Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at mobile apps that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
BY GREG LAFOLLETTE, CPA/CITP, CGMA

PUT YOUR PHONE ON A VIRUS LOOKOUT

LookoutThe best thing about the Android operating system is that it’s “open” so anyone can develop and publish an app. That’s also the worst thing about Android. If you live in iPhone land, Apple does a pretty good job of protecting you from malware by screening, and sometimes rescreening, all incoming apps, files, and emails. Not so with Android’s more open platform. There, you have to make judgments about what you’re going to download and install.

Enter Lookout. It’s a longtime player in the space and has garnered an impressive user base. Built on a business-grade platform, Lookout provides anti-virus and scanning capabilities superior to those offered by Android’s built-in Verify Apps security feature. In addition, the app can locate lost or stolen devices, sound an alarm, track your phone online, and, if necessary, lock or even remotely wipe the device. Once installed, Lookout runs hidden and quietly goes about its business of effectively screening every file coming down to your phone.

The basic version handles anti-virus duty while the Premium version, at $3 a month for use on three devices, adds safe browsing, remote lock and wipe, privacy reports on apps, and advanced backup features. Lookout also has an iOS version, but I don’t recommend it as iOS provides most of these features natively.

  • Website: Lookout.com
  • Cost: Basic is free; Premium is $3 a month for up to three devices
  • Operating Systems: iOS, Android, Kindle


MICROSOFT OFFICE: THE MOBILE APP

Microsoft OfficeEarlier this year, Microsoft finally released its ubiquitous Office suite for the iPad as four separate apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The glaring omission is Outlook.

First, the good news is that Office for the iPad is free. That’s right—free. But there’s a “gotcha.” Unless you’re an Office 365 subscriber, you’re limited to the “view only” mode. Furthermore, files can be stored only on Microsoft’s OneDrive or SharePoint. The PowerPoint app allows things such as transitions and animations and even adds a “laser pointer” feature for use during presentations. Word and Excel display documents nicely with what Microsoft terms document fidelity, which means that a document copy looks exactly like the original. (PDFs maintain fidelity—an original and a copy always look the same. A .docx file may or may not maintain fidelity; it depends on what version of Word is installed, what fonts are available, etc.) That’s a nice feature. However, at the end of the day, the iPad (and iPhone and Android devices—all of which got the new apps, albeit with fewer features) is a consumption device, not a production device.

I’m happy to see Office for devices, and I’m certain you’ll enjoy it. It will not, however, change your life.

  • Website: Microsoft.com
  • Cost: App is free, but full functionality requires Office 365 subscription
  • Operating Systems: iOS, Android, Windows Phone


EAT EASIER WITH OPENTABLE

OpenTableOpenTable is a platform that connects diners with restaurants that take reservations. Simple, right? Stir in mobile, social, and a pinch of GPS, and add 31,000 restaurants and 14 million diners each month, and you’ve got a winner. OpenTable’s sole purpose is to match you, the diner, with a restaurant in its network that has availability when you want it, that serves the type of food you’re craving, and that has good reviews and prices you like, at a location near you. Now it’s not so simple, right?

The app localizes the restaurant choices based on your input or GPS (with permission). Then the fun starts. How many in your party? What kind of food? Pizza? Indian? Mediterranean? Sushi? Start filtering. Price? High, midrange, really cheap? When? Show only restaurants with availability then, or are you flexible? Keep narrowing. Then come the review summaries. Show only four- or five-star average reviews? Once you find the restaurant for you, a mouse click makes your reservation instantly, and you receive an email confirmation in seconds. Because OpenTable sees directly into the restaurant’s reservation system, you can be sure your information is correct and up-to-the-minute current. I use OpenTable extensively when I travel, and I’ve had magnificent success. Full recommendation.   

  • Website: OpenTable.com
  • Cost: Free 
  • Operating Systems: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Web


Greg LaFollette
(
greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com ) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.
 

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