Invoice Robot: Bill Your Clients on Your iPhone

Freelancers the world over generally have to invoice their clients before they get paid. An invoice is a legal description of goods and services provided with indication of payment methods and terms. There’s a range of services for freelancers to create invoices, both those that are dedicated to the purpose (like FreshBooks) or traditional office applications (like those in iWork or Microsoft Office).

There’s a small community of finance apps on the App Store focused at freelancers, and Invoice Robot is certainly not the only one aimed at invoicing. A companion to the popular FreshBooks service is MiniBooks, which we’ve already reviewed here at AppStorm, is one alternative, as is long time AppStorm-sponsor Billings Touch.

Invoice Robot is a mobile invoicing solution, available as a universal binary on iPhone and iPad. Today, we’ll be taking a look at it to see whether or not it’s worth a download.

Your First Invoice

As soon as you launch the application, you can begin designing your invoice. The process is distinctly separated into three unique screens, which are toggled between with the trio of buttons placed to the bottom of the screen. To the left of those switches is the settings panel, which allows you to choose a logo from your photos library, change the colour scheme between blue and white and some formatting options.

The first panel deals with the details of your invoice. At the top, you have a four-split choice to what your document will actually be: an invoice, a receipt, a proposal or a quote. There’s no major effects when you go to change the type, apart from the main title and a couple of sub-headings, like the swap between “Paid By” and “Prepared For”. The second variable of this particular section is for the client details, which you can conveniently import from your contacts. Other than that, you are asked to put in a date (or tap on one of the expedient “Today” and “Choose” buttons), a reference and a subject.

The first and second screens in Invoice Robot.

The second section deals with the actual products themselves. By first tapping on the boxed arrow icon, you can easily add different products or services that will be dealt with in your invoices. This means they can be easily added, alongside their unit price, to the invoice through a drop down menu, saving time if you sell similar items to multiple clients. Once you add them to the invoice, you are directed to define a quantity and Invoice Robot will calculate the total price. Naturally, Invoice Robot does all the calculations in the document so there’s no need to bring out your calculator.

Adding your product's details in Invoice Robot is fairly simple. It's only disappointing that you can't add more detailed descriptions.

The final screen deals with your details and the notes. A large text box is provided to enter any applicable notes, or thanks, to the end of the invoice itself. Similar to entering the client details, the contractor details allows you to import your contact details in an identical fashion.

Once you’re ready to send off your invoice, you tap on the Invoice Robot icon in the lower right and an email panel is shown. Then, it’s simply time to send it to your client.

The final result is presented as a PDF, with no fancy formatting. It’s just the bare basics, but it indeed works and brings a workable result.

The final result: a PDF with simple formatting that adheres to the colour scheme you chose.

Interface & Design

I’m a little confused as to why Invoice Robot does not follow the standard iOS interface ties. Instead, the developers opted for a custom interface that doesn’t really pay off in terms of aesthetics. The default interface elements for iOS seem much more suited and would improve the intuitiveness of the application.

Otherwise, I felt like some of the controls weren’t in proportion like the default elements are. It’s certainly not the best example of a good interface (in the invoicing realm, I prefer Billings Touch), but you can work with it.

Examples of Invoice Robot's interface (read: it's not that exciting).

Compared to the Competitors

As I’ve already touched upon, Invoice Robot does not have the best interface and it is not preferable over it’s competitors, like Billings Touch. There’s definitely room for improvement in that respect, surprisingly, since the competitors seemed to have nailed it.

In terms of its functionality, the price correlates directly to the number of features available. Have no doubt that Invoice Robot is an invoicing application, and is not a complete billing solution like the higher-priced Billings Touch. The latter is much more full- fledged with and provides an in-depth experience, whereas Invoice Robot is fairly simplistic.

MiniBooks for FreshBooks is its nearest cousin, although I still find that preferable due to its use of the cleaner, default iOS interface. Even that application has a timing feature as well as synchronisation with the wider FreshBooks service, at an additional $14.99 cost.

Invoice Robot, on the left, compared to Billings Touch, on the right, is a battle not worth fighting.

The Big Robot

Invoice Robot is a universal app and, therefore, is also optimised for users on an iPad. Unfortunately, the same custom interface is still there, but there is no split-screens. Everything is in a single view and the text boxes are much bigger, meaning that the iPad version is about ten times as useful. I’d still prefer it to use the default SDK interface elements, but this is acceptable enough.

The bottom line is that the iPhone app is a great emergency solution, but you could actually swap out your old method for this iPad app with little interruption.

The screen real estate of the iPad offers a much cleaner experience with Invoice Robot.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Invoice Robot does the job that it’s supposed to. It can’t be faulted for much and produces a usable PDF, although I do find having to email it to preview a bit of an inconvenience. Nevertheless, the app is capable, although limited, and suits its $2.99 App Store price. If you have the cash, however, consider the alternatives I discussed in the competition section of this review.


Summary

A simple, straightforward, but limited, invoicing application that produces a PDF in an easy couple of steps.

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