One of the major changes taking place in the mobile publishing arena is a move away from having true dedicated “apps” to accomplish tasks on the go. Although a dedicated app is attractive to many users, some corporations and users would like to add capabilities to devices without having to maintain versions which are compatible with every device and operating system version. Many publishers are replacing apps in web stores with apps which are really just a link or placeholder to provide quick, secure access to a mobile website.
All three apps we’re covering this month have a traditional SmartPhone or tablet “app” as well as a robust mobile website. While the capabilities of the mobile web versions of the products are usually less robust than the traditional “apps”, the mobile portals allow the publishers to extend support beyond the two or three dominant mobile operating systems and support platforms such as Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry, and HP WebOS without incurring significant additional development charges.
We’ve been very impressed with Xero, a web-based small business management application which we first reviewed in the May 2012 issue (www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/10688238). Xero Touch is the name given to the mobile version of this application, which is currently available only for devices running Apple’s iOS operating system. Much of the functionality of the full, web-based application is captured in the company’s mobile portal (m.xero.com, compatible with all devices), which allows Xero subscribers to list bank transactions, send invoices to customers, and prepare expense reports from almost any mobile device.
The iOS Xero Touch app provides all of these functions, and also provides some additional features such as integration between contacts, image capture of receipts, and simplified login to Xero using a PIN instead of a full username and password. The application also integrates with a wide range of partner services such as FreshBooks, 37 Signals Highrise, Salesforce, PayPal, and many others.
The company has indicated that they would like to have an Android app, but has been dissatisfied with the performance of the app on other platforms. Although this is disappointing, we hope that Xero will revisit this delay in the near future and continue building out key functionality in the mobile version of its offerings.
The iOS version of Xero Touch requires an active Xero subscription, and is free from the iTunes App Store.
Amazon Kindle App
The Amazon Kindle e-reader was a groundbreaking device, and millions of users purchased books and magazines in electronic formats which are covered by Amazon’s digital rights management. The copy protection on purchased Kindle e-books initially required that users access the data using either a Kindle device or on a personal computer. Since many of the older Kindle devices now show signs of age such as reduced battery life and damage to the device, many users are now replacing these hardware devices with tablet computers. This transition can cause avid readers to lose mobile access to hundreds or even thousands of dollars of purchased digital content if they do not purchase a replacement electronic book reader device.
Amazon has made it simple for users to consume Amazon’s e-books on mobile devices by creating an e-reader for all significant mobile operating systems (iOS, BlackBerry, Android, HP WebOS and Windows), a browser-based cloud reader app, and applications for both the Windows and MacOS computer operating systems. The apps allow users to use their content, and permit downloading, searching, and reading Amazon e-books, e-magazines, and other subscriptions on almost any device, with notes, bookmarks, and reading progress shared among all of the devices on your account. The number of devices where content can be downloaded and accessed varies based on the type of content. Magazines, newspapers, and blogs are generally limited to a single device, while books can generally be installed on more than one device without having to pay for a second license for the content.
Amazon’s Kindle app is available through major app stores for free, and more information is available by clicking on “Free Reading Apps” at www.amazon.com/kindle. Although the app itself, as well as some Kindle books are free, licenses for most titles must be purchased separately from Amazon.
ShareFile (www.ShareFile.com) is a popular secure file transfer service used by many accounting professionals to transfer files to and from parties outside the organization. While ShareFile is now a subsidiary of enterprise remote access software company Citrix, the legacy ShareFile team in North Carolina continues to create stable, easy to use tools which allow subscribers to easily access and data on remote devices. Although the web and mobile web versions of the product are very straightforward, the company has created apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. The mobile apps allow users to use the ShareFile service to upload and share data, request and receive confidential files, and permits access to data from almost anywhere.
ShareFile Mobile is free from most major mobile operating system application stores, and requires a ShareFile user account or service plan. More information is available at www.ShareFile.com.
Brian Tankersley is a Knoxville, Tennessee CPA and consultant whose practice is focused on technology consulting and training for accountants. Brian is a nationally recognized speaker with K2 Enterprises (k2e.com), and blogs on accounting technology at CPATechBlog.com. Comments, suggestions, and errata are always welcome, and should be e-mailed to brian.tankersley@CPAPracticeAdvisor.com.