Choosing the Right Smartphone for Your Small Business

If you think you’re the only small business owner in America without a smartphone, don’t worry: you’re not alone. Research firm eMarketer reports that the majority of mobile phone users—56 percent—have not-so-smart phones.

Investing in a smartphone could be a great move, especially since this device can help you make or save money. So whether you’ve decided to jump aboard the smartphone train, or you’re just wondering whether the phone you have is the best for your needs, here’s a quick guide to picking the right device for you.

Start Here: Operating Systems

Believe it or not, Android and iOS aren’t the only mobile operating systems out there. Smartphone users can also choose from BlackBerry, Windows, Palm, and Symbian platforms. However, small business owners are most likely to benefit from one of the two primary operating systems.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. If you’re going to use your phone for email and almost nothing else, the BlackBerry OS will suit your needs. If your business relies heavily on MS Office and you’re going for a compact mobile office, you might consider a Windows phone.

Chances are, though, you’ll want to stick with the majority. About one-third of smartphone users are on the Apple iOS platform, while half subscribe to Google’s Android.

Which should you choose? The most basic points for these two systems are:

  • iOS has more apps and a more intuitive interface, but uses proprietary formats for both hardware and software.
  • Android has fewer app options and a bigger learning curve, but offers more device choices and a higher degree of compatibility.

Choosing the Most Compatible Phone

One of the simplest ways to pick your operating system is to consider the hardware you’re already using. If your small business runs on Mac and you’ve got accessories like iPads or iPods, going with an iPhone will probably benefit you. If you’re using Windows-based systems and have never considered moving to Apple, your clear choice is likely the Android.

No matter which operating system you go with, you’ll have some device choices to make. Of course, the iOS platform is only installed on iPhones, so you just need to decide which generation you want: from the original first generation to the 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, and the latest iPhone 5. The decision here will rest on the cost and the features you want or need.

Android users have a lot more hardware options. From the popular Samsung, LG, and Motorola to devices from Sony, and HTC, the manufacturer is just the beginning of the choices. LG has several models in the Optimus series, Motorola’s Droid comes in a variety of flavors, and the Samsung Galaxy is multiplying.

When choosing an Android phone, consider what you’re comfortable using. Are you all about touch screens, or do you need the solid comfort of a slide-out keyboard? Do you need all the bells and whistles, or can you live without the pinch-zoom and spend less? It’s a good idea to try out the actual phone you’re considering before you buy.

Carriers: Who’s Got What You Need?

Once you know what kind of phone you’re looking for, it’s time to choose a carrier. Again, you’ll face a field of options—both between and within carriers. The factors to consider here are the three C’s: coverage areas, contracts, and cost.

Coverage Area: Of course, you’ll want to ensure that your carrier has coverage in your area. Some plans include both WiFi and 3G or 4G access, so you can use the phone just about anywhere. But depending on where and how you work, it may not be worth the additional cost for both.

Contracts: An average smartphone contract is two years. Generally the phone is “free,” and free upgrades to newer models are included with the contract. Many of these carriers have also dropped unlimited data plans in favor of more network sharing.

There are also pay-as-you-go, contract-free plans available from carriers like Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile (one of the “big” carriers). Depending on your location, you may not get sufficient coverage with Virgin Mobile, but the lower cost can be worth it if you’re in a heavy coverage area. T-Mobile’s no-contract plans also allow you to buy the phone in installments, or you can choose to purchase one upfront.

Cost: The plan you choose should cover your mobile needs. You’ll need to figure out your average monthly calling minutes and data usage (how much time you spend accessing the Internet from your phone), and look around for the best deal that falls within your needs. Build a cushion into your estimates, because overage rates for minutes and data can get outrageously expensive.

Choosing the right smartphone for your business is a big decision. You have a lot of choices so you need to make sure to take the time to make the right one. Once you decide which smartphone is right, you’ll have access to mobile apps that can make your small business more efficient and organized. So, what are you waiting for?

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