The right smartphone can be a tremendous boost to your productivity. But with hundreds of models to choose from, picking a new work phone isn't easy. Screen size, battery life and security are just a couple of key factors to consider. Read on and let us break it down for you with a step-by-step guide to choosing your next smartphone.
1. Pick an OS
There are two main smartphone operating systems to choose from: Google's Android and Apple's iOS. But things start to get more complex when you consider that while many Android phones run the stock version of the platform, third-party manufacturers like Samsung add tons of extra features. Here's a quick breakdown of their pros and cons.
There are a couple of good reasons to prefer iOS – the operating system that powers all iPhone models — over Android. Most important, iOS apps tend to be a bit more polished, and new apps and app updates tend to show up on iOS first. Of course, Apple's mobile OS offers plenty of excellent productivity-boosting features of its own. Siri is a handy virtual assistant app that can schedule appointments, set reminders and send messages using voice commands. And if you work on a Mac computer, the iPhone is a no-brainer, since Apple's mobile and desktop devices can communicate seamlessly with one another.
The Android app store (called the Google Play store) is nearly on a par with the iOS App Store, making app availability a less reliable distinction than it once was. And Android is a lot like iOS in other ways. Google Now, for example, is a voice-activated virtual assistant that’s similar to Siri. The main draw of Android is choice; while iOS comes on just a handful of pricey iPhone models, Android powers a huge range of smartphones. If you want a device with longer battery life, a bigger display or a super-affordable price tag, Android is a better bet.
While many Android smartphone models – like the Nexus 6P and Moto X Pure Edition – run on a nearly stock version of Android, other manufacturers add tons of extra features. Samsung's Galaxy smartphones are the most popular example, but models from HTC, LG and others also add numerous tweaks. The features vary, but include things like split-screen multitasking and better security software.
2. Pick a size
Smartphones are getting bigger and bigger, and that's a good thing for business users. Large smartphones – often called phablets, since they're between the size of a typical smartphone and tablet – offer roomier displays that are easier to work on. But smaller smartphones are easier to operate with one hand. Here's a breakdown.
Compact (4-4.6 inches): Small smartphones are actually pretty hard to come by these days, but there are still a handful of solid options, including the 4-inch iPhone SE and the 4.6-inch Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. These phones are easy to handle, but they don't spare much screen space.
Midsize (4.7-5.2 inches): Midsize smartphones, with screens that measure around 5 inches, are the most common options. These devices – which include the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s and the 5.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S7 – strike a good balance between portability and screen size.
Phablet (5.5-6 inches): Big-screen phablets are the best for screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents and spreadsheets. The 5.5-inchiPhone 6s Plus and the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 5 are powerhouse smartphones for serious workers, but workers with small hands might find them unwieldy.
3. Check the specs
Smartphone buyers usually get what they pay for, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to get a decent business phone. A fast processor and a high-res display are good perks, but not necessary for every user. Here are two specifications to consider.
Processor: You don't need top-of-the-line hardware to accomplish basic business tasks, such as checking email and taking notes. Small business owners on a budget might want to opt for an affordable handset over a flagship device, and that's OK. Still, a powerful processor is a boon if you want fast performance and snappy multitasking.
One of the speediest business phones available is Samsung's Galaxy S7, which runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM. Apple's iPhone 6S also earns a place among the most capable business phones, with a speedy A9 processor that supports heavy multitasking.
Storage: Storage capacity is the other key hardware consideration for the average business user. There are two types of storage: onboard storage, which measures how much data your smartphone can hold on its internal hard disk, and expandable storage, which refers to storage capacity added via a memory-card slot. Business users who need to store and access large files on the go should spend a little extra for additional onboard storage, which can't be upgraded later.
For most users, 16GB is enough, but power users should consider splurging for 32GB of storage. Many new phones lack a microSD card slot for expandable storage, but it's a handy feature on models that have it.
4. Don't overlook battery life
For business users, poor battery life is more than just a nuisance: A dead smartphone, tablet or laptop means you can't work when you need to. Speedy performance, high-resolution displays and handy software won't get you far if your device is out of juice. On the other hand, if you pick a smartphone with long battery life, you can stay productive all day long.
One way to determine how much battery life a smartphone might get is to check its battery capacity. If you want real longevity, look for phones with batteries rated near 3,000 mAh or higher. And before you buy, make sure to check Business News Daily reviews for battery data on the most popular models. Ideally, workers should look for a smartphone that lasts at least 8 hours on our battery test.
One extra feature to check for is fast charging. Smartphones with this feature can regain a significant portion of their battery life with just 15-30 minutes of charging, which is really nice for topping off your device during a short layover at the airport.
5. Consider security
You probably know that you need to keep your work laptop or desktop computer secure. But have you given much thought to smartphone security? If you use your smartphone for work, here are two security features to look for.
Fingerprint reader: These days, most flagship smartphones come with a built-in fingerprint reader. The feature – which lets you unlock your phone with one touch — is a big perk for workers, since it lets you keep your phone locked down without fussing with a password every time you use the device.
Encryption: Encrypting your work phone is key, because it blocks thieves and attackers from reading your personal data without a special decryption code. Some smartphones come with hardware-based encryption, including all new iPhone models and some Android phones, including those in the Nexus and Galaxy Note lines. If your phone doesn't offer that feature, you can always look for a good encryption app.
6. Look for extra features
Some smartphones offer unique extra features that can increase your productivity. Here's a few of best ones.
Stylus support: Any smartphone will work with a simple capacitive stylus, but not many models offer active stylus support with full pressure sensitivity. Samsung's premium Galaxy Note 5 and LGs midrange Stylo are two of the only models you can buy with that feature, which is great for jotting down handwritten notes right on your smartphone's screen.
Always-listening voice commands: Many newer smartphones are always listening for your next voice command, letting you execute all sorts of actions without even touching your smartphone. It's handy for quickly setting reminders, adding events to your calendar, or safely placing a phone call while you're driving.
Durable design: A durable work phone is a dependable work phone, so workers might want to check for extra durability features. Some smartphones, such as Samsung's Galaxy S7 Active, are fully rugged, while the Droid Turbo 2 has a shatterproof display. Finally, some models are waterproof, so they can survive spills and even submersion.
The bottom line
Even if you know what you're looking for in your next business smartphone, it can be tricky to track down the perfect model. For an overview of the best that the industry has to offer, check out our frequently updated list of the top business smartphones currently on the market.