Best Mobile Phones for Business

Best Mobile Phones for Business

As the mobile phone has revolutionised communications globally, now smartphones have become an integral part of working life, due to their ability to significantly increase productivity in multiple ways. The best phones not only enhance specific business functionality, but they also help with logistical and practical needs, from updating calendars and receiving RSS feeds, to navigational aids that help people reach their next meeting on time. Here, Heather McLean asks the question, what is the best mobile for business users?

Talking conceptually, the ideal mobile phone for a business user must have push email and Outlook synchronisation, says David Stephens, director of marketing at M12 Solutions. “More and more business users are demanding easy to use on demand email and synchronisation with Outlook, particularly calendars. This is no longer a nice to have but a must have. This filters into handset choice where good sized buttons and QWERTY keyboards are key.”

   

Chris Goodman, managing director at Focus 4U, agrees:

“The ideal handset for today’s business user must have a Microsoft Exchange-compatible email client, a decent web browser, and be Bluetooth enabled. Exchange is universally the number one email server and so producing a compatible handset is a must.”

There’s a need…

Stephens continues: “Bluetooth is also vital for users, as we have seen more business mobile users want to have car kits that work with many devoices, so changes in handset do not mean changes in car kit. Also key, and often neglected, is speaker and sound quality; after all this is still a phone first,” adds Stephens.

Chris Goodman, managing director at Focus 4U
 

Billy Darcy, head of corporate sales at O2, states that email is clearly an essential service. “It is certainly one of the most fundamental requirements of a quality business phone. Our work days seem to be dominated by email, so using those little breaks in your schedule can considerably improve productivity. Our range of smartphones, which includes BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm Pre and Windows Mobile, supports numerous email solutions and seamlessly synchronise with an organisation’s email server.”

Darcy comments: “With such a varied and effective range of features available for smartphones, it’s easy to forget that perhaps the most effective tool for increasing productivity is a simple phone call. Therefore it is essential for business phones to support several voice services, such as teleconferencing and a direct link to the company phone directory – ensuring that individuals are easily contactable.

 

Work-life balance

“Personal entertainment should not be overlooked in a business phone either, as they are no longer confined to the office,” notes Darcy. “Employee happiness is central to any successful organisation, so it makes sense that smartphones should also help to maintain a positive attitude.”
 

While Andy Tow, managing director at Avenir Telecom, says:

“I think the ideal phone for a business user is one that not only has a high level of functionality, but that also acknowledges the user’s life outside of work and thus avoids the need to carry around two devices. I’ve seen several handsets emerge in the last few months that tackle the work-life balance. This is great, as so much of a user’s social life, and social networking, revolves around the phone and the online world, just like so much of their business life does these days.”

The ideal mobile phone for a business user is entirely subjective, says Jeremy Stafford-Smith, enterprise channel manager at Vodafone. He states: “Customers who want a larger screen to create and send a lot of emails also want a long battery life, QWERTY keyboard, and strong radio reception. Occasional email users want to be able to read their emails on a big screen and browse media. They don’t send many emails so the keyboard is not so important to them.

While Andy Tow, managing director at Avenir Telecom
 

“For business customers who primarily use their handset to make and receive voice calls, price is a key factor as they might want something inexpensive. The handset must be reliable and have a long lasting battery. Business customers who use their handset to run business applications are looking for a bigger, robust screen and perhaps a QWERTY keyboard, particularly if they are using form-filling applications,” continues Stafford-Smith.

On the best mobiles for business, Tow agrees it depends on the user: “That all depends on what sort of business we’re talking about. The best mobile phone for someone in the construction business might be very different to the best handset for a team of accountants. That’s why we always work with dealers who have industry-specific knowledge and who treat the job of matching the right handset with the right staff as a major responsibility.”

 

Top sellers

Stafford-Smith comments that while the best devices will be the pick of the individual, there are several key handsets that will serve the business user well. “iPhone will be a prominent device for the business sector when we [Vodafone] launch with it. RIM’s BlackBerry’s are well established on the Vodafone business network, and will remain an important part of our smartphone portfolio. They’re well known for their reliability and security features and are a trusted manufacturer. Examples of high volume voice-first handsets are the Nokia 2323 and the Nokia 6303, and the Samsung B2100, which is rated IP57, waterproof.

“Smartphones are becoming a desirable choice for the business customer and the BlackBerry Storm2, BlackBerry 9700 Bold, HTC HD2 and the Nokia E72 are all proving popular,” adds Stafford-Smith.

On his handset hot list, Stephens has iPhone first, not for its excellent connectivity, its touchscreen, or even for its ever growing list of business apps, but because first and foremost it is a status symbol. “The Filofax for the noughties!,” he says. After that, he says there is the BlackBerry Bold: “Everyone complained that the first BlackBerry’s were too big and reminiscent of old school calculators. So RIM listened and brought out the slim line Pearl, and guess what? It was deemed too small for most users to effectively use the keypad. So now we get the Bold range. Quick, smart and great to use, plus it still has the status attached to it as the thinking person’s phone. And you don’t need to be a 100-strong business to benefit from this technology anymore!”

While Goodman comments: “The top three existing mobiles have to be the Nokia E63, Nokia E71 and the iPhone 3GS. All of these handsets are feature rich, Microsoft Exchange compatible and feature user friendly QWERTY keyboards.” Lappage’s top three handsets for the business world are: The HTC Hero, which he says is the iPhone equivalent for a true business user. “It ticks all the boxes from email, through web browsing to work related mobile applications, but with a great grasp of design too.”; the BlackBerry range of devices, which he says: “Is the ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ set for business with great security, stability and ease of use.”; and the Nokia E75, which Lappage notes offers full server synchronisation in a more familiar Nokia operating system and form factor. “It also provides superior battery life and robustness over many other handsets offering similar features.”

