From the November 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

Smartphones are redefining the concept of business intelligence. Tech-savvy entrepreneurs are tricking out their mobile handsets with applications designed to ease and improve every conceivable facet of their professional lives. Market research firm Compass Intelligence forecasts that American SMBs will spend close to $350 million on mobile software this year alone, downloading everything from basic office utilities to customer management solutions.

The sheer quantity of mobile applications optimized for entrepreneurs is impressive, but the quality not so much. You could say there's an app for everything except for identifying the small-business apps worth downloading. As of mid-2010, Apple's pace-setting App Store had more than 225,000 iPhone applications, but the number of innovative and useful apps is far smaller. Add in the overwhelming volume of consumer-centric offerings like games, e-books and novelty apps, and it becomes even tougher to identify and evaluate which applications best meet your startup's demands.

That's why Entrepreneur turns the spotlight on 25 of the most revolutionary and vital applications on the market. Given developers' focus on the iPhone, it's no surprise that many of the apps are synonymous with Apple's iOS platform, but our list also makes room for applications created for Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows Mobile and other rival operating systems.

All of them promise to make your life easier, but each one is unique. Just like your business.

Productivity
Don't sweat the small stuff. Let your smartphone take care of it. Productivity apps simplify the myriad tasks that once soaked up your time and energy, allowing you instead to focus on the bigger picture.

Bento
Why you need it: Bento organizes the details of your life, no matter how large or how small. Its 25 ready-to-use, customizable database templates manage contacts, schedules, inventory and other professional and personal information.

Features: iTunes-style searching and sorting, integration with other apps

Price: $4.99

Available for: iPhone

Evernote
Why you need it: Evernote captures your brilliant ideas and entrepreneurial insights the moment they strike, documenting them as text, photos or audio recordings and auto-synchronizing all content to the desktop.

Features: Geo-location information for mapping and search, multiple language support

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm webOS

Gwabbit
Why you need it: Gwabbit's patent-pending semantic technology simplifies contact capture and management, automatically scanning incoming e-mails and transforming sender information into contact records in your address book.

Features: Address book management prompts, alert services for contacts who've been "gwabbed"

Price: Free

Available for: BlackBerry

Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite
Why you need it: A full-featured Microsoft Office productivity suite complete with access to multiple cloud services, Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite enables users to create, open, edit and share documents and spreadsheets on the go.

Features: Two-finger zoom, fast scrolling, Wi-Fi-enabled file transfer

Price: Varies according to device platform, around $10

Available for: iPhone, Android

Vlingo
Why you need it: Got your hands full? Vlingo's voice interface technology lets users dictate texts and e-mail, look up contacts and search the web by speaking directly into their devices.

Features: Twitter integration, Google Maps

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, select Windows Mobile phones, Symbian
 

Sales
From client management to inventory control to transaction processing, mobile apps can streamline your company's sales initiatives.

Intuit GoPayment
Why you need it: This app allows GoPayment account users to accept and process transactions for all major credit cards via a smartphone. Payments are authorized in seconds, and funds are deposited directly into a designated bank account.

Features: Payment information encryption, data sync with QuickBooks, no daily or weekly transaction limits

Price: Free (Monthly service charge: $12.95, and 30 cents per-authorization fee)

Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Palm webOS

Inventory Tracker
Why you need it: Forget spreadsheets. With Inventory Tracker, stay on top of what products you have for sale, what's already sold and what needs to ship. And if you don't want to forget spreadsheets, the app exports your inventory data to Excel, too.

Features: Real-time updates, cost calculator

Price: $4.99

Available for: iPhone

Omni Invoice
Why you need it: Omni Invoice creates quotes and invoices anytime and anywhere. It spans multiple product and service categories, factors in discounts and tax exemptions and codes and helps you keep tabs on delinquent payments.

Features: Contacts integration, HTML-based templates, Exchange compatibility

Price: $4.99

Available for: iPhone

Sales & Commissions
Why you need it: The name says it all: Sales & Commissions records how your business fares each day, with an emphasis on simple, timesaving data input. Enter information about items sold and the app does the rest, calculating commissions for different staffers and product/service categories.

Features: Recurring list screen for repeating items, pass-code protection

Price: $1.99

Available for: iPhone

Sales CRM EZi
Why you need it: You can manage and track sales opportunities and generate revenue forecasts with Sales CRM EZi. View promising prospects and set communication or action plans for each lead. Overdue actions are highlighted in red.

Features: User-defined sales status updates, commission calculation tools

Price: $9.99

Available for: iPhone
 

Finance
First the desktop revolutionized how businesses handle their finances. Now smartphones are changing the game, offering companies a wealth of mobile tools to tackle their accounting demands.

BAII Plus Financial Calculator
Why you need it: Mirroring the functionality of Texas Instruments' bestselling BAII Plus calculator unit, this app computes cash-flow analysis, amortization schedules, depreciation and other financial metrics.

