Android + Chrome OS: The Next Step in Mobile Computing?

We’ve talked about this before on our blog, but I felt it bears repeating as it inches closer to reality. In a post over at Droid-Life, we can see what the future of mobile computing might look like, from the Android perspective…

“…a good first step to resolving these problems with notifications and making lapdock and deskdock form factors useful would be to use Chrome OS. I think there will always be a place for a mouse and keyboard form factor because touch doesn’t always make sense. As computing continues to become more mobile and as technology improves, we may eventually be able to have one device that connects to different form factors.”

Read the full article over at Droid-Life, then swing back by our blog to share your thoughts in the comments!

How To Use Siri To Set Up Business Meetings In Outlook, ACT!, & More

Just the other day, Apple revealed their latest iteration of the iPhone – the iPhone 4S. One of the biggest new features comes in the form of Siri, Apple’s self-described “humble personal assistant.” Using voice recognition technology, Siri is able to take verbal commands and act on them, allowing you to check and compose messages, emails, calendar appointments, and much more.

Image Credit: TUAW

Currently, Siri is designed to work with Apple’s built in apps – it’s not clear if or when the technology will be opened up to third party developers. However, DejaOffice has the unique ability to connect with Apple’s built in apps. As such, DejaOffice is able to harness the full power of Siri and sync new or updated data back to your existing CRM solution.

Doing so is simple. First, you’ll need to ensure that DejaOffice is set to sync with the native databases. To do this, just launch DejaOffice on your iPhone 4S, tap “Settings,” then “Sync.” From there, select “Sync with Apple’s Calendar” and “Sync with Apple’s Contacts” to enable syncing with the native databases.

Once that’s enabled, press and hold the home button on your iPhone 4S to activate Siri. Say something like “Schedule lunch with John Smith at noon on Friday” and Siri will comply. The next time you sync DejaOffice via CompanionLink, that appointment will be transferred into Outlook, ACT!, Salesforce, or whatever CRM solution you’re using. It’s that easy!

Understanding Android Contacts [Infographic]

Confused about how Android Contacts and Accounts work?  We’ve created an infographic that helps explain the chaos!


Update: Now that Motorola’s DROID RAZR and Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (featuring the next generation of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich) have been announced, this infographic is even more relevant. These two phones are sure to draw many users over to Android for the first time!


Coming to Android from a “feature phone,” a BlackBerry, or even iOS, there are a number of new features to get used to. One aspect that we’ve seen a lot of uncertainty about is exactly how Contacts work on Android.

As such, we’ve created an infographic to help visualize how Android Contacts work and hopefully eliminate some of the confusion. Check it out below:

(Click the graphic for a larger version)

Android Contacts Infographic

Zoho vs. Salesforce – A Quick Guide on How to Decide

If you’ve been searching for an online CRM solution, there’s no doubt you’ve come across both Zoho and Salesforce. Initially, they are hard to compare – the pricing is vastly different and neither of them offer any sort of comparison chart. After some research, however, you’ll begin to notice some clear similarities and differences.

As far as the basic components of CRM are concerned, both Zoho and Salesforce offer what any user will need. Accounts, contacts, campaigns, Outlook and Office integration, collaboration tools, etc. are found in both services. And, of course, CompanionLink works great with either Zoho or Salesforce! So how do you decide which is right for you? Let us help by highlighting the unique benefits each service offers.

Zoho: Affordable, Quick, Easy

The most obvious benefit Zoho has to offer is its pricing. At $12 or $25 per user per month, it’s $100 less than Salesforce’s most popular offering. Zoho even offers a free version for users who need a very simple CRM solution.

Of course, price isn’t the only benefit Zoho offers. Zoho is designed to be quick and easy, allowing even the smallest businesses to jump in and get started right away. Zoho also offers integration with their complete suite of Zoho Apps, providing access to chat, docs, invoicing, projects, meetings, and much more.

In the end, you’ll want to look into Zoho if you’re a small to medium business looking for a full-featured, yet affordable CRM solution.