 

And a want…

In contrast, the actual top selling phones for business users are not always smartphones. M12 Solutions sales are the led by the Nokia 6300. Stephens says this is still an excellent, no frills business phone at a great price point. “There are still enough business users deemed not important enough for an iPhone to ensure this is a success. It is also a great cheap alternative for the iPhone, once the 60 year old MD realises that iTunes don’t sell vinyl.”

Second on M12 Solution’s sales list is iPhone. “Simply the must-have device; you can get a game where you have to move a pint of lager from one end of a bar to another, just by tilting the phone! What the hell else are you going to do on the slow train journey to London!” And in third place for sales, the Blackberry Bold: “The best selling blackberry for M12. People still like them and stick with technology they know, even if they are paying at least three times the regular amount for data,” Stephens adds.

Grapevine’s top selling handsets are the various models of low end Nokia handsets, like the Nokia 2730, as it has 3G. “These are not blessed with massive amounts of productivity features, but they offer good value for money,” says Paul Lappage, business development manager at Grapevine Telecom.

While at Focus 4U, the top selling phones for business users are, says Goodman: “The Nokia E71, Nokia 6303 and the 16GB iPhone 3GS. I believe this range accurately reflects the features and styles required by today’s business users who seek stylish yet practical multi-function devices. However, the Nokia E63 is a viable alternative to the Nokia E71 and is considerably cheaper with just a few functions removed. Most users seem to opt for the Nokia E71 due to its sleeker appearance and stylish chrome finish.”

 

Which OS?

 

Ronnie Nag, managing director at Quore, comments on operating systems:

“Windows Mobile and Symbian have been the market leaders so far, however in the last year, Google Android has been excelling in the marketplace.

“Android is going to be the next big operating system as it is opensource, so allows developers to make applications without any politics, plus it’s free for users to download apps,” adds Nag. “Google Android is easy to use, with the award winning Sense user interface on the HTC Hero. Also, the 2.0 Google Android latest update is even faster and is predicated to be even smoother than the iPhone 3GS.”

Lappage agrees: “Android has made a massive impact. The fact it is opensource, its scope for applications, and its usability have propelled it to being one of the top recommendations.” He adds: “The range of BlackBerry mobile solutions are also regularly suggested for business users because with BIS, BES and BPS there is an option to suit nearly every size and type of business, whereas many other solutions are more dependent on the customer’s existing IT infrastructure.”

Continues Nag: “The other strong contender is the iPhone operating system, which has captured the market with the ease of use and over 50,000 applications. iPhone is smooth, easy to use and has many applications being developed for it, but Apple has many restrictions.”

While Goodman states: “The Apple iPhone is easily the best operating system for one simple reason; the App Store. The App Store allows users to completely bespoke the handset to do whatever the user desires of it.

What next?

Looking ahead into 2010, O2 expects the impact of third party applications to continue to gather momentum. Darcy explains: “We have already seen how business apps, such as bespoke field force automation and sales force automation apps, can genuinely add value. The ability to access web-based apps from your mobile is equally as important. For example, Salesforce.com allows CRM updates to be made on the move. As a result, having the facility to access, download, and install apps quickly and easily will become central to a smartphone’s business value.”

Ronnie Nag
Ronnie Nag, managing director at Quore
 
Paul Lappage, business development manager at Grapevine Telecom
Paul Lappage, business development manager at Grapevine Telecom
 
Commenting, Tow says: “I think the key trends for 2010 will be bigger, better, faster versions of existing key features. Storage, for example, will be about gigabytes of capacity to allow business users to mirror their entire document base on the move. WiFi will become standard on business handsets from entry level upwards. Screen resolution will also ramp up; we’re heading for high quality QVGA with 16:9 horizontal capabilities, something which Nokia’s tech guru Anssi Vanjoki began talking about earlier this year.”
 

How to sell

The major sales opportunity for dealers selling mobile’s for businesses in 2010 is data, comments Stephens: “Data is still a great add on. It really does bring so much more to users’ handsets, at a price that always excites them. Mobile broadband is also a great little add on to really lock customer in.”

On sales opportunities for dealers, Goodman agrees with Stephens: “As more networks and service providers adopt the revenue share model, it becomes increasingly important to increase the ARPU of the customer. The best way to do this is with the addition of data bundles, and so convergence will be a key focus for 2010.”

While Tow says of dealer opportunities in this area: “Business apps and business accessories are key. Taking the latter first, mobile accessories have spent years in the doldrums of cheap consumer retail outlets, often being treated as an after thought by the channel. With the recent launch of Avenir Accessories, we’re working very hard to turn this around, offering UK-exclusive products and presenting them to dealers as a means of up-selling their customers and increasing their margin.

“The story with business apps is similar,” continues Tow. “There are literally millions of applications out there. What we try to do is present dealers with just a tiny fraction, concentrating on those apps that will generate either immediate or repeat, measurable revenue.

“So the major sales opportunity for dealers, I would say, is to continue to ride the upgrade path of the tried and tested handset manufacturers, while continually thinking about increasing margins by up-selling customers on apps and accessories,” concludes Tow.

 

Ed says:

While the smartphone seems to be the top tip for business mobile sales, low end, no frills devices are still making the majority of margin for most dealers. What are your views? Can you see the smartphone taking over the regular voice-only device one day, or will we always have a two-tier business user profile? Let me know! heather@mbmagazine.co.uk