Most smartphones come with basic applications like e-mail and text messaging, but you can find apps to perform just about any possible function.

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Mobile Business Applications

Software applications, or apps, are the nuts and bolts of mobile business communications. Apps are the smartphone programs you use daily to compose e-mail, update your calendar, edit documents and collaborate with colleagues. Most smartphones come loaded with the basic messaging apps like e-mail, SMS (text messaging), calendars and contact lists, but you can download thousands of other apps to customize your mobile business experience.

To successfully conduct business in and out of the office, it's important to have a shared suite of productivity tools. Windows Mobile is such a popular smartphone operating system because it runs native versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Other phones must rely on third-party apps that let users view and edit Microsoft Office documents. Two of the most popular are DataViz's Documents-to-Go and QuickOffice.

IT departments can also customize smartphones to run "line of business" applications through the network, like workflow management, logistics and shipping management, health records and other industry-specific software.

With the right applications, smartphones can be powerful organizers. One of the most popular calendar and contact apps is Pocket Informant. Pocket Informant outperforms built-in calendar apps for its ability to clearly organize complex schedules [source: Dunn]. You can also view all the appointments, e-mails and notes for each contact in your address book. ReQall is a new app that lets busy road-warriors create calendar entries and to-do lists using simple voice commands [source: Pogue]. For managing a complex network of business contacts, few online services beat LinkedIn, which offers a native app for the iPhone and soon for the Blackberry.

Online collaboration and videoconferencing tools are a boon to companies with a national or global presence. There are a host of powerful apps that extend the tools of online collaboration to the smartphone. Cisco's WebEx Meeting Center for the Blackberry and iPhone lets you join an online conference as a presenter or participant. You can share documents, view PowerPoint presentations and IM with other participants while teleconferencing through your smartphone. iShare is another iPhone app that gives you access to your company's Microsoft SharePoint server to collaborate on documents and update workflows. Encamp for iPhone is the smartphone's app for accessing Basecamp project management workflows and shared documents.

More and more business apps are being created every day. To explore the possibilities, visit the iPhone App Store, the Blackberry App World and app sites like PocketGear and Handango.

For lots more information on mobile communications technology, look at the links on the next page.