SelfInformed

December 2012


How To Choose The Best Smartphone For Your Small Business

Monday, December 03, 2012

By Mindy Charski

Don’t have a smartphone? You’re not alone.

Fifty-six percent of mobile phone users in this country don’t either, according to the research firm eMarketer.

But if you’re thinking of switching to a phone with more tools that could help you work more efficiently, you have some decisions to make.

Your starting point is choosing the operating system that fits you best.

You have four main options: Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

Chances are high you’ll choose one of the first two. About half of smartphone subscribers in the U.S. use phones with Android, according to the latest findings from research firm comScore, while about a third use iOS, which is on the iPhone.

Yes, BlackBerry was a pioneer in the market, but many say it just doesn’t offer many of the benefits people now want from their mobile devices.

“The BlackBerry phone is a smartphone on training wheels,” says Louis Rosas-Guyon, president of the business technology consultancy R-Squared Computing in Miami. “They’re great for email and that’s about it. When you buy a smartphone, email is actually the least of your capabilities.”

Get a Windows phone today, meanwhile, and you’ll be limited in applications.

“Right now [most] of the apps are for Android and iPhone, so if you get a Windows phone, you’re not going to have the same potential to do things that you can do with an iPhone or an Android phone,” says Chuck Martin, author of the “The Smartphone Handbook” (NFI Research, 2012) and chief executive officer of the Mobile Future Institute think tank.

So your choices have been narrowed.

But to help you decide between the iPhone and Android phones, you’ll need to consider four basic questions.


1. What other devices do I have?

IPhones work as well with PCs as they do with Apple products. And Android phones work as well with Macs as they do with PCs.

But since products from the same company share the same philosophical approach, Martin says your best bet is to buy an iPhone if you already own a Mac and an iPad or an Android phone if you already have an Android-based tablet.

“If you have the same technology, they all will sync together,” he says.

And moving from one to the other will feel more natural, he adds.


2. What options are important to me?

The iPhone—like other Apple products—is known for its intuitiveness.

“If you want something that is relatively simple to operate, an iPhone is perfect. It doesn’t even come with directions,” Martin says.

Usability and ease of access—as well as the hands-free options—were key decision points when Julia Kocs bought her first iPhone in 2008. At press time, the founder of KOCS Branding in El Cerrito, Calif., was using her fourth iPhone and was planning to buy iPhone 5.

Android, on the other hand, is available on many models from many manufacturers, so you may relish the opportunity to choose among features like screen size and weight. Likewise, perhaps you might prefer a thumb keyboard to the touch-screen keyboard that is standard on iPhones.

“Thumb keyboards are just faster for me,” says Rosas-Guyon. “I like the feel of the keys under my fingers. It reduces error and lets me type much faster. On-screen keyboards tend to be harder for my big fingers to navigate accurately.”


3. How can I save money?

Carriers generally subsidize the cost of the phone. That means they’ll often reduce the price of older models of both iPhones and Android devices with the purchase of a two-year contract.

But if you’re opting for no-contract plans, you may find the carriers don’t offer iPhones or, if they do, they cost more than Android handsets.

Also consider the costs of accessories you’ll need, like an extra charger.

Rosas-Guyon prefers devices that use a micro-USB charger rather than a proprietary one—like those from Apple—because they’re generally easy to find and aren’t very expensive.


4. What are the people around me using?

While not the highest priority, having the same technology as others in your office or industry could be a matter of efficiency.

“If you have an iPhone, and someone hands you an Android and says, ‘Here, use this,’—and vice versa—it’s like a foreign language,” Martin explains.

There may be social reasons to conform, too. KOCS, for instance, is an iPhone-dominant workplace.

“We have one person who still has a BlackBerry, and there has been incredible pressure on him to switch,” Kocs says, “and I think he will.”


Mindy Charski is a Dallas-based freelancer specializing in business journalism.


SMART Business Apps For Your Smartphone

Recommendations can help you choose from among the thousands of apps on the market. Here are a few to consider.

ShopSavvy

“You scan a barcode of any product in any store, and it will show you the competing store prices. You find the lowest price of a store near you and you show it to the cashier, and they will [sometimes] match the price,” Martin says. “I’ve easily saved over $1,000 doing this.”

Dragon Dictation

“I can send text messages and email just by speaking into my phone. It recognizes my voice and does the typing for me,” says Kocs. “I can switch languages. Some of my colleagues speak Hungarian, and with just one push of a button, I switch between Hungarian and English.”

Tasker

“It allows me to program my phone to the point of insanity. I have a series of little programs that run constantly in the background,” Rosas-Guyon says. The app can detect when he’s in his home, for instance, and will then upload a backup of his phone onto his server. It can also keep his phone quiet when he faces the screen down.

Mindjet

“I write articles and books, so mind maps help me organize my thoughts,” Rosas-Guyon says. “I also use them when putting together client proposals and presentations—it helps me organize and prioritize.”


The NASE Can HELP

TripAlly is an exclusive NASE iPhone app you can use for tracking and calculating all of the business miles you drive.

No more messy mileage logs. TripAlly will:

  • Automatically compute the number of miles you drive for each trip
  • Tally your miles—every day, every month, every year
  • Let you add trips manually
  • Calculate mileage on indirect routes


For each individual trip, the app lets you input details such as the purpose of the trip and specific notes about the trip.

TripAlly makes tax time easier. When you’re ready to report your business miles on your tax form, just ask TripAlly for the information you need.

NASE Members enjoy all of TripAlly’s registered features for free!