Salesforce: Powerful, Customizable, Expandable

Salesforce generally gets accused of being more expensive than Zoho or other CRM options. With its most popular edition going for $125 per user per month, this may seem to be the case. However, Salesforce accounts start at just $5 per user per month for their more basic CRM solution.

That said, most users generally opt for one of the higher priced plans. The question then becomes, “What do I get for my money?” In addition to all the benefits you’d expect from a CRM service, Salesforce offers the ability to customize your experience via custom apps and websites, a developer sandbox, and integration via a web services API. All that may sound a bit technical, but it essentially means that, with a little technical know-how, you can make Salesforce do exactly what you need it to do for your specific setup. To make customization even easier, Salesforce hosts a cloud-computing marketplace called AppExchange where you can find over 1,000 different apps that will help make Salesforce work for your setup!

Generally speaking, if you’re a medium to large business with custom CRM needs, Salesforce is a great option.

Hopefully this has helped narrow your search. In our experience, there isn’t a bad choice here.

Choosing the Right Android Phone and Carrier Combination

Image Credit: HemisphereGames.com

Choosing the phone that’s right for you involves many things: camera quality, speed, screen size, keyboard features, and much more. What carrier the phone is on is not usually something people give as much thought to. In fact, many people simply limit their options to the network they’re currently on and pick a phone from there. When it comes to Android, however, choosing your carrier is an important step in choosing your phone. The question then becomes, “What carrier has the best selection of Android phones?”

The fine folks over at the popular Android blog, Phandroid, have taken it upon themselves to help answer that question! They write:

“It’s been three and a half years since Google introduced the very operating system we write about everyday – Android – and every major (and many minor) United States carrier has phones running it. Some more than others, of course, but who has the best lineup? I take a gander at offerings from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, MetroPCS and more and at the end I’ll let you know who I think has the best Android lineup.”

Curious to know what carrier has the best selection? Need some information on the best phones for each carrier? Hit the “Read” link below and head over to Phandroid to get all the details! An be sure to let us know who you think has the best Android phones in the comments!

Read…

RIM Introduces BlackBerry Balance

Image Credit: RIM

Just the other day, Research In Motion (RIM) announced a new feature coming to BlackBerry smartphones: Balance. Balance is a technology that allows companies to define what’s work and what’s personal, then act on that information. For example, Balance can be setup to restrict a user from copying text from a business email into a social networking app. The ultimate goal, of course is to give the company more control over secure data while allowing employees to use one device for both work and personal needs.

At CompanionLink, we’re big fans of keeping your business data separated from your personal data. We’ve written recently talking about how you can use CompanionLink and DejaOffice to do just that, making it much easier for you to use your phone at work and at home. Balance does not appear to offer the same types of features as we discuss, but rather focuses on making a personal device more secure. Initially, the direct benefit to the employee may seem low. However, it is important to remember that, for many, Balance will be the key that finally allows them to carry just one device!

How do you keep your business and personal data separated? Will Balance change things for the better for you? Let us know in the comments!

ASUS: Transforming the Way We Think About Tablets

If I had to guess, I’d be willing to be that the number one complaint about tablets today is that they’re just not that easy to type on, at least for longer periods of time. Sure, you can use a Bluetooth keyboard on many, but that feels like more of an afterthought than anything. In fact, I would argue that it’s one of the biggest reasons business users might favor a laptop over a tablet as a secondary, mobile device. The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer aims to change that.

As its name suggests, the Transformer starts out as a competitive, yet standard tablet. When paired with the optional laptop dock, however, it becomes an entirely new machine. Not only does the laptop dock provide a keyboard and multi-touch trackpad, it actually adds additional usage time with its built in battery.  The ability to transform from a lightweight tablet to a highly productive laptop gives this unique device a lot of potential.

As we’ve stated before, we believe devices like the Motorola Atrix are signaling a shift in mobile computing. The Eee Pad Transformer is helping lead this charge!

 

Note: Are you looking to sync the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer with Outlook or another popular personal information manager? We have you covered: check out CompanionLink for PC and DejaOffice for Android!

How To Keep Your Personal Data Separated From Your Work Life

The short answer is this: Categories.

