1. Computing

How to Choose the Best Smartphone for Work

Find a smartphone and mobile operating system that does the job

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Many people buy smartphones not just for entertainment or personal use, but for business or productivity purposes also. With so many smartphone models to choose from now, though, across multiple mobile operating systems, deciding which smartphone is best for the job can be difficult. Here are the factors you should consider before buying a smartphone, specifically if you need to use it at least partially to get work done.

Wireless Carrier

At the most basic level, you need a mobile phone that works (i.e., can get a reliable signal to make calls and access data). So your first consideration should be choosing a cellular service provider with decent data and voice reception wherever you may be. Below are the 3 C's of selecting a carrier:

  • Coverage: Check cellular coverage maps to make sure you'll have adequate voice and mobile broadband data coverage both in your local area and the places you may travel to.
  • Customer Service: Ratings and reviews from sources like J.D. Power and Consumer Search can help you evaluate mobile providers on the basis of customer service and call quality.

  • Cost: With competition for mobile users pretty fierce, wireless service costs are similar across all of the major providers -- and when one carrier cuts costs, others tend to follow. Still, comparing data and voice plans side-by-side can pay off; AT&T's switch to tiered, rather than unlimited, data plans is an example of a differing pricing structure that could influence your smartphone buying decision if you're a heavy data user.

Enterprise Support for Different Mobile Devices

Another factor for selecting a smartphone for business is whether your employer's IT department will support your personal device. The advantage of company support is that your employer's IT folks can help you with remote setup and troubleshooting connectivity to company resources, such as Microsoft Exchange Server for email, contacts, and calendar access.

If you mostly need your mobile phone to connect to company-provided resources, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones may be your best choices. These mobile platforms are, by far, the most supported in the enterprise, offering IT departments greater control and business-oriented features compared to the more consumer-oriented Android and Apple iOS platforms. (Other smartphone platforms do have apps that can help you set up Exchange Server connections, accessed remote resources, and more -- you'll just probably be installing and troubleshooting them on your own.)

Mobile Apps

Speaking of apps, all of the smartphone platforms offer common office and business productivity apps you'll most likely use, such as document viewing and task management. You may lean toward one platform versus another, however, based on your other app needs:

  • Apple's iOS is the way to go if you want first access to apps and the broadest number of them, since most developers prioritize developing for the iPhone.
  • Windows Mobile has superior out-of-the-box integration with Microsoft Outlook and Office on the desktop.
  • Android is giving the iPhone a run for its money, with more devices that can access Android apps, and a more open platform (you can even make your own Android app without any programming knowledge).

Physical Features

When evaluating specific smartphone models, the two features that impact business users most are voice quality and keyboard input.

  • Voice Quality is critical for professionals. Without a decent speakerphone and the ability to clearly be heard and hear the other person, using your mobile phone will be more of a work hindrance than a help. Check out cell phone reviews such as the ones on About's cell phones site to see how well the smartphone works as a phone.
  • Keyboard: If you may be creating or editing documents on your phone or typing long emails, you may prefer a physical keyboard, which will help you narrow down your smartphone options greatly.

Of course, test out the keyboard (whether on-screen or physical), form factor, and user interface for any smartphone you're considering to make sure you get the one that works best for you.

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