5 key questions to ask when choosing business smartphones

What factors should you be looking for when buying enterprise smartphones? Here are five key questions that must be answered.

Mobility is a key requirement for any business today, and this means equipping your employees with the right smartphones to ensure they are able to stay in touch and do their jobs wherever they are. 

While some firms may encourage the use of personally-owned gadgets – known as bring your own device – this can pose a range of issues, from security concerns to more complex billing requirements. Therefore, for many firms, being able to issue the most appropriate devices directly to their users will be hugely beneficial.

But there will be many factors to think about when making buying decisions. These range from which hardware and software platforms will be the most useful to how to secure the best tariffs. It’s important to balance issues such as price against functionality and the level of control you’ll have in order to ensure your works are productive and cost-effective.

Therefore, here are five key questions you need to answer before making any final decisions: 

1. Which platform will be best for you?

A key decision when selecting phones is which of the two main operating systems to go for – Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. While there’s nothing to stop you using both, this will make management significantly more complex and time-consuming, so it makes much more sense to select one and stick to it.

Both have their pros and cons. In general, iOS is a more user-friendly system and offers a wide range of business-focused user controls. On the other hand, you will be far more limited in the range of devices available, while the closed system means it may be more difficult to create highly-customised environments.

Android, on the other hand, offers businesses much more choice in terms of hardware and customisation, though it does come with risks such as a greater vulnerability to malware and less consistency in upgrading to newer versions. However, some manufacturers – such as Samsung – are beginning to offer far more business-focused options, while the launch of Android Enterprise provides a much better management platform than consumer alternatives.

2. What will they be used for?

Determining exactly how devices will be used should also guide your buying decisions. For some users, the ability to read emails on the move and access files such as Word and Excel docs will be all that is required. Other companies, however, may have unique needs that require them to build their own apps, so it will be important for developers to understand what hardware they will be working with.

Where smartphones will be used also needs to be considered. If they will be deployed used in the field, will they need a certain level of waterproofing or scratch-resistance, or even specialised ‘rugged’ devices? Elsewhere, you may need to consider which network provider will have the most reliable and widest-ranging signal for the areas you operate in.

3. Which key specs matter most?

Understanding what your devices will be used for is also essential in determining what hardware specifications you need to be paying attention to. While the functionalities of smartphones won’t differ hugely, the wide range of hardware options available – especially if you’re going down the Android route – can hamper the effectiveness of your operations if you make the wrong choices.

For instance, if you expect employees to spend large amounts of time using power-intensive applications in the field, battery life will be a much more important concern than if individuals are only using emails or voice calls and won’t be away from charging points for long periods. 

Elsewhere, will the screen size be large enough for people to easily read complex graphs or spreadsheets? Will a device with a stylus be useful? Will you need enough RAM to run multiple apps at once? These are all factors that must be taken into account, and buying on price or brand alone may leave you without the capabilities you need.

4. How will you manage and secure devices?

It’s essential you have a clear plan for how to manage and control any enterprise smartphone. As these will frequently contain highly sensitive and business-critical data, they could be a key weakness in your security defences, especially as they are more vulnerable to being lost or stolen.

Effective mobile device management tools are therefore a must. As well as controlling what applications and data devices are permitted to have access to, they can ensure information is effectively encrypted and wipe data from a device remotely should it be misplaced. Beyond this, the ability to block or remove non-approved apps will also be critical in guarding against data breaches, both from intentional malware and apps that do not have robust data protections in place. 

5. What sort of contract do I need?

Finally, it’s important to understand what type of tariff will work best for you. When it comes to enterprise mobility, you’ll find there are many more options available than for consumers. Therefore, having an enterprise-focused partner will be essential, as unlike those offered directly from operators or via high-street stores, they will be able to build a contract that’s tailored to your exact needs.

Bespoke contracts can offer a range of benefits to businesses that both reduce overall costs and make the administration of these services easier. These include flexible packages with allowances that can be scaled up and down as needed, add-ons for services such as overseas roaming, the ability to add or remove users easily, and customised invoices.

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