A Smartphone For Small Business

Sorry this is not a post telling you about the latest, fastest, sippiest(yeah I made that up if you can understand it) smartphone. There are 23 million small businesses in the US and many more in the UK, Canada, Australia and they are far more diverse than large and medium companies. As small business owners you have a common operational theme. You handle many more aspects of the business than anyone else. You probably do most of them yourself. That means your smartphone needs to do more than your what the average corporate shill’s phone can do. All they really need is email and access to a few internal IT systems.

What You Use It For

usesThe following is a list of just some of the things you need your smartphone to do. You many not fit all of them because of the diversity thing but many of you will.

  • You need your smartphone to take good pictures. You use them for marketing and specs, documentation, customer communication and more.
  • You need professional email – that’s jim@abccorp.com which matches your business and presents yourself in a good way.
  • Tools lots of tools, diverse tools to help you with your craft, sales, employees. There are measuring devices, gps, customer relations DBs, sales DB, contacts, shopping(you need to source supplies right?)
  • Calling and texting – because you’re a busy person.
  • Videos – I’ve seen a handyman watch a quick how-to video to handle some work he was unsure about.
  • Take Credit Cards – swipe and go, you’re paid
  • Office Suite – Read and edit docs and spreadsheets. Mostly for viewing though.
  • PDF reader and Cloud Print – Nice to print from your phone.
  • Cloud Drive support – be able to pull up any document you desire at anytime.
  • Note Taking – You can use the paper and pencil but now you have to go back to the office and type it in to share it with others or incorporate it into some electronic place.
  • Calendar – duh
  • Social Apps – where you want them or need them. LinkedIn may be the research tool you want and need.
  • Task Manager – I would think that the calendar and task manager would be a natural fit but there are not many that integrate with everything else. Contacts, Mail etc. But your business and personality may dictate you need one.

The Phones

iphoneandroidThere are 2 choices and only 2; iPhone and an Android phone. The iPhone has only a few choices. Either the latest version, currently the iPhone 5, or an earlier model such as the 4S or the 4. The only reason to go to an earlier model is because you want to save money and don’t need what the later one provides. The version decision can be wrapped up quickly. Answer these questions:

Is an extra $200-$300 important to you. Remember that you will use this phone for at least a year. If not then get the 5, if it is important then let’s continue.

Do you need faster data access for your work and no, cat videos don’t count. Most people don’t need video speeds. Your service provider is important for network speed so see my other post on data plans. If you can get 1MB download consistently and .75MB upload then that is usually good enough for most business use. The key to this is consistency, do you have this everywhere you go and are there few dead spots.

Do you need a larger screen with better resolution? Do you need a better camera? The answer to these questions will determine which iPhone to use.

The Android Jungle

jungleIn comparison Android phones are the wild west(a jungle?) but we can help narrow this down. First off all does the phone come from the manufacturer with Android 4.1 or later (Jelly Bean). If not then throw it out of your list. This will eliminate probably 90% of the phones on the market today. Why is Jelly Bean so important? It’s because it was the first version of Android that was not a laggy, herky-jerky experience. Is that important for business use, maybe not but for your sanity and composure it is essential. I might further want to narrow this down to phones that run Android 4.2 and that would be a short list indeed.

Next is cost. I am only going to talk about no contract cost because I don’t really believe in the hucksterism of pricing phones with plans. A business analysis would require an NPV spreadsheet to see what your true costs are and I just don’t bother with it. Suffice it to say if you get phones on contract you are paying more than if you just pay full price for the phone in a pay as you go model but everyone has their own cash flow footprint. The minimally priced off-contract phone is going to run you about $300, a Google Nexus 4. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is possibly going to cost north of $600. These are both functionally acceptable phones that fit the Jelly Bean requirement. There are others from HTC and LG that are good candidates.

Cameras On Android

gs4htc1Camera needs are important. The best camera phones are

Samsung Galaxy S4

So if you need a fantastic camera and you need one now check out those options. But the top cameras and smartphones change 2 to 3 times a year. So consider other needs aside from the camera or you’ll end up with a Windows phone (horrors!)


andperfLoading up with apps and maintaining a smooth buttery experience is important. This partly comes from the CPU and partly from the graphics processing. The OS is a big part of it but using Jelly Bean tends to level this out. Interestingly one of the biggest barriers to performance is that the phone manufacturers get in their own way. They write their own software on top of the Android release to brand their phones and keep their product unique from the pack. But phone manufacturers are hardware people and the software is usually a secondary operation, as it should be. This creates a bad situation where the starting OS from Google is clean and optimized and it ends up getting bloated by the manufacturer. This results in slower laggy operations and it forces some users to use functions and apps they do not like or want.

Here the contenders are:

  • Google Nexus
  • Samsung Galaxy S4/S3
  • Galaxy Note
  • LG Optimus G Pro
  • HTC One

Data Speed

LTESpeedChartMy previous reference to data plans applies here. Ultimately you are trying to get sustained speeds over 1MB as a minimum and it depends upon your area. This is either 3G, 3G+ (called HSPA+), and LTE( or 4G and this is the only one to consider). I get on average 6-7MB download with my TMobile data plan. This is running their HSPA+ data network and it does a good job of keeping me above the 1M level. Note that the 1M is a minimum and the key is sustaining it. Averages do you no good if half the time you are getting an asthmatic blowing through a drinking straw. Your average should be at least 3-4M or higher and it should never (qualified because nothing fits NEVER) go below 1M.

I will add that your particular business may need greater performance. In that case you may pay a premium to get the best performing service in your area. Do the research and find out. Although I don’t have a criteria on battery life I easily could. I use one of the worst performing phones for battery, a Google Nexus equivalent to an LG Optimus G, but I’m okay with it. This is because I always assume my battery life sucks and take steps. Note that the LTE data service is a known battery hog so account for that if you use that data path.

My Phone And Plan

nexusae0_image144I’ve stated it here but I’ll share again, I use a Google Nexus with at T-Mobile pre-pay plan. I have unlimited data and I have a family plan with 4 phones that share 750 mins per month with unlimited texting to which I use 15 texts per month. This last fact I reference because I do most of my texting through my Google Voice account. This allows me to text from my computer for free to any phone. It’s also accessible on my phone which explains the anemic number of texts.  I have a final mobile bill of $162 per month which includes data plans on 3 of the 4 phones. I also tether my tablet and occasionally my computer. My total  monthly data usage is about 1.5GB. Much of the time I’m connected to home wifi but I rarely ever use public wifi because of security concerns and I find the performance of my phone is usually superior.

iPhone or Android

iphoneandroidPersonally I favor Android but the iPhone is better in some ways. Ultimately I find that the closed systems that Apple ties you to is too restrictive for what I need. Because of the many free services Google provides my businesses I prefer their phones. So part of your decision is based upon not where you are but where you see your business over the next 6 months. If your back office systems are running well and your online marketing and promotions are good and you know you won’t want to use many new things then you can go with the iPhone. But know that going with either of these ecosystems will make it more difficult to migrate away and that is designed to ensnare you further.


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