Since 2008, Android smartphone technology has quietly grown from a cheap iPhone alternative to the undisputed number one mobile operating system in the world. Now in the pockets of approximately 3 billion people, business software developers have migrated to Android as a crucial platform for growth. While the Google Play store often highlights social media and entertainment apps, business software is a major category, as well. From password managers to virtual private networks, this guide will show you just how easy it is to run your business from your smartphone.
Android is Google's operating system for smartphones and tablets, first launched in September 2008, following the original iPhone release in 2007. Before Android, phone and MP3 player manufacturers largely created their own operating systems with limited features. Blackberry was an early leader in the mobile OS market, targeting business users specifically, but as time marched forward, Android OS took the crown as the industry leader, now accounting for over 70% of the global market, according to Statcounter.
Many thought that Windows Phone would have a big impact on business apps, but Microsoft was unable to capitalize on the domination of Windows OS as much as they’d hoped. Fast forward to today, Microsoft manufactures mobile devices that run on Android OS. Even Windows 11 will run some Android apps. Clearly, Android will be a major player for the foreseeable future.
This widespread acceptance is the top reason why businesses should embrace Android-based software as an important technology for growth.
In the United States, one could argue that the dominance of the iPhone and iOS gives Android a disadvantage for businesses. However, Apple's tight leash on hardware is a problem. More than 200 Android devices have been released in 2021, but only eight new iOS from Apple. When it comes to the hardware you use to run your business, Android gives you more than 25 times the number of options vs. iOS.
To start running your business from your smartphone, you’ve got to install the right software. While some apps such as Instagram and Zoom can be used for both work and recreation, other options are strictly business. Here are 5 multi-purpose apps available from Google Play (the official Android app store) that will instantly improve the way you do business on the go.
The vast majority of users will likely find well-developed, bug-free software that suits their needs right in the Google Play store. While the Play Store has millions of apps, Google also has some strict policies, rules, and regulations that can stand in the way of finding the perfect applications for your business.
Android Package (APK) is the Android application package file format used by Google’s mobile operating system for distribution and installation of mobile apps, mobile games and middleware. Developing a new app is labor-intensive, and smaller businesses probably don’t have enough resources to create their own internal platforms. Still, Android gives you this option, and if you have the means to train a team of developers, creating a custom app can help mobilize your team like never before.
You can also find alternative app stores that host hundreds of APK downloads you won’t find on Google Play. A word of warning, however: these APK files have not been through the same rigorous approval process required to appear in the Play store. So understand there could be certain security risks involved. Only people with an advanced understanding of Android OS should consider installing 3rd party APKs.
For certain companies, it’s helpful to get a virtual picture of where people are physically located. For example, tracking delivery drivers and on-the-road sales reps. Fortunately, Android offers GPS tracking by default on many devices.
Google Play offers fleet tracking options, but sometimes a simple Android spy app will do the trick. The name “spy app” may sound a bit creepy, and they do offer detailed monitoring of devices. But as long as you are upfront with your team about what is being tracked, there’s no reason that spy apps can’t serve as a great tool to help you keep in touch with widely distributed business operations.
For business folks that travel frequently, Google Maps offers offline features that come in handy anywhere. Before you or your team members leave for the airport, download the Google Maps file for the destination city. This lets you search for businesses, restaurants, and hotels without the need for an internet connection.
Every business—regardless of industry—faces a unique threat environment, and password managers provide a broad range of protection to businesses of any size, from small businesses to multi-national corporations.
While some browser-based password savers do not offer end-to-end encryption, Android apps such as LastPass and Dashlane offer an encryption layer that the app requires to access and create passwords for sensitive accounts. This is a key distinction for business security, as many companies have strict policies and industry-specific legal requirements regarding confidential data.
An encryption layer serves as a shortcut for adding one additional level of encryption between you and hackers. Usernames, passwords, and save contact information are encrypted both on your existing device, and during transit when you log in from a new device.
VPNs provide a way to create a private internet connection, only accessible by the user, and sometimes to other users on the same network. This can help you shield your company data from prying eyes, such as ISPs, mobile carriers, and internet spies. Additionally, VPNs allow employees to remain anonymous, while still keeping their work online.
A VPN works by routing your Android's internet connection through your chosen VPN's private servers. When your data is transmitted to the internet, it appears to come from the VPN server, rather than your mobile device. This keeps data securely flowing via VPN from your Android phone, even when logged into a public WiFi network.
To secure your device even further, explore some of the great anti-virus options available for Android.
When you work from a remote location, it’s essential to manage all aspects of your business finances from your Android device. All leading payroll and bookkeeping software companies now offer Android integration that’s secure and easy to use.
QuickBooks, the longtime leader in accounting software, offers a simple interface that will seem familiar to anyone who is accustomed to the desktop version. You can perform basic taste such as logging receipts, as well as track mileage and estimate taxes.
Square Payroll is one of the highest-rated payroll apps in the Google Play store and handles state and federal payroll taxes, withholdings, payments, and more. It’s perfect for anyone who uses Square as their point-of-sale system, but essentially all payroll companies have developed Android apps.
If your bookkeeping needs are super-simple, Google Sheets is actually very easy to use on Android. Editing spreadsheet cells will always be tricky without a large screen and a keyboard, however, Sheets has an intuitive UX that outperforms Microsoft’s mobile Excel app.
Regardless of how you typically work, the key to mobile productivity is making sure everything syncs back to your primary desktop or laptop, and vice versa. It’s entirely possible to manage your entire business from an Android device, but most people will feel the urge to log onto a full-sized machine from time to time.
What’s great about Android is that all Google-developed apps will sync to the cloud by default. Nearly any information you save to your device will instantaneously be available from a Chrome browser, provided you are logged into your Google account:
You can even sync SMS text messages between your Android device and Chrome, as long as you agree to the privacy terms and conditions provided by Google. This can be helpful for copying longer messages you’ve received via SMS, and saving them to your customer relationship management system, for example.
When you get past the seemingly endless versions of Candy Crush and Sudoku, Android OS becomes a powerful platform for business communications and productivity. While small screens have practical limitations, with the right apps and a little bit of practice, you’ll find that a wide variety of work functions can literally be done from the palm of your hand. With security measures in place and a little cloud storage, you can do business almost anywhere.