These days, a smartphone is an essential piece of business equipment for most employees. Issuing company mobile phones means employees are within reach where ever they are working - whether at a client's premises, from home or out on the move
Recent developments in mobile technology also mean that modern smartphones are as powerful and flexible as a personal computer. This makes it possible for employees to carry out many everyday tasks using just their mobile phones.
Before looking at smartphone options for your business, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- How many smartphones will you need? Will every employee require one?
- Where will the phones be used? Will they be largely office-based or spend a significant amount of time out on the road?
- How will the smartphones be used? Will they be primarily email devices or will features such as the camera be used extensively?
- What will your smartphones need to be compatible with? Do you have specific business software you'll need staff to have access to via their phones?
- When will the phones be used? Will people be using them at peak times? Will they be taken overseas?
During the decision-making process, ensure that the person responsible for your IT is involved. They'll be able to advise on the best way to integrate any new devices into your existing infrastructure and will help determine the best way to support your smartphones.
iOS or Android?
In truth, there's more to the world of smartphones than iOS and Android, but we've focused on these two platforms because they are by far the most common business choices.
iOS is Apple's operating system which runs on iPhones and iPads. The business capabilities of this platform have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but let's look at the pros and cons:
Pros of iOS
- Easy to deploy. Setting up and administering multiple iOS devices is straightforward thanks to great tools provided by Apple.
- Secure and virus-free. iOS is known as a 'closed' system with apps only making their way to the App Store following vigorous testing by Apple. The operating system itself cannot be tampered with, either.
- Easy-to-use. People are generally familiar with iOS, but for newbies, it is a very approachable platform.
Cons of iOS
- Fewer hardware options. iOS will only run on iPhones, limiting your choice of hardware. Apple devices are typically more expensive than their Android counterparts, too.
- Closed. The benefits of a closed operating system are explained above, but there is a trade-off, which is less configurability for businesses requiring fully-customised smartphones (although this is gradually improving with each release of IOS).
- Limited customisability. iOS is believed by many to be dragging its heels when it comes to customisability. Widgets and home screen customisation lags behind Android and this could be a key factor for some business users.
Android is Google's mobile operating system and runs on a huge range of smartphones. It comes in a standard version, but companies such as Samsung have taken advantage of Android's open source architecture in order to create their own, customised version of the operating system.
Pros of Android
- Huge range of device options. Android works on hundreds of different phones, offering something for every budget.
- Flexibility. Android isn't a closed operating system and can therefore be customised significantly.
- Great tie-in with Google services. Gmail, Google Docs and Google Maps are just some of the services which work very coherently with Android, requiring minimal setup.
Cons of Android
- Vulnerability. Because Android isn't closed, it can be messed with by malicious apps, adventurous employees and viruses.
- Not always intuitive. Depending on the version installed, the user experience can be somewhat bloated and confusing.
- Poor hardware. There are some brilliant Android phones out there, but there are some less reliable devices, too. This can makes choosing the most robust smartphone for business use a little tricky.
Both platforms now offer great support for Microsoft Office and Exchange.
Choosing the right smartphone for your business
There are 5 key things to decide when choosing the right smartphone for your business:
- Battery life. Not all smartphones offer great battery life. How often will yours be out on the road?
- Screen. Most smartphones have high resolution screens, but there's a variety of sizes to choose from. Do your staff need big screens to get stuff done or will the smaller variety be adequate for the occasional email?
- Power and storage. Do you run business apps which require a fair bit of grunt? Will sales people need to store considerable amounts of media to take along to meetings?
- Camera. Will staff need to take professional-looking photos or simply use the phone to take an occasionally snap for your Twitter feed?
- Design. How important is the look and feel of smartphones for your business?
By answering the above questions, you'll quickly narrow down the hardware and platform choices available to you.
Choosing the right smartphone tariff for your business
There are two key things to consider when hunting down the best smartphone tariff for your business:
- The type of handsets you need. By narrowing down the choices, you should have a firm idea of the best handsets for your business. The smartphone you choose is likely to dictate the tariff options available to you.
- Intended usage. Will your phones be largely used for calling or will there be a significant requirement for data usage?
The most cost-effective business mobile phone tariffs usually involve signing a contract with a network provider for a minimum of 12 to 24 months. The handsets will either come at a cost or will be included free of charge.
Smartphones can be lost, damaged or stolen, too, so it is important to factor in the cost of insurance when choosing a business tariff.
Here are some of the most common tariffs and options available to businesses:
- Pay Monthly. One, fixed monthly payment for all devices and tariffs. Any talk time or data used above the allowances will be charged separately. Easy to budget for and the most common type of business tariff.
- Pay As You Go. Top-up your mobile phone accounts when credit runs out. Provides tight control on usage, but can be tricky from an administration point of view and debilitating for staff.
- Flexible. Some providers will offer contracts with no fixed term and which allow you to upgrade hardware and change the tariff at any point.
- Bolt-ons. Add additional inclusive minutes, texts and data allowances to your pay monthly or pay as you go contracts.
- Separate bills for devices and service. Some providers will bill you separately for devices and the service, which can be convenient from an accounting perspective.
- International. Not all business phone contracts include allowances for international calls. If your staff are often overseas, seek out tariffs with good international roaming rates.