But they were so good I had to put them on the list.

And naturally, I’d love to know what you use, so please leave a comment. I’ll bet I’m missing some great apps.

In no particular order, of the 100+ apps I have on each device I own, here are 25 apps every leader ought to know about:

Productivity

Mailbox After trying numerous email apps, Mailbox has emerged as my favourite. Don’t want to deal with an email now? Swipe left and with one tap choose the time you want it to reappear in your box. Archiving, filing and deleting is effortless. Makes it easy to be at zero inbox every day and yet you never miss anything.

Things and Gneo I have used Things by Culture Code as my default to-do list for years. It’s really good. Lately been experimenting with a new app called Gneo. It’s a bit complex but has much more diverse functionality and syncs with Evernote. Any Gneo users with more insight? Leave a comment.

Reeder 2 A simple RSS feeder that allows you easy access to whatever blogs or sites you love most.

15five.com Okay, this isn’t an app but it should be. It’s a website designed to help bosses connect with their direct reports and employees better. You can design questions team members answer weekly, biweekly or monthly to help you stay connected with everyone. I love it. That’s why I included it.

Hangouts Google chat and video chat have evolved into Google Hangouts. Excellent quality. Free. Makes Skype seem ancient by comparison. You can screen share and do so much more. And it works with multiple users.

Google Hangouts on Air It’s everything Google Hangouts is except it broadcasts your video chat and automatically records it to YouTube. You can add lower third graphics, and the screen view camera switches automatically to feature whomever is speaking. Brilliant. I have used it to record blog interviews and you could do basic webinars with it. For free. Hangouts on Air is only available through Google+ on a desktop, but I had to mention it.

Evernote I use it for everything. Quick ideas. Clips for messages. Images, lists. I probably access 10% of its functionality, but I am still in love. It really does remember everything for you and is exceptionally searchable.

Dropbox I know you know DropBox. But it just had to be on the list. If you don’t know DropBox, it’s a virtual, sharable hard drive that syncs across all devices. Again, free.

Google Drive Documents at our church are almost 100% online. No more sending versions of Word or Pages docs back and forth and losing track of which version you’re on or overwriting them. Google Drive allows all your writing to be shared with key team members and documents to be edited instantly by multiple users at the same time—in a way that’s visible to everyone. Makes team work a cinch. Drive helps you access all of them on any device anywhere, even off-line.

Teleprompt+ for iPad Don’t want to spend $1000+ on a full teleprompter? Simply paste your text into Teleprompter for iPad. Set your iPad next to the camera lens and it scrolls while you talk. Not bad for 1.5% of the cost of a real one.

DocuSign Ink Never download, print, sign, scan and then send a document again. There are a bunch of apps that allow you to sign legal documents and contracts without printing a thing, but this is my fave. It just works. Perfect for iPad.

Analytics If you track your website or blog stats, the Analytics app gives you virtually all the power of the Google Analytics website on your device.

Travel

TripIt I use this for all my travel. Shares your trip data with friends and family easily and sends push notifications to your phone instantly for flight delays, gate changes and more.

TripAdvisor It’s a really great app that generates top sites, attractions, restaurants and hotels based on user-reviews.

AroundMe A GPS based app that shows you what’s, well, around you wherever you are. Perfect for restaurants, theatres, museums, shops and stores.

 

Photography

Word Swag More people ask me about this app than any other app (as in “what are you using to create those Instagram photos”?). I use it for creating great text-over-image pics for Instagram and Facebook. It can even make unhip non-design people like me look a bit savvy. (Thanks to my friend way cooler friend Chris for telling me about it. You should read his blog.)

Instagram Under-30s have largely left Facebook and are mostly found here, as well as on Twitter, Tumblr and Snapchat (not gonna take on Snapchat personally). Plus Instagram is still fun!

TiltShift Generator Great photo editing app for blur, colour and effects.It’s actually designed to make your photos look like you snapped a pic of a miniature model (like a toy train rather than a real train), but it just generates really cool effects without miniaturization as well. It makes ordinary shots look anything but that in less than a minute.

Photo Editor by Aviary A decent photo editor for the non-photoshop crowd like me. They prompt you a bit for in-app purchases, but the free basics are more than enough.

Photo Grid – Collage Maker Perfect for placing multiple pics into a single photo with nice frames.

Fun and Learning

Rdio I write and work to music. Rdio is quickly becoming my default music app. A subscription based music service, it works on all devices. But you can trial it for free. For the price of two albums a month, you get unlimited access to almost every piece of music available. Plus, artists make more money from streaming services than through other means like iTunes, CDs or vinyl. You can sync all devices and download as well as stream.

Downcast An alternative to Apple’s Podcast app, Downcast is a capable podcast app that both downloads and streams podcasts. Playlists are easy if you don’t want to switch casts in the middle or your workout, ride or run. Neat.

Flipboard This one’s been around for a a while, but if you haven’t discovered it, you should. Fully customizable news/interest feeder in an awesome custom format for your phone or tablet. Like having your favourite magazines/papers/social media stories all in one place, at your fingertips. If you like to read outside your area of expertise (a great idea), this is great way to expose yourself to new ideas and fields conveniently.

Strava Cycling A social media app for cyclists and runners that automatically tracks your performance and tracks your time against all other Strava users on that route and against your personal best times. Addictive for the competitor in all of us.