Features: Trigonometric and logarithmic functions, NPV/IRR calculations

Price: $14.99

Available for: iPhone

iMargin
Why you need it: Calculate margin percentages on the fly with iMargin. Optimized for snap business decisions, the app determines sell prices and gross margins sans complicated formulas.

Features: Tax calculations, customizable precision and shake sensitivity options

Price: 99 cents

Available for: iPhone

InerTrak
Why you need it: InerTrak is a task-management tool designed for entrepreneurs juggling projects and assignments. The app documents how each workday is spent, calculating hourly billing according to different clients and rates.

Features: Detailed project views, desktop integration (purchased separately), notes and comments

Price: $4.99

Available for: iPhone

iXpenseIt
Why you need it: iXpenseIt helps you stay on top of your daily spending. Its elegant, user-friendly interface simplifies expense tracking on the go, offers customizable tools for monthly budgeting and related record-keeping demands.

Features: Number pad with calculation, digital photo receipts, graphical reports, password protection

Price: $4.99

Available for: iPhone
 

My Eyes Only
Why you need it: My Eyes Only secures the critical business data on your device--financial information, credit cards, computer and website passwords, the whole ball of wax. App Store tagline: "Encryption so strong, it needed U.S. government approval for export."

Features: "Aerochive" data backup, predefined information entry screens

Price: $8.99

Available for: iPhone
 

Navigation and travel
An ever-expanding wave of applications leverage the smartphone's internal GPS unit as well as location data from content providers like Google to help entrepreneurs get around, regardless whether their business takes them across town or across the globe.

Babelingo
Why you need it: Foreign languages leaving you tongue-tied? Babelingo translates words and phrases into easy-to-read texts in 11 international languages. Show the locals what you want to say instead of telling them.

Features: More than 300 common phrases, 25 subject categories, 110 language combinations

Price: $1.99

Available for: iPhone

Beat the Traffic
Why you need it: With location-specific live traffic maps monitoring average driver speeds and gridlock-inducing snafus spanning more than 100 U.S. and Canadian cities, Beat the Traffic means the traffic doesn't beat you instead.

Features: Weather information, crowdsourced traffic updates, live cameras in 40 metro areas

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry

Poynt
Why you need it: A kind of next-gen, location-aware Yellow Pages, Poynt identifies your whereabouts and everything in your immediate radius: retailers, restaurants, gas stations -- whatever you need on the road.

Features: Turn-by-turn Google Maps directions, address book integration, search results sharing

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry

Taxi Magic
Why you need it: Taxi Magic connects directly with local cab dispatch systems. Users in major cities can book pickup according to their specific location with a few taps (no phone call necessary), track their taxi's arrival and even charge their fare to a credit card.

Features: Dispatch updates, map views, click-to-call service in more than 4,000 North American locations

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm webOS

WorldMate
Why you need it: A personal assistant for business travelers, WorldMate manages your complete itinerary -- flights, hotels, car rentals and meetings -- and automatically synchronizes the details with your mobile device.

Features: LinkedIn integration, world clock, currency converter, tip calculator

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian
 

The Best of the Rest
Not all applications fit squarely into easy-to-define categories or address everyday business challenges, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be on your smartphone.

AppBox Pro
Why you need it: A virtual Swiss Army knife for your phone, AppBox Pro offers a number of utilities -- alarm clock, flashlight, currency converter, games, loan calculator, unit converter, even a random number generator -- to fit almost any scenario. It also includes Google services such as News, Docs, Calendar and Reader.

Features: Five icon sets, 12 backgrounds, 11 button styles

Price: 99 cents

Available for: iPhone

JuiceDefender
Why you need it: The only problem with all of these cool apps is their effect on your smartphone's battery life. The answer: JuiceDefender, which disables mobile connectivity and other energy-sucking components until you need them.

Features: Homescreen widgets, default Easy Mode

Price: Free

Available for: Android

LinkedIn
Why you need it: Stay connected to LinkedIn wherever you go. The business-centric social network's official mobile app give users access to more than 75 million professional profiles, complete with real-time status updates and messaging tools.

Features: Search, invitations

Price: Free

Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm webOS

QuickLaunch
Why you need it: QuickLaunch speeds up access to your other go-to smartphone features, enabling you to create customized shortcuts to other apps as well as the web, SMS, contacts and multimedia.

Features: Configurable homescreen hotkey, auto backup, Bluetooth toggle

Price: $4.99

Available for: BlackBerry

Tether
Why you need it: Tether helps you leverage your phone's mobile data connection to surf the Internet on your laptop -- no Wi-Fi service necessary. The application supports all U.S. wireless operators except regional carrier MetroPCS.

Features: Support for PCs and Macs, download speeds up to 2,400Kbps

Price: $49.95

Available for: BlackBerry