One of the great – or not-so-great, depending on your point of view – results of the huge boom in mobile technology in recent years is the latest smartphones aren't just for personal use any more. Instead, they're increasingly being adopted by business users to keep on top of their workloads.
And we're not just talking about reading business emails on a BlackBerry any more – we mean anything. In the old days, if you wanted to do any proper work, it meant lugging around a heavy laptop and an even heavier battery pack and power cables to make sure you didn't run out of juice in the middle of an important presentation. Now, all that capability fits right in your inside pocket.
The idea of working on the beach or in the garden might be enough to bring many people out in a cold sweat, but for busy workers, it's now an essential lifeline to the world and for many people, taking it away would be like cutting off their hand.
But getting the right tools to do this might prove tricky. All three of the major operating systems – Apple's iOS, Google Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone – offer their own built-in productivity suites for activities such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentation. But which of them should you be choosing?
The flash option – Apple iWork
Along with its latest shiny new iPhone and revamped OS, Apple's productivity tools received a major update in October 2013. This means if you're a new buyer of an iPhone or iPad, you've got access to the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation creation application for free.
But despite this, don't think you're getting a compromised version, as Apple Insider describes iWork as "the most feature-rich experience available on iOS". Support for iCloud also means you can carry on working on documents and collaborate with colleagues easily, no matter what platform you're using.
The comfort of the familiar – Microsoft Office 365
Not everyone is impressed with Apple's offering, though. Shortly following its release, corporate vice-president of communications at Microsoft Frank Shaw criticised iWork, calling it an "afterthought" and the decision to make it available for free to iPad users as "not a very big deal".
Bold claims indeed, and after nailing his colours to the mast, you'd hope Mr Shaw has something to back up his fighting words. And Microsoft Office 365 will be instantly familiar to anyone who's used the desktop version of Office. But as well as that comfortable feeling that comes with using something you've trusted for years, new integration with SkyDrive rivals Apple's option for collaboration and ability to access anywhere, from any device.
As well as coming as standard on Windows Phone devices and Surface tablets, there's an iPhone app available for those who want the comforts of their PC on the move. But before you get too exciting by the idea of Apple's design and Microsoft's enterprise experience working in perfect harmony, you should know that functionality on this is more limited, with minimal editing options. You'll also need a full subscription to Office 365 to use it, which might panic the people setting the budget.
Simple but effective – Google Docs
Not just limited to mobile devices, Google's Docs productivity may also be a familiar sight to desktop users, thanks to its easy-to-use, browser-based options. It doesn't offer the complex editing tools of its rivals, but if you just want to create and share documents or spreadsheets, you won't find a simpler way of doing this.
CNet was one publication to praise it highly, noting: "For Android users, Google Drive is a must-have download, as it offers convenient cloud storage space, Google Docs functionality on the go and file-sharing capabilities to boot."
So what's best?
Choosing between these three very capable solutions isn't easy, but if your choice of phone platform hinges on what's best for business, this is a decision you can't afford to get wrong. If you want the most advanced functionality, then Office 365 is the way to go – provided you have a device such as a Surface tablet that's capable of making the most of it. But if you're still using iOS, iWork is by far the better option.
However, it you're interesting it ease of use and sharing, Google Docs is unparalleled and – provided you're not doing anything too complex – its simple design and fast performance makes it a great option. And with such a large range of Android phones available, it could be the best choice for the widest range of users.