Creating a category called “Personal” allows you to keep your home life organized in its own section of your database. Your complete database is on your device, but it’s easily sorted so that you only see the data that is relevant to your current situation.

Unfortunately, not all devices have category functionality, and those that do are often limited. To remedy this, DejaOffice allows you to create and manage categories, as well as assign colors to them to further differentiate your data.  This exponentially boosts productivity, especially once you begin to use colors to cue yourself for the urgency or types of tasks.  Red means must-do and urgent.  Yellow means phone calls.  Orange means it’s not the end of the world if you miss this appointment or meeting.  And so on.  At a glance, you will be able to know how many urgent meetings, calls, etc., you have on any given day.

Taking this a step further, you can then use CompanionLink’s sync software to sync your phone to your PC. CompanionLink gives you the option to ignore your personal contacts during sync. This allows you to keep your work data up to date in programs like Outlook, ACT, and more without mixing in personal data on a work computer.

So, with a little help from DejaOffice and CompanionLink, you’ll be down to just one phone all while keeping your work data synced and personal data separated!

The Plight of the Standalone Microsoft Outlook User

These days, “the cloud” is all the buzz. The cloud, in terms of contact and calendar sync (among others), means using a service like Google, Gmail, or Windows Live (Hotmail). Just host your data in the cloud and it will magically show up on your device. Simple, right?

Not so, say the people (as they rise in mutiny).

Google started the move to store personal information in the cloud. First with email, then with calendar, and then with contacts. If you buy a new Android phone, all your email, contacts, and calendar data that is hosted in the Google cloud will magically synchronize with your phone. Oh, and this magic works with iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry too.

Microsoft joined the cloud party with their Windows Phone 7 launch. They now require people to have a Windows Live account in order to sync PC data to the device. This means Microsoft Outlook users who have maintained years of contacts, calendar, tasks and notes data on their PC now have to trust that data to the cloud. The cloud will then synchronize with Windows Phone 7.

So what’s wrong with this?

Well, for starters, we’ve already seen this movie! Palm tried the same thing with their Palm webOS launch.  They required people to have a Google account, which integrated with Palm Synergy. If you wanted to keep your PC data in sync with your webOS device, you had to first sync to your Google account in the cloud. The story for Palm didn’t end so well. (HP may beg to differ.)

While the cloud is an amazing resource that should be used, not all Outlook users can digest trusting their PC data to the cloud. Many people have security requirements in place that simply don’t allow cloud storage of their data. Others are leery of hosting their sensitive information online. Their question is simple, “I’ve used Outlook for years. Why am I now being forced to add a web-based account, and trust everything to that?”

The cloud providers will argue that you trust a lot of things to the cloud, whether you realize it or not. They’re right. Your credit card details you use for that online orders, tax returns you prepare and submit online, or the numerous online banking and bill-pay services you use – they all store data in the cloud. And we don’t even blink.

But this is different. It’s not an argument on the security of cloud storage. It’s about having options. Put simply, not everyone wants to sync their Outlook data to the cloud – and they shouldn’t have to!

The good news is that there are alternatives. You’ll need to find a tool that allows you to keep your data on your PC and sync directly to your device. There are a few ways to go about this:

1. Check if your phone’s manufacturer offers a sync solution. BlackBerry and iPhone both offer such solutions to directly sync with Outlook.  BlackBerry offers BlackBerry Desktop Software, and Apple offers iTunes. Android, on the other hand, is more fragmented (HTC has HTC Sync, Samsung offers Kies, etc).

2. If the option from the phone’s manufacturer is non-existent or insufficient for your needs, look for third-party software. Shameless plug – CompanionLink has software that can sync your Outlook contacts, calendars, tasks, memos, and categories to your mobile device. It works with all Android, iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry devices. There are a number of other options available as well, but few offer the complete sync solution that CompanionLink does. For Android, SyncDroid has a solid list of most all of the sync options available. For iPhone and iPad, you’ll most likely have to piece together a solution from a few different apps in the App Store. For BlackBerry and other devices, your options are few and far between, but a search on Google should turn up some options.

