Do you remember when a smartphone was little more than a high-tech toy — a tiny hand-held computer that was more useful than a flip phone but nowhere near as valuable an asset as your trusty laptop?
Today, many business travelers leave the laptop at home, choosing instead to utilize their phones for tasks ranging from communication to sharing documents to finding a place to eat or spend the night. A smartphone can even help you pass the time while you’re waiting for a plane or while you’re in the air. If the person in the next seat isn’t into interesting conversation, you can amuse yourself with a game of “Angry Birds,” “Boggle,” or even chess.
Which smartphone is best for you if you spend a lot of time on the road? Several factors will affect your final decision, including price, which provider you choose and how the phone feels in your hand. Here are some of your options.
- Nokia Lumia 920 - This is one of AT&T’s most popular phones, and you can get it online for around $50. It offers a 4.5-inch screen and a top-notch camera, but it is a bit bulky and is among the heavier smartphones around, weighing in at 6.5 ounces.
- Apple iPhone 5 - With a 4-inch screen and weighing 3.95 ounces, the newest iPhone is bigger, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S. It also features an excellent camera but can cost up to $400.
- HTC OneX+ - Its battery life is a lot longer than that of the HTC One, and it features 64 GB of storage space. This Smartphone carries a price tag in the neighborhood of $200
- Samsung Galaxy S4 - Among the most popular Android smartphones, the Galaxy has a 5-inch, high-definition screen and weighs next to nothing. It also features a 13-megapixel camera, and a “Touch Free” system that lets you accept calls with a wave of your hand. It’s available through all major providers, but it can cost up to $600.
- Sony Xperia TL - This smartphone has a 4.6-inch handset and a 13- megapixel camera, and it lets you share data or pay for retail purchases by waving the phone across a compatible reader.
Once you choose your Smartphone, you can start thinking about which apps will be most valuable to you when you’re away from home. Here are some options for business travelers.
- TripIt lets you send your flight, hotel, car rental and other travel information to one location and puts together an easy-to-read itinerary. You can add maps, notes and photos as well.
- Evernote saves the ideas you come up while traveling as text, photos or audio files.
- Flightstats helps you track your flight status, find out about airport delays and weather and traffic at your destination.
- FareCompare keeps up with how much it will cost you to get from home to the airport and lets you know, up to six times a day, when fares drop.
- GateGuru is a useful tool if your flight is delayed and you have time to kill at the airport. It helps you locate restaurants and shops in the terminal.
- Dropbox provides a convenient place for you and your fellow employees and clients to store and access text, audio and video files.
- JetSetExpenses helps you track travel expenses and create reports.
- Wi-Fi Finder locates Wi-Fi hot spots.
- QuickOffice lets you read, edit and share Word and Excel files and PowerPoint presentations.
- AwardWallet keeps up with your frequent flier miles, loyalty programs and hotel and credit card points.
- HoursTracker helps you track your work hours while you’re on the road. You can input the information manually or set a timer, and you can forward the time sheet to your boss.
Be Careful Out There
Regardless of which smartphone you choose and which apps you use, you should take precautions to protect information about yourself and your company.
- Wi-Fi security - Free Wi-Fi is available and easy to access almost everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Your best bet is to purchase a mobile hot spot that can be used over a cellular network, or set up a virtual private network (VPN) to use any time you’re logging in from a public place.
- Lock your screen - This sounds like advice that everyone should follow, but many people fail to protect their phone with a password. You can even set your phone to erase all data if someone enters an incorrect password a certain number of times. There are even apps that can be used to remotely wipe the memory of your phone if you’ve lost it and don’t expect to find it.
- Don’t connect automatically - It’s convenient but dangerous to let your smartphone constantly search for a network to hook up with. Hackers have ways to trick smartphones into thinking they’re connecting with a secure network. You should set up your phone to connect to a network manually, whether you are at home or on the road. Also, if you use Android, utilize a virus protection program on your phone.
A smartphone can be an incredible business tool. You should take the time to choose the phone and apps that work best for you.