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home | Sample Articles | Theres an App for That

There's an App for That

Jody Shilan, Editor
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Like many of you my Smartphone (iPhone 4S) has become an indispensable part of my business and my life.  One needs only to experience a dead battery with no power supply to begin to feel the withdrawal symptoms usually associated with drug addiction.  Like any other addict, you instantly develop a crazed look as you begin to twitch and feverishly look for a car charger or USB cable to get yourself powered up and functioning again.  


Before you know it you feel completely disconnected from the world around you as you wonder how you will occupy your free time if you can't send and receive emails. Or text your friends and family that you're stuck in traffic, tweet something that only you think is interesting, update your Foursquare account letting the world know that you just had an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen or update Facebook with a “selfie” (picture of yourself) sitting in the traffic that you just tweeted about.


Needless to say, like everything else in life, our smart phones can be used for good or evil.  One of the most exciting things about smart phone technology is the more recent development of the “App”.  I have no idea how many 10's of thousands of apps are available these days but one thing is for sure, the number of apps is growing every day.


This week I thought it would be fun to share the apps that I use on a regular basis and also find out what your favorite apps are.


I think it is fair to say that the most frequently used categories of applications by everybody is our phone, email, calendar, messaging, camera, music and internet apps, all of which usually come with the phones. 


After that, there is a world of options that can be, to say the least, overwhelming.


In addition to my built in camera, I  like to use an app called “Panorama 360”.  It allows you to stand in one place, spin around (slowly) and take a 360-degree picture of whatever you see.  It is relatively flawless and a lot of fun. I also use my “Compass” app religiously.  Unlike my partner Bob Pedetella, who is a hunter and therefore has a built in compass, I usually need assistance finding north.  The iPhone compass does just that.


I spend a good amount of time out of my office and driving in my car which prevents me from writing notes (although I've tried).  There are two apps that I like to use to help me remember my thoughts and ideas.  One is the “Notes” app that is a virtual post-it pad and automatically downloads to my email account.  The other is called "Voice Assist", which allows me to not only record verbal notes, but automatically changes it into written text.  Voice Assist lets you respond to or create emails relatively safely while driving.


Zillow is a great app that let's you look up important information about a client's home just by entering their address.  I primarily use Zillow to find out the size of a clients property so that I can determine their design fee.  As most of you know, I charge for my designs solely based on property size. Zillow will also let you know what the house is worth, how many rooms it has and will even provide a photo of it.  It's really a realtor website, but it serves our purposes just as well.


“Landscapers Companion” is a must have.  I think it is the only one that I paid more than .99 cents for, but it is well worth the $5.99 price tag.  It is a photo library of plant material that is incredibly organized and unbelievably functional.  You can search plants by category, name, zone, color, exposure, size and watering requirements.  It will even tell you what to use it for, when it blooms and potential issues or problems with the plant. 


I also use "GoPayment" by Intuit to collect credit card payments from clients that want to use a credit card or don't have a check available.  GoPayment, or another payment app called "Square", lets you swipe your client's credit card on the spot by attaching a simple piece of hardware to your phone and using your merchant account.  Your clients will love it and so will you.  Both the app and hardware are free.


Two other industry specific apps that I keep on my main screen are the Lawn and Landscape app and the Techo-Bloc app.  Lawn and Landscape lets me research articles and products, providing me with detailed information and ideas that helps me run my business.  Techo-Bloc is a popular paver manufacturer out of Canada.  They have created an app that is exactly what a landscape or hardscape contractor needs to estimate and sell a project right at the client's house.


Three more apps that I like and use, but less frequently are: "Dropbox" to send, receive and store documents; "Splashtop" to remotely access and use my desktop; and "iHandy Level" to check patio slopes.


Since all work and no play makes Jody a dull boy, I have to admit that there is one gaming app that I am totally addicted to. It's called "Scramble with Friends" and can easily gobble up an hour in the blink of an eye.  If you do want to play, I go under the name


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