Well those are my go-to apps right now. Please share yours!

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Please note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product, I may receive a commission. Thanks for supporting the blog when you buy. I really appreciate it! And I think you know I only recommend products I personally use and that I believe will help other people. 

40 Comments

  1. Eve Hunt on December 4, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    “A nice list of some very useful apps. At present, I’m using MX Player and TrueCaller apps, from among the apps listed by you. But it makes sense to give the other apps a try too!

    As long as they are going to boost productivity, I’m okay with installing any app! 🙂 And I’m sure the above mentioned apps will help squeeze out that extra bit of productivity from my Android smartphone!

    Okay, a personal suggestion of mine- Papyrus app. It helps me scribble down ideas related to blog posts and other topics on the go. Whenever I get an idea to write a blog post, I note it down on Papyrus app, so that I can recall that idea easily, later. I think it’ll be real handy for bloggers 🙂 Just my little suggestion though! 🙂

    Found link to this useful post on Kingged!”

  2. Sonia Bray on February 25, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Interesting because it seems that mobile apps are the wave of the future and more and more clients are parking in front of the home and then Googling the address from their handheld. So if we don’t make our sites mobile friendly we might be lost in the dust.

  3. Stephen on February 3, 2014 at 12:05 am

    TrackMyDrive is another great app for tracking mileage deductions and reimbursements.

  4. Jeremy Picker on February 2, 2014 at 1:37 am

    Wunderlist – my ToDo list…Syncs with Desktop.
    Genius Scan – make PDF files from pictures I take of documents. Very handy
    MileBug – great mileage tracker for taxes
    Pocket – saves articles/blogposts/websites to look at later.

    • Jeremy Picker on February 2, 2014 at 1:39 am

      I also use Camera+ then Word Swag for photos.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on February 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm

        Just getting into Wunderlist. Loving it!

  5. micahfoster on January 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I have a similar post about my top 15 tools I use… http://www.micahfoster.net/2013/06/top-tools/

  6. Brett on January 21, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Instapaper. For reading something, later on. Great for indexing articles, etc. I use it on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone.

  7. Drae on November 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    another app I love is sticher…for radio/audio podcasts (free)

  8. 6-String Salvo, November 8, 2013 | Mike Lee on November 8, 2013 at 6:54 am

    […] Here are 25 smartphone apps every leaders should know about from Carey […]

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    […] 25 apps every leader should be aware of. I love the apps I use for leadership and ministry. […]

  10. Jade on November 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Flipboard for the win!
    I also love dropbox.

    Two to check out:
    irunurun: works best when you have someone else on it providing accountability– our team at work uses this for our personal goals/development.

    postagram: .99 pays for a photo postcard to be printed and shipped. i love using this to connect with family when i travel for extended periods. also a simple way to randomly brighten someone’s day.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Leave it to Jade to give a few cool apps! Thanks Jade. 🙂

  11. Tim on November 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Any thoughts on a daily calendar app?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Tim I still use iCal. Because my assistant runs my calendar we need a calendar app that works across all devices (hers and mine) and iCal does this seamlessly for us. I’d love to hear what others are using.

      • David Brunner on November 10, 2013 at 7:00 am

        I use weekCal. It works great with iCal but has some more nice features.

      • Chris Vacher on December 27, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        Fantastical is my calendar app of choice on iPhone and my Mac. Can’t beat it!

  12. […] 25 Smartphone Apps Every Leader Should Know About […]

  13. Poodz on November 7, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Lol why should every leader know about your cycling app? Or your favorite photo editors?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 7, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Because leaders need some balance in their lives. That’s why. 🙂

      • Alex Schwartz on January 30, 2017 at 5:18 pm

        Leaders don’t need balance- they need PASSION!

        (Taking your eCourse, Carey. It’s great!)

  14. Faye on November 6, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I love Zoho.com and have both the app and desktop which I sign into. it allows me to create tasks and deadlines but also allows me to task others or visa versa. It keeps me and my team on the same page and we always know the status of a file/project. it does lots of other things too but that is our main use. 🙂

  15. Mike Paschal on November 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Another Podcasts app i started using is Pocket Casts. It has the cleanest UI out of all Podcast apps. No desktop version thought, which Downcast does have.

  16. Daniel Indradjaja on November 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Carey, Thanks for the list. I’m interested to explore 15Five. May I know how you actually implement this in your church? Thanks

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      I have a set of questions for my direct reports and a slightly different set for the rest of the team. My direct reports fill it out every week before our one on one meeting. Now that we’ve extended it to the rest of the team the rest of the staff fill it out once a month.

      • ksc on November 11, 2013 at 10:43 am

        This sounds like a great system. Could you share the questions that you ask to your direct reports as we as the rest of the staff?

  17. John Waldo on November 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Carey- Any way to distinguish which of these are Apple only? (For us Androids)

  18. Chris Wignall on November 6, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Have you tried other teleprompter apps? I’d love to get one but they’re a little pricey to test a few…

  19. Ryan McGee on November 6, 2013 at 11:02 am

    love evernote as well! others sound great – looking forward to checking them out.

  20. Brett Ullman on November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Great list. I also use pulse.me for reading blogs. Great app and it works on a desktop through their website as well.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Thanks Brett. That’s one I’ll check out for sure.

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