10 Apps to Optimize Your Smartphone

Apps for the Android, iPhone and Blackberry that improve your efficiency and speed.


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Posted August 16, 2010

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

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For many knowledge workers, smartphones have become essential business tools. However, in many situations, they’re incredibly clumsy to use.

Entering text, especially on touch screens, is difficult and cumbersome. Creating documents is less than ideal, and editing them tends to be a pain.

For many app developers, though, the smartphone’s limitations present an opportunity. Find a way around them and you may have an app hit on your hands.

Here are 10 applications that will help you get the most from your smartphone.

1. Swype

I absolutely hate entering text on my Android. On the cramped touch-screen keyboard, I constantly hit the wrong key, which forces me to backtrack over and over again. What should be a two-minute text becomes an intrusive chore.

That was before I discovered Swype. Preloaded on many Motorola and Samsung smartphones, Swype simplifies text entry by transforming hunting and pecking into a fluid – as the name implies – swipe.

Swype was created by Cliff Kushler, co-inventor of the T9 predictive text technology, which is currently used on over four billion mobile phones worldwide. With Swype you drag your finger along the keyboard, pausing at each letter. Using a database of over 65,000 of the most frequently used words, Swype predicts the words you are spelling out. During my testing, I’ve found Swype to be incredibly accurate.

It also has an adaptive function that allows it to learn new words, phrases, phone numbers and data unique to each user. According to Swype, a typical user can expect to type at somewhere between 30 and 40 words per minute using Swype.

Several people emailed me to recommend Swype for the story. Scott Hardy, President of Top Class Actions was the most enthusiastic Swype advocate.

“Before I couldn’t live without a separate keyboard; now, I don’t need one. I can now Swype faster on my Droid X than I used to be able to type on my old BlackBerry. Swype is a game changer.”

Swype is currently focused on the OEM market. However, as they test new handsets, they do occasionally offer a limited number of beta accounts.

2. Dragon Dictation

Behind Swype, the second most-recommended optimization app was Dragon Dictation. From the makers of speech-recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking, Dragon Dictation lets you avoid the keyboard altogether.

Its speech-to-text recognition allows you to dictate for email, texts or even for searches on your phone. For the social media obsessed, a pop-up toolbar allows you to speak a status update and send it directly to Facebook or Twitter.

Dragon Dictation is currently available for BlackBerry, iPhone and the iPad.

Cost: Free

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation

3. Vlingo

While Dragon Naturally Speaking has a virtual monopoly on the PC, it runs into competitors on the smartphone. This is partly because it isn’t available on all handsets, but it’s also due to the fact that speech recognition is much more helpful on the phone.

One such competing app is Vlingo. Not only does Vlingo let you voice dial, speak to create messages and texts and search via voice command, it will also read incoming texts and emails to you.

Vlingo also connects to Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to update your status via voice command.

Cost: All over the map, varying from platform to platform. Android: free for now; Nokia smartphones: $2.99; iPhone: $6.99-$9.99; BlackBerry: basic, free; Vlingo Plus, $3.99/month or $19.99 one-time fee.

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Tags: android apps, iPhone, iphone apps, smarpthone, BlackBerry Apps

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