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10 Essential Android Apps For Work, Home

Nov 30, 2012 (06:11 AM EST)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240142920


If you use bring your own smartphone to work, there's about a 50-50 chance it's an Android-based device. Apple's iPhone is, of course, the other side of that coin. Sure, people also use BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices. But recent market share stats show Android and iOS power the overwhelming majority of smartphones in the United States, and the two are pretty much in a dead heat following the release of iPhone 5.

Android phones typically come with some business-friendly apps -- email, calendar, cloud storage and so forth -- though the pre-installed menu skews heavily toward other Google products like Gmail and Google Calendar. Unless you subsist entirely on Google fare for your digital life at home and work, you'll need additional apps to optimize your device. In some cases, it's a no-brainer -- if you spend every working moment in Salesforce.com, you'll probably want that data on any device you use. In other cases, it can be helpful to think in terms of tasks that you want or need to get done -- professional or personal -- on your phone.

Below are 10 ways to help bridge the gap between home and office. Security's important for any device but especially for one you carry and use everywhere, for example. You'll want to be able to access and share files from anywhere, something we're almost beginning to take for granted. And it's not only about being able to get work done with a personal device; you don't have to miss The Office (or whatever you watch on TV) because you're stuck at the office. You can set your DVR from your Android.

The emphasis here is on smartphones, though the most of the basic functions would apply to Android tablets, too. In some use cases, such as videoconferencing or accessing virtual desktops, the tablet form factor might actually be preferable.

Bear in the mind the elephant in the room: Corporate BYOD policy. Much of what you do (or don't do) with your Android at work will be governed by corporate rules on using personal hardware for business. Some companies have a light policy -- or none at all -- which means you're largely on your own. Some companies have a very thorough or even restrictive policy that may govern the apps that you can use or data you can access on your phone. Obviously, the sensible strategy is to follow the rules -- running afoul of them could mean your Android will be device non grata, or more serious consequences.

If your employer's bring-your-own policy falls into the "thorough" category, one upside is that you may be able to save some time, money, or both by using company-provided apps for things like security and collaboration instead of provisioning your own. If the company requires that you submit to remote wiping of data in certain situations, for example, they'll almost certainly provide the tools for doing so. (If they don't, the policy might need some fine-tuning.) You'd presumably be able to rely on company or vendor support for those apps, too.

If your employer's BYOD policy essentially amounts to "Sure, have at it" -- not what the lawyers recommend, but it's possible, especially in small and midsize business (SMB) environments -- you're probably not going to get much in the way of company-paid apps or support. But you'll have more freedom to download and install apps as you see fit. You'll just need to do your own cost-benefit legwork when it comes to paid apps, particularly if there's a free alternative.

Read on for 10 keys for the BYOD Android device. Got your own must-have apps for the Android you use at home and at work? Tell us about them in the comments below.




Android's popularity has not come about without some security issues, such as malicious apps in the Google Play marketplace. Regardless of the platform, Symantec predicts a rise in "madware," a form of mobile spam that can lead to security problems, and other threats to mobile devices in 2013. Just as you'd want to take steps to protect your laptop or desktop, you'll need to do the same on your Android.

One option is to install mobile versions of your company-sponsored security applications on your personal device, if available and allowed. You might be required to do so as part of a structured BYOD program. If not, or if you're paranoid (and if you are, it's probably best to leave the personal gear at home altogether), there's a growing menu of security apps available. You'll pay for full-featured versions, but the likes of Lookout, AVG, Avast, Webroot and Symantec's Norton brand offer basic mobile security apps for free. You'll have to do your own risk assessment to determine if a free version offers enough protection for your personal device, but it's better than nothing. Don't be the proverbial low-hanging fruit.

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Remote wipe is like the stuff of spy movies -- "this message will self-destruct in 10 seconds," etc. -- but more practical. Enabling remote-wipe functionality allows you (or your IT team) to erase the data from a lost or stolen device. You should also wipe devices that are sold, given to someone else or recycled. Similar features include the ability to remotely locate or lock a device, or to make the phone "scream" in the hands of a thief.