In the end, the cloud is certainly where the industry is heading. As time goes on, it will likely become as ubiquitous and secure (or even more secure) than traditional data storage options. Until that time, however, those who wish to sync their data locally still do have options!

5 Underrated Business Apps for Android

The Android Market is filled with amazing apps. From games to news and weather to sports to business apps, there’s something for everyone. On top of that, new apps are added daily, expanding the available options even further. With so many options available, the question becomes “How do I find the best Android apps?” Sure, there are plenty of top 10 lists out there, but generally speaking they all list the same apps! So how do you find great Android apps that have yet to make the popular top ten lists? Let us help with 5 handpicked underrated business apps for Android!

1. Locale ($9.99)
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As far as apps go, Locale is on the higher end of the price spectrum – but don’t let that deter you. This amazing little app is able to manage settings based on conditions. How exactly does this work? Quite simply, actually. You setup one or more conditions that must be met, then tell Locale what you want it to do once those conditions are met.

The value of this app really sinks in when you start exploring various setups. For example, you can program the app to set your phone to vibrate if your location matches that of your office and the time is between 8am-5pm. Or have Locale turn off WiFi and Bluetooth and dim the screen when your battery hits 30%. The options are expansive and expandable. In fact, Locale states that there are over 140 plugins available in the Market, many interacting with other 3rd party apps as well! With so many plugins available, you can set up Locale to fit your specific needs. After a few days of using Locale, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

2. 1password (Free)
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1password securely stores your private information from 1password for Mac or PC. While the app currently requires the use of 1password on the computer to be of any use, the ability to store your passwords, credit cards, and other account info on your Android device is well worth it. Plus, you can use 1password to login to websites, saving you from typing long or complex passwords on your mobile keyboard.

While this app is somewhat limited in it’s current form (you cannot add/edit information from the app), the developers have a long history of providing quality software. You can be sure that this app will continue to get better and better!

3. LinkedIn (Free)
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This is an app that may be a little too new to be considered underrated, but it’s worth mentioning all-the-same. For the longest time, the only way to access LinkedIn on Android outside the mobile browser was to use 3rd party applications. Recently, LinkedIn decided to change that. Their entry into the Android Market brings all the great features you’d expect from an official app. The interface is smooth, clean, and straightforward. Adding new connections is quick and easy. All in all, it’s a solid way to access the business-focused social network while on the go.

If there’s one area it could improve on, it would be to simply bring more of the desktop experience in to the mobile app (e.g. letting users view sent messages, etc). That said, it’s safe to expect those things will come in time. In the meantime, we recommend grabbing this app today!

4. Document Scanner ($3.98; free trial version available)
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As its name implies, Document Scanner allows you to virtually “scan” documents with your Android’s camera. With tools allowing you to correct perspective, crop the background, and enhance readability, Document Scanner is a powerful business tool. After scanning one or more pages, the app allows you to email the document off as a PDF or upload it to Google Docs or Evernote.

The concept is really quite simple, but when you are on the go, the ability to scan a receipt for expense tracking or email a copy of a signed contract to a client is incredibly convenient. That’s why we’re confident in saying this app is well worth the asking price.

5. Lookout Mobile Security (Free; premium version available for $3/month)
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Lookout Mobile Security may be the least “underrated” app we’ve mentioned. That said, we’re constantly finding people who’ve never heard of it, so it’s well worth mentioning here. Think of Lookout as the security guard for your Android phone. Lookout adds another layer of security to your phone by providing antivirus/malware functionality to the Android OS. It takes security a step further by incorporating a “Find My Phone” feature that helps locate your device if it’s ever lost or stolen. Finally, it provides peace of mind by securely backing up data from your phone.

If you have information on your Android that you’d rather other people not get into, or if you want to install new apps without having to worry about vicious malware or viruses, Lookout Mobile Security is the clear choice!

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Do you know of an Android app that deserves to be listed here? Let us know in the comments!

Be sure to check out our list of Underrated iPad Apps and Underrated iPhone Apps as well!