From processing payments and sending invoices on the go to accessing email and business apps, having a reliable smartphone has never been more vital for small business owners and independent contractors. When it comes to choosing a make and model of phone, most business buyers go with what they know. They choose one make and stick with it, upgrading to newer versions as they are released. However, if you're willing to do a little comparison shopping, you might discover a better fit you hadn't previously considered.
Here's what you should compare when shopping for a business phone.
With different phone manufacturers producing nearly identical high-end devices, the operating system has become the main deciding factor for many business users. People who prefer Apple's interface will always choose an iPhone over an Android phone, regardless of the price. Likewise, people who prefer Android cannot be convinced to try an iOS device, even if it were offered free of charge.
If you're open to both types of smartphones, here's what you need to know about each operating system.
Android: The main draw of Android is diversity. 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 lower price tag, Android is a better bet.
Many people once preferred iOS over Android because of differences that are largely irrelevant today. Google Assistant is just as good as if not better than Siri, and many apps are now released on iOS and Android simultaneously. Android devices also typically allow a bit more customization in terms of where different apps are accessed.
iOS: Apple's mobile OS offers plenty of excellent productivity-boosting features, and it does so with that sunny Cupertino aesthetic. Siri, Apple's virtual assistant, is very popular among iOS users. For people who already have other Apple products, the ease of switching between devices may be reason enough to opt for an iPhone. However, it's getting much easier to have fluidity between iOS, Android and Windows devices, so purchasing all hardware from one provider for consistency's sake may be a dying trend.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a smartphone design. Like with most technology, the more you spend, the higher the specs will be, but these guidelines are a good starting point for most business users.
Display: Deciphering display specs can be a daunting task, but you don't have to know every acronym and benchmark to choose a great phone. For standard business users, we recommend a display that is at least 4.7 inches with an HD screen.
If you have difficulty with your vision, want to use a stylus on your phone or simply prefer larger displays (5.5 inches or more), you may want to consider an oversized smartphone, sometimes called a phablet. Large smartphones cost a little more money, and they can't always be stored neatly in your pants pocket, but they can provide a much more pleasant work experience.
Ports: The most controversial design alteration happening across several high-end smartphone manufacturers is the removal of headphone jacks from flagship devices. If you have wireless headphones, this may be a complete nonissue, but if you're a diehard lover of old-school headphones, make sure the smartphone you buy has a headphone jack.
Before you decide on a device, quickly review a list of all the ports and slots. If you want the option to extend the storage, make sure the phone you choose has an SD slot.
Processing power, battery life and security
Processing power: A lot has changed in smartphone processing in the last five years. Even lower-end (under $300) and midrange ($300 to $500) smartphones have enough power for basic smartphone needs, like texting, web browsing and accessing apps. If you want top-of-the-line performance, you can opt for a $1,000 device with the fastest processor on the market, but it's certainly not the only viable option for business users.
Battery life: For business users, battery life can be a make-or-break spec. When looking at phones, keep in mind that claimed battery life from the manufacturer is just that – a claim. It's best to compare the claimed battery life that a phone seller publishes to the battery life that review websites have recorded for the phone. You can search for battery test results by device on our sister site Tom's Guide.
Security: Like design preferences, security needs vary from user to user. If you require business-class security features, you may benefit from selecting an established phone manufacturer, like Samsung. Samsung offers an add-on product called Samsung Knox, which is essentially a lightweight SaaS MDM solution. You may also opt for a third-party MDM solution, but for microbusinesses and solopreneurs, it may be easier to get everything from one provider.
Additional reporting by Brett Nuckles.