Apps are one of the fastest-growing markets for technology. With so many mobile devices—from smartphones to tablets—available to consumers, having an app for ease of use is practically required (for some devices, they are required). According to statista.com, both the Apple App Store and Google Play each have 1.4 million apps currently available for download, and approximately 60,000 new apps are launched every month. In this column, we feature some of the latest and most useful apps that will help you with your business, streamline a process, or generally make your life a little easier.
Available: iOS, A
As the story goes, the founder of this app was searching for a cross-country ticket and on a whim discovered the magic of so-called hidden city ticketing. In the world of airlines, ticket prices are driven by demand and not always by the actual cost to fly to a specific city. In other words, it could cost more to fly from New York to Atlanta than it does for New York to Houston, even though the mileage difference is significant and the Houston flight has a stop in Atlanta. What the app is designed to do is to find a cheaper price based on layover cities so that you could purchase that cheaper New York to Houston ticket but simply deboard the plane in Atlanta and “miss” your connecting flight. Get it? This could be a great way for price-sensitive passengers to game the system, but it only works if you don’t check a bag. With the state of air travel these days—overbooked flights, poor customer service, less amenities for more money—who wouldn’t be tempted to stick it to the least friendly way to travel?
Caveat: This app is not without controversy because the airline industry hates it. In fact, Skiplagged regards a lawsuit that United filed against it as a badge of honor.
If the first thing that comes to mind when you see the name Jarvis is the Marvel Universe, then you’ll probably love this Iron Man-inspired app. What is meant to be an Android alternative to Apple’s Siri, only male and with an awesome British accent, Jarvis is a little chatterbox of information. You can ask it (him?) questions without opening apps, make hands-free calls, and check your appointments. You can also get updates and reminders as requested, set alarms, and control your phone settings like turning on or off your Bluetooth or WiFi when you leave or enter a certain parameter. If nothing else, it is entertaining to hear the answers to your questions, especially the ones that aren’t understood. The app developers promise that it “learns” over time the more you use it.
Caveat: As reported by numerous reviewers, it gets a little buggy when attempting to use voice commands with a Bluetooth.
Available: iOS, A
Honorable mention: Divvy ($ iOS only) and Splitwise (iOS, A)
On those occasions where you’re not taking a client out for drinks or dinner—where you would probably cover the bill as a business expense—Tab is an easy-to-use app that splits the bill for you. With both Tab and Divvy, you snap a picture of the final bill and drag and drop the items that you consumed, and voila—your portion of the bill is calculated with tax and tip included. It even works if you shared appetizers or entrees with one or more in your party. If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive IOU app, Splitwise is your go-to. It keeps a running tab of who owes what to you, not just the restaurant bill at hand, which might be handy for staff who are traveling together. Splitwise also launched its restaurant-only app called Plates, currently available only on iOS.
Caveat: Tab should not be confused with Tab Pro, a cool guitar app. Divvy should not be confused with the Chicago bike rental system, the photo sharing app, or the parking company. The exponentially fast growth of apps has created an issue of overlapping names, which makes it even more imperative to have a stand-out moniker.