In the world of business and ecommerce, smartphones are steadily becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. The ability to handle email, support correspondence and task delegation while out of the office is not only appealing, but makes everything run more smoothly by eliminating time gaps while tending to outside duties.
Deciding which smartphone is right for you and your business, however, is not a simple task. Many people rely on advertising and what colleagues are using to make their choice, rarely taking the time to not only research all their options, but in many cases failing to actually hold devices in a showroom. Since most cell carrier stores segment brand displays – often well away from each other – the thought of looking at competing devices across various operating systems (OSs) doesn’t even enter your mind.
It’s no secret that I’m an advocate for webOS, the OS that drives the Palm Pre, Palm Pixi, and the Plus models of both those devices. I also believe, though, that decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis. For example, some industries (like the real estate market) suggest specific types of devices to integrate with key lock systems and other functions.
Here’s 10 things to consider when shopping for a mobile device for business use:
- How it feels in your hands and pockets. You’re going to be using the phone, so you need to know if it fits comfortably, and not just in your hand. Test phones in your pocket and think about the type of clothing you wear while on vacation and what will happen if you keep the phone in your pocket, say, while driving. While this determines overall screen size, portability is equally important. Is one-handed operation a must for you? Consider this as well.
- How responsive it is to touch. On a touch screen, you should be able to get a reaction almost immediately – meaning, it should only take you a second or so to figure out how light or hard you need to touch the device. Ideally, you want a smooth glide. Also, see if the phone is prone to pocket dialing (when objects press against the keypad and you wind up calling someone without being aware).
- Is the keyboard usable? Are you okay using on-screen keyboards, or do you want actual buttons? Touchscreens, they say, are the wave of the future, but physical keyboards tend to be easier to control and make for quicker data entry. Some devices offer both, either within the OS or via an app.
- How are the microphone and speaker? I’m surprised how many people buy phones having never tested the speaker or microphone. Bring a friend so you can call him from the display phone, then have him call you from the device you’re considering.Navigate to the default ringtones settings and listen to them. This will tell you if the device plays sounds with clarity or static.
- Does it offer the core features you want? Navigate not only applications, but phone settings. Jot down features it’s lacking so you can research their availability in app catalogs or at download sites. Keep in mind that no device can cover the wants and needs of every user – that’s why apps are so popular.
- Can it store information? In other words, can you store other files on the device, even if you can’t run them on the phone? This is important because, in business, we often need to transfer files for use in the office, at home or on a laptop. Some smartphones include card readers while others can act like USB storage devices.
- Does it multitask? There’s a lot of debate over this, but part of the need for technology is being able to do things quickly. Multitasking applications means we can research info on the web, and when an important email arrives, respond to it, then return to our previous task – all without wasting time. Multiple, open apps can also be used to remind us of other things on the to do list.
- Does it feature background notifications? This is also key because another part of being on top of things is having something else do the work for us. Sound alerts and on-screen notifications of new email, text messages and even tweets help us keep on top of it all and respond quickly.
- Can you use it to surf the web from a laptop? I prefer using a separate MiFi device for internet connection, but I understand why so many businesspeople want to save money and use their smartphone for everything. Even if you have no intention of using your phone as a hotspot, it’s still a feature you should strongly consider. If you’re ever stuck in an airport for six hours with no wireless signal, you’ll wish you had another way to connect.
- Can you shoot both photos and video? This may not sound that important, but photos and video can really come in handy. For example, if you’re at a tradeshow, being able to take a picture and text it to your colleague can speed up the decision-making process. Shooting video of a company picnic can later be used on your site to entertain customers and show them that you’re real. Editing video on the device is a plus, but shouldn’t be a deal breaker unless you plan to upload videos for public viewing immediately.
There are some key features I didn’t list – like Bluetooth and GPS – because these have already become standard features across all smartphone platforms. And, of course, you should always make sure technical specs meet your needs.
What About Apps?
A major selling point of the iPhone is the number of apps available. However, many mobile apps are overdone (30+ apps that do the same thing) and one can’t determine if an app will work for them by title alone. It’s really more about app quality and growth in development.
For example, Apple polices every app that is submitted. Thus, some apps won’t pass through based solely on what Apple thinks about the content. Android apps, on the other hand, are not policed in advance. This means any app submitted is posted, and only if the app is found to be destructive is it pulled from the catalog. Palm checks all submitted apps against the API; if it passes, it’s posted.
There’s also an issue of free apps vs paid apps. Everyone loves free, but when deciding on a device and the applications you may need for your business, the price of apps shouldn’t be the top consideration. After all, it’s the device itself that determines how everything is going to operate.
While there will never be a “perfect smartphone” that suits everyone’s wants and desires, you can certainly come close to your dream machine if you take the time to both listen and research, including taking the time to play with devices before locking yourself into a contract.