If your company has a strong BYOD policy, it's likely that remote wipe is a basic requirement for using your device on the company network. If not, you can put it in place yourself. Google enables remote-wipe directly, but with a catch: You need to be using Google Sync or the Google Apps Device Policy app (pictured). Otherwise, the paid versions of most popular security apps (such as those mentioned in the previous slide) should include remote wipe, locate, lock, or scream features.

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It should be beginning-of-the-semester material for Modern Life 101: Back up your important documents, photos and other files in more than one place. The cloud has made it easier than ever to keep a spare copy should something happen to the original, something that is especially important for easy-to-lose devices that travel with between home, office, and everywhere else. Sharing and storing files in the cloud is likely one of the areas your company's BYOD policy will cover, if it has one.

Some organizations say no to certain apps or to putting company information on public cloud platforms. If your organization mandates the use of particular mobile apps for file-sharing or backup, then the choice is made for you. If not, use what you use on your laptop or desktop, too. Most of the major players in this crowded space such as Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Drive (pictured), offer Android apps for easy integration with your other hardware.

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The virtualization boom has been underway for quite a while in SMB environments. Most of the predictions suggest that's only going to continue. A potential benefit here is that an existing virtualization platform can offer a way to manage BYOD risks by keeping corporate data inside the corporate perimeter. Since you'll access your business data virtually whether you're in the office or not, it isn't stored on your device. That reduces the opportunity for mishandling of company data, intentional or unintentional. (If your employer uses virtualization and has a highly structured BYOD policy, this might already be a core requirement for accessing company data from your personal devices.) Major vendors like Citrix and VMware offer free Android apps.

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It's simply a bad idea to reuse the same passwords across many types of accounts. The risks just compound if you do so across personal and professional accounts: Email, banking, social media, cloud applications and so on. But the reason people do so is because they've got more accounts than ever -- creating and remembering dozens of unique passwords (or more) can quickly become a chore. Consider a digital password wallet like mSecure (pictured) that encrypts, syncs and stores your passwords and other credentials across devices and applications.

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Unless you've shunned social media altogether, odds are you check and update your accounts from your phone. That can be a bit of a juggling act with the vast number of sites these days. It can become downright treacherous if you handle separate accounts for your personal and professional lives from the same device, not an uncommon task these days in businesses small and large. The wrong personal tweet on a professional account could turn ugly quick.

The short history of social media has already supplied a robust list of painful examples. A social media management tool like Hootsuite can help keep things in order and keep you out of hot water, though it's no replacement for common sense. If you use your phone for social activities at home and at work, the Android app is a must.

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If you meet online frequently, this one's a no-brainer -- no sense in being tied to your office desk just to make a 15-minute videoconference. All the more true if you tote a tablet with a front-facing camera -- put it to good use. This is also an area where you can often leverage your company's existing tools without spending additional money. If your employer is a Cisco Webex shop, for example, there's a free Android app. If not, the apps for free (or partially free) tools like Skype or Join.me can come in handy as a low-cost alternative.

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If you find yourself updating phone settings frequently -- such as 4G or Wi-Fi -- depending on whether you're at home, work, or any other location, the Locale app can automate much of that screen tapping effort. The app changes your phone's settings automatically depending on where you are. For example, you can designate VIP callers -- the boss, say -- to supersede silent mode. It's perhaps a bit of luxury at $4.99, though the ROI case might be made by the potential embarrassment of your Lady Gaga ringtone sounding off during a staff meeting. Locale will switch ringtones when you arrive at the office.

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If you track your time and expenses for work, you want to be able to so from anywhere with your phone. You'll find a number of a time tracking apps in Google Play, some of them free, though they typically only output to Excel or XML. If you want to do and store everything online, Harvest is a popular cloud app for time and expense tracking; though it requires a monthly subscription for all but the lightest users, it offers a free month and a native Android app.

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If you did leave the oven on, an Android device probably won't help. But there are apps out there that will help you manage other aspects of house and home while at the office or on the road. You can manage your DVR, adjust your Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, and keep tabs on your home security system, for example. Actually, there is such a thing as a Wi-Fi oven you can control with an Android phone -- the Samsung product just isn't widely available yet. Alas, developers haven't figured out an app that can walk your dog.

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