“By end of 2012, some 50% of small businesses surveyed expect to have all their employees using wireless technology to work away from the office.” (Source: Wireless and Mobile News)
Smartphones are essential for today’s workforce. They provide employees with the freedom and flexibility to access email, files and applications, get directions, engage on social media, and of course make phone calls.
A common question we get from small business owners purchasing mobile phones for their employees—including top executives and a mobile sales force—is, “What mobile phone should I buy?” Depending on the industry you’re in, the answer is simple—whichever one you like the most.
Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows are fairly comparable in what they can do, from email access, contact syncing, applications and mobile browsing. In addition, the major wireless networks (i.e. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) support most smartphones, so you don’t need to base your decision on one network over another.
So what should you pay attention to when looking for a smartphone for your small business? Below we’ve outlined three factors to consider:
1. Usability of Business-Critical Applications
“Almost one-third (30%) of small businesses surveyed use mobile apps for their business, with the key reasons being to save time, increase productivity and reduce costs.” (Source: Wireless and Mobile News)
Audit the programs and applications essential to your business; specifically focusing on those to which mobile employees will need to have regular access. This will include email, calendars, instant messenger, file and note sharing, customer relationship manager (CRM), and directions.
While most smartphone platforms will offer apps for programs, not all offer the same level of usability or compatibility. Read online reviews, look at ratings in application marketplaces, and talk to IT professionals you know and trust to determine how functional and easy-to-use these apps actually are.
2. Satisfies Security Requirements
For most businesses, the standard security features offered by most smartphones— including data encryption, password protection and the ability to remotely wipe the phone if lost or stolen—are adequate.
However, if yours is a regulated industry—like healthcare, insurance, finance or legal—you will need to satisfy regulatory compliance for privacy on any device that has access to compliance-protected data.
“If you want managed devices, you really only have one choice, which is Blackberry as RIM supports more than 450 policies,” according to Ted Schalder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. (Source: Inc.)
Blackberry’s Enterprise solution has earned approval for storing and transmitting sensitive data from a number of government organizations, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the North American Treaty Organization (NATO). (Source: Blackberry.com)
3. Sufficient Battery Life
Look for smartphones that offer extended battery life. Battery life becomes a serious issue for those employees on the road with limited access to power outlets. These employees use their phones for everything, including phone calls, email, pulling large amounts of data, directions, music, apps, pictures, video, etc.
“Because of all of its features and integrated wireless radios, smartphones can consume a lot of power, and the last thing you need is to be on the road or at a trade show and there’s only one bar left,” said Scott Steinberg, publisher of Digital Trends. (Source: Inc.)
For tips on how to preserve a smartphone’s battery life, check out this slide presentation from the Huffington Post—Smartphone Battery Life Tips: 12 Tricks to Make Your Device Last Longer.
Ask Questions and Test For Yourself
The best way to determine which smartphone is right for your organization is to ask friends, colleagues and trusted IT professionals. Ask what they like, and what they hate about their smartphone. If they’re willing, ask if they would let you play around with it so you can get a feel for how it operates.
Next, buy one and test performance, usability and compatibility. (Note that most smartphone providers offer 30-day money back guarantees that make this possible.)
Sync the device with your business-critical applications, test its battery life, and evaluate its processing speeds, user interface and app performance. Reset the device to erase any settings, passwords or files you may have stored on it if it’s not a fit for your small business.
At the end of the day, the smartphone you choose has to work for your business and employees. Avoid buying the “latest and greatest” for your team if it doesn’t fit with the business and will go unused.
Questions about smartphones? Please leave your questions in the comments section, or contact me directly at 216.255.6300.