For stepping up its omnipresence in users’ lives through smart partnerships and acquisitions. How omnipresent? Try 200 million users saving 1 billion files every 24 hours. Dropbox Platform—a suite of tools that allows developers to sync users’ app data across devices—now powers 100,000 active apps, including Shutterstock, Yahoo Mail, and, of course, the email-overload cure it acquired last year, Mailbox. As it edges further into the enterprise world (to the tune of 4 million business customers), Dropbox continues to fuel its user base—and, with a reported $10 billion valuation, rumblings of an impending IPO. Read more >>
For devising the artificially intelligent personal assistant. Google already made its mark on personal productivity with Gmail and the storage tool Google Drive, which is used by nearly 10% of all U.S. online adults. But with Google Now, the company has taken a proactive approach to making us better at life: By pulling (volunteered) search information, it helps with everything from predicting commute times to tracking shipments to buying tickets for nearby concerts. While especially empowering for mobile users—including bearers of Google Glass—Now is currently being tested in Chrome browsers, which means even our desktops will get a virtual secretary. Read more >>
For tailoring an industry-specific cloud service to put businesses back in control of their documents. Box has been a best friend of corporations amid the bring-your-own-device era, expanding its storage offering to be more of a platform for clients like Gap, Hulu, and Toyota. Smart workflow solutions, such as the ability to build custom apps on top of Box’s cloud, have helped the company grow its sales 150%, surpass 20 million users, and prep for an impending 2014 IPO. Read more >>
For letting users automate the madness of all of their apps. "We allow users to define how information moves between [their apps]," says Linden Tibbets, cofounder and CEO of IFTTT. The service offers more than 130,000 user-contributed "recipes"—automatic tasks that combine one app action with another and range from the incredibly useful to the adorably whimsical. Last year, IFTTT finally launched on mobile, allowing its productivity-obsessed disciples to get even more creative. Some examples:
For drawing the envy of iPhone users with its predictive Android keyboard app. It’s no surprise that SwiftKey has been the top-paid Android app for two years running. The app—which doubled revenue in 2013—boosts users’ typing speeds by learning their language style from texts, emails, and social media posts, then seamlessly syncing it across all of his or her devices. The result? Five hundred billion keystrokes saved, to date.
For assembling the future of on-demand labor. When the temp-worker department of the sharing economy began showing signs of weakness, New York City–based Fancy Hands stepped up with an innovative solution: an API that allows developers to line up the company’s pool of 15,000 on-demand assistants within any app they create. Fancy Hands users, who rely on the service for research-based tasks like booking flights and making the dreaded call to customer service, praise it as an invaluable time saver.
For elbowing through a crowd of to-do-list apps. There are plenty of list-based apps that want to help organize your day, but none of them are as thoughtful and inventive as Any.do. To keep users productive, it partnered with mobile ad network Kiip to offer rewards and coupons for the tasks they swipe away. And to make sure it didn’t lose its place on users’ home screens, it created Any.do Moment—a morning prompt to prioritize tasks—and Cal, a gorgeous calendar app. These innovations helped Any.do’s user base rocket from 550,000 in 2012 to more than 5 million in 2013.
For quietly jogging the memories of enterprise users and extending its brand into the analog world. When power users talk Evernote, they call it their brain. Soon, they’ll call it their life. When it extended its geek-chic brand to physical products last year with the launch of Evernote Market—which includes smart goods like a messenger bag that doesn’t fall over—sales reached $1 million in less than 30 days, faster than both the premium version of Evernote and its enterprise offering, also launched last year. It’s all part of CEO Phil Libin’s "sufficiently epic quest": to become the 100-year startup.
For changing the way we "read it later." With a simple click, Pocket allows users to save articles or videos they didn’t have time to finish, so they can view them later on their smartphone, tablet, or desktop when they make it home (or in the commuter’s case, on the train). A major update last year includes a new trick for Pocket: learning the types of content readers like so it can pull up old articles they might have forgotten about. The new feature shows promise: The company recently topped 800 million items saved, and users now "pocket" 1.5 million pieces of content daily.
For delighting creatives with digital collaborations. Thanks to its luxury notebooks, Moleskine has a long-standing rep as an oasis of analog beauty. But in order for the company to thrive, it has fully embraced our digital world. It has a partnership with Evernote to create notebooks that let users scan, save, and search what they write. And it has a clever collab that lets creatives bring ideas and sketches from FiftyThree’s Paper app to life on custom Moleskine prints. Proving itself more than a notebook company, Moleskine went public on the Milan Stock Exchange last year at a valuation of more than $700 million.
[Illustration by Chris Philpot]