A business smartphone can be an invaluable communication and productivity tool for professionals both in and out of the office. For a wireless administrator or purchaser, choosing the right smartphone may not always be a straightforward choice. From app compatibility issues to e-mail integration, the challenge when purchasing a business smartphone is balancing preferences and requirements.
In this HardBoiled Buying Guide, we are going to help administrators and purchasers alike choose the right business smartphone for themselves and their organization’s professionals. Below, we break down the decision into several important criteria starting with selecting an operating system and then moving onto device specifics such as size and hardware specifications.
The first and most important choice when choosing a business smartphone is the operating system. Before you decide on screen size, processing power, or external memory support, you need to consider what operating system you or your organization’s professionals should be using. There are four major mobile operating systems, Apple® iOS ®, Google Android™, BlackBerry®, and Windows Phone®.
When selecting a smartphone for business it is best to choose a mobile OS that fits the needs of the user as well as your organization’s needs. If your organization requires its professionals to use platform-specific in-house apps, it is better to choose smartphones on that based on that. For instance, if your office instant messaging app is exclusive to Android, then it is best to choose an Android-based business smartphone.
If there you are not limited by app or OS requirements, then your choice can be based more heavily on preference. Below is a list of the four major mobile OS platforms.
- Google Android – Android is the most popular mobile operating system in the world in terms of market share. With Android, users have many business smartphones to choose from as Google licenses the OS to hardware vendors. Because of this separation, the hardware is largely customized by the manufacturer. The Android platform typically allows for more software customization by the user, which may be a concern.In terms of the number of apps available, the Google Play™ Store has the second largest number of apps available. However, it does have functionality that allows administrators to distribute apps to select employees.
- Apple iOS – The second-most popular smartphone OS by market share is Apple’s iOS. While many smartphone makers utilize Android on their devices, iOS is solely used by Apple on its devices. With iPhone, Apple has exclusive control over the hardware and software. Also, iOS is more restrictive than Android when it comes to user customization.Apple’s App Store features the largest number of apps, which currently is over 1.2 million. Similar to Android, iOS also allows enterprises to distribute in-house apps to employees.
- BlackBerry – Until several years ago, BlackBerry was the standard for business smartphones, featuring physical keyboards and robust messaging and e-mail capabilities. Presently, BlackBerry trails behind iOS and Android in market share but is still more widely used than Windows Phone. The main app store for BlackBerry, BlackBerry World, features around 250,000 apps. One advantage of BlackBerry is that it offers several models that have physical keypads, which some users may prefer.
- Windows Phone – Though Microsoft’s old Windows Mobile OS was popular for business users, they have yet to replicate that success with Windows Phone. The least popular of the four mobile operating systems, Windows Phone is similar to Android in that multiple hardware vendors make business smartphones based on the software. Windows Phone trails behind iOS and Android in terms of number apps available. For businesses and organizations, Windows Phone is a fairly good platform if the lower number of apps available is not a concern.
Once you have determined the operating system you want, you should decide on the size of the device.
- Android / Windows Phone – Android and Windows smartphones typically fall within the 4- to 6” range, which gives you more choice in terms of screen size. Generally, a medium-sized smartphone has a screen that is between 4 to 5 inches diagonally. That is the ideal size for one-handed use and is still larger than the iPhone 5S.On the larger end are phones known as “phablets”, which are phones 5-inches or larger. They are usually too big for single-handed use for most people and might not fit in all smaller pockets. For users that want to use their smartphones as tablets however, they are a good alternative.
- iPhone / BlackBerry – For those that wish to use iOS, the range of screen sizes is more limited. The iPhone 6 is available in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch while the iPhone 5S and 5C are only available in 4-inch. BlackBerry business smartphones are similar to iPhones in that there is a more limited range of devices and screen sizes.
If you choose to purchase an iPhone 5S or older, it will not be a matter of which screen size to get, but which model or generation best fits your needs. Only with the iPhone 6 does size become a consideration, in which case it is best to follow the guideline given above for Android business smartphones. With BlackBerry smartphones, it is much the same way as iPhones in that you should be focusing more on the model than the size of the phone.
Often, when purchasers decide to buy an Apple or BlackBerry business smartphone, hardware specifications do not factor into the decision. This is in large part because they are not available in a wide range of different hardware configurations. Android and Windows smartphones on the other hand, are available in a variety of hardware configurations. For those two types of devices, technical specifications often matter to purchasers.
- Processor: Some phone enthusiasts place heavy emphasis on a smartphone’s processor. However, an alternative approach is to examine the overall performance of a device rather than focusing on the CPU.Often, business smartphones with lower-end specifications can seemingly outperform those with better hardware because of better optimization. The iPhone 6 for instance, has a dual-core processor but to users can perform as well as some quad-core smartphones. If you are choosing a Windows or Android smartphone, you should try to find a device that features a quad-core processor for the best performance. For better energy-efficiency however, a dual-core processor may be ideal.
- Battery Life: A smartphone’s battery life is extremely important, as it determines how often it needs to be charged and how long it can be used. Thankfully, many smartphones give users the option to replace their batteries with replacement or larger batteries. This can be valuable, as business smartphones can quickly drain battery when heavily used. With phones that do not have a replaceable battery, one solution is to carry alternate charging methods or external backup batteries.
- Storage: Some popular business smartphones such as the iPhone and select Android phones only have built-in storage, with no option for expandable memory. However, many Android, BlackBerry, and Windows business smartphones give users the option to use external memory cards. If expandable storage is a requirement, then the choice is primarily limited to those phones.
Choosing the right smartphone for business is not only a matter of picking one that fits the preferences and needs of the user, but also one fits the requirements of the organization. After all, a business smartphone is a tool that professionals use for productivity and not just personal entertainment.