Buyer’s guide: Smartphones for your business
Everything you need to know to choose the perfect handset for you and your business
Contacts are crucial for any entrepreneur and today, there’s no better way to keep in touch than by equipping yourself with a smartphone. These clever little devices furnish you with everything you’d expect to have in an office while you’re out and about.
Today’s handsets come packed with an array of business-critical features and functions, including email, calendars, productivity tools and social media apps, as well as many not aimed at the business user.
The good news is that whatever your budget, there’s likely to be a smartphone suitable for you. And you can even get your hands on a great handset for free if you’re willing to commit to a long contract with a mobile operator.
The range of handsets on the market can make choosing one a little daunting. Some smartphones boast a multitude of features – such as high-end digital cameras and music players – that may not be much use for business users.
However, it’s essential you need to keep your eye on costs. If you exceed your monthly allowance of calls, texts or use of the mobile internet, charges can quickly add up. Using the handsets while out of the country can also lead to eye-wateringly high bills.
Before you buy a handset, think carefully about what you’ll use it for. Do you intend to use it instead of a laptop while you’re out and about? Is your main requirement the ability to use email? Do you need applications on the handset, such as an accounts package to work seamlessly with your desktop computer?
In order to pick the right handset, you will need to establish how its capabilities meet your needs. Important considerations include:
- Requirements from a handset
- Running costs
- The handset’s processing power
- The screen resolution
- Data network coverage
What you need
Smartphones are fast becoming a must-have for the busy business owner, providing a convenient and lightweight means to work while on the move. They allow you to work on documents, respond to emails; some can even act as a hand held GPS system, helping you find your way to that make-or-break meeting.
One of the best ways to distinguish smartphones is through operating systems – the software that defines the look and feel of the handset. There are several different operating systems available. The three most commonly used are Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry.
They all offer similar functionality, despite their differences. If your primary reason for getting a smartphone is to be able to access the internet on the go, you won’t be held back by whichever one you chose.
If you need specific applications however, such as your customer relationship management software, you need to consider whether the operating system for your chosen handset supports it and whether it has enough processing power to run the software acceptably.
Some handsets are not available on certain networks. If you think you’ve found the ideal handset for your needs but it has patchy coverage in your area, you might need to go back to the drawing board.
The major players
Google’s Android is the fastest growing operating system in the smartphone world. By some counts it has now moved ahead of Apple’s iOS and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, and currently accounts for 30% of smartphones, while iOS and BlackBerry make up 27% each of sales according to market watcher Neilsen. Other major players include Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, HP’s WebOS and Symbian.
Operating systems only tell part of the story, however. When it comes to handsets, Apple’s iPhone dominates. Research in Motion is the only maker of BlackBerry handsets, but produces far more models than Apple. The other smartphone operating systems have numerous manufacturers making their handsets, which fragments the market. Samsung, HTC and Motorola are the major makers of Android-based and Windows-based smartphones.
The type of processor found in your smartphone will have a major influence over how quickly it can run programs – for example, how quickly internet pages are rendered on screen. If your smartphone will be your main mobile device, you should go for a more powerful processor – otherwise you may be frustrated by the slowness of the device when comparing it to a PC or laptop.
The most commonly used method to gauge a processor’s power is known as its clock speed, and the higher the clock speed the better. Expect most smartphones today to have a 1GHz processor at the minimum.
Whichever smartphone you choose, without access to a mobile network, it’s little more than a plastic brick. The amount you spend each monthly period to get that access can vary massively. All operators will offer deals that bundle network access with a call and text allowance and perhaps a mobile data allowance.
As an example of what’s out there, you can pick up a BlackBerry Torch for free, and get 600 call minutes, 500 texts and 1GB of data each month for a fraction over £25 on T-Mobile.
if you prefer to buy your own handset, you can simply use pay-as-you-go SIM cards. This means a greater upfront cost though, and you may not get the best value on call minutes or data charges, but you do gain greater control of what you’re spending. For those looking at this option, a SIM-free HTC Desire S – a powerful smartphone that uses the Android operating system – will cost you £399.