Top 15 Android Business Apps

9. GDocs When you use Android, you end up being subtly pushed towards Google Apps. I never had a Gmail account, nor did I want one, until I learned the hard way that the HTC Sync program is terrible, and the easiest way for me to sync Outlook with my phone is through Gmail.

Start with Gmail, and soon you’ll be dabbling with Docs, Blogger and Buzz. Several people emailed me to suggest various Office synching programs. While I included one in this roundup (TouchDown), I personally think that for most people it’s easier to use Google, which converts documents quickly and without much fuss and gives you plentiful, free online storage.

GDocs is a word-processing beachhead on the Anroid. GDocs lets you view, create and edit documents and spreadsheets from your Google Docs account. Of course, since Google lets you store Office documents in Google Docs, GDocs works for Word too. As a test, I wrote this entry on my Android and had no trouble, other than the less-than-ideal onscreen keyboard.

Cost: Free.

10. aTrackDog Patch management and software updates are a major IT headache. How long until this problem migrates from the desktop to the smartphone?

aTrackDog will help you get ahead of this issue, keeping track of all of your applications and informing you of updates. Without aTrackDog, this is a manual app-by-app chore. With aTrackDog, it’s a centralized task completed in a couple of minutes.

Cost: Free.

11. ASTRO File Manager This app is the easiest, most popular way to manage files and folders on your Android. Having troubling locating music on your SD card? Tap over to ASTRO and you’ll find it instantly. The only downside of ASTRO – and this is not ASTRO’s fault – is that you cannot uninstall annoying preloaded apps (on Sprint it’s nuisances like the NASCAR app) with ASTRO. Unfortunately, you have to root your phone to do that. Of course, readers of an IT pub like CIO Update should have no qualms about rooting their phone. I’m not as tech savvy as most of you, and I found it to be a relatively painless process.

Cost: Free.

12. PdaNet Say you’re traveling, you have all-you-can-eat data through your Android, yet you’d rather be working on your laptop without shelling out for a separate mobile broadband card and plan. You should be able to tether your laptop to your phone, right? Wrong. Carriers frown on this and have made sure it’s not easy to do on their phones.

Search the web and you’ll find plenty of ways to root your phone to enable tethering. And easier method is to simply install PdaNet, which makes tethering a breeze. Simply install it on your phone and laptop, connect the two via USB or Bluetooth, and you’re all set.

Cost: Basic: Free. Full version, which includes support of secure websites: $18.95.

13. gPanel Mobile for Google Apps Continuing with the premise that Android woos you further into Google’s realm, for organizations that have ditched Office in favor of Google Apps, it’d be nice to have a way to remotely administer those apps, wouldn’t it?

Enter gPanel Mobile for Google Apps. Aaron Gumz, Managing Partner of Promevo, which developed gPanel, explains the app’s value through a couple of worst-case scenarios. “You’re at a conference and your CIO calls you and says you need to suspend a user’s account immediately because that person went rogue and is blasting out derogatory emails. With gPanel Mobile you can suspend a user’s access in seconds” right from your Android.

Or: “It’s 11 PM and you’re out on the town. Your CIO calls you because he can’t access his Google Apps email. His password is not working. With gPanel Mobile you can reset his password in seconds without having to boot up your netbook or laptop, or worse, run home to do it.”

Cost: $50/year.

14. Google Goggles Zigurd Mednieks, co-author of Android Application Development, wrote to me to recommend Google Goggles as a business app.

Google Goggles lets you use your phone’s camera in order to perform picture-based searches of the web. Sounds like a consumer app, right? Not if you use it to read business cards and turn them into contacts. You can also use Google Goggles to identify landmarks, get instant wine reviews, retrieve book summaries and translate foreign text.

Cost: Free.

15. Layar The utility of augmented reality in the business world is sketchy at best – for now. However, with behemoths like Cisco believing augmented reality is the “future of shopping” and BMW considering it the “future of car repair,” it’s just a matter of time until augmented reality catches on in the enterprise.

Layar is an “augmented reality browser” that uses your phone’s camera, compass and GPS to serve up real-time digital information that is layered over your camera’s view. For instance, National Geographic is using Layar to serve up AR travel guides. The first one will be released soon for Washington, D.C.

Cost: Free.