The line between mobile technology for personal and business use continues to blur. Many people, especially small business owners, are using the same device for their business and private lives and want something that’s slick and cool but also powerful. No longer are we seeing just “work” smartphones that have strong email and business applications and “fun” phones that have high quality cameras, music, and video.
The iPhone continues to grow as a business tool with tons of new business applications being created for it. Other vendors like HTC are morphing popular consumer models with touch screens like the Touch Diamond into business models like the new HTC Touch Pro. They’ve added business-focused enhancements to make the device more efficient for work use – a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, expandable storage, and a business card scanner application that works with the built in camera/camcorder.
So what should you consider when choosing a mobile phone for your business?
Michelle Mermelstein, PR Manager for Wireless Devices at Sprint, says that most customers begin by considering how the devices will interact with their current system. Their IT team may prefer Windows mobile devices, Palm OS, BlackBerry Enterprise Server or a more simple Java-based approach based on firewalls and other internal constraints.
She suggests that companies next consider the number of devices they need, cost implications and features and functionality. For example, if the business requires significant travel, they may rely on features such as GPS. If a lot of emailing is required, a full QWERTY keyboard can be a big productivity booster.
Applications are also an important factor – for example, if opening Windows documents is a priority, you might want to stick with a Windows Mobile device like the Touch Pro, Samsung Ace or a Palm. Many SaaS applications now offer versions that are supported by different mobile manufacturers, and some are specific to the device like Blackberry or iPhone. Make sure you check first that the application you need is supported by the device you’re considering.
Finally, you need to make sure that the network can support the service you need. Obviously you’ll want to make sure that you get coverage in areas where your employees work and travel (and live, if they work from home), but also check the coverage for the provider’s broadband service if you’ll use internet applications on the device. And if you’ve got international travelers, don’t forget global coverage.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com