The great thing about a smart phone—such as a Blackberry, Treo or even an iPhone—is that these can handle a multitude of applications and tasks. A smartphone can let you make calls (obviously), send and receive instant messages, browse the Web and often even act as a GPS device. Of course many basic phones today can handle many of the same tasks; so is a smartphone a smart choice for small business or home office users?
If you travel a lot a smartphone can free you from having to always bring a laptop, especially if you’re making short but frequent trips where you need to mostly stay connected. If you’re doing short trips where you don’t need a full-fledged laptop computer for drafting documents, a smartphone might do the trick. With an added keyboard attachment you can still have the power to type away, although the screen might not be the best for your eyesight in the long run. PDA functionality will even let you open your Word and Excel documents, something the typical handset can’t easily handle.
However, new findings are suggesting that a smartphone might not be the best option for all users. Online warranty service SquareTrade released the findings of a new report that suggests that smartphones are 50 percent more likely to fail than simple cellular phones. The phones, while including advanced features such as e-mail, Web browsing, larger display and PC-like functionality; often carry a premium for consumers. SquareTrade found that while an iPhone may cost $400 to $500, and a Treo can easily burn up a small office budget at $500 or more, simple mobile phones are often free with many plans. Additionally, while carriers may discount the smartphones, this can require locking into a service plan for two years!
The costs continue from there, as services charge for the extra service bells and whistles. Data plans can cost anywhere from an extra $25 to $45 a month, which can be a lot of money for a small business if multiple users are relying on the phones.
SquareTrade also found that smartphones tended to have greater reliability issues than basic handsets, and according to its findings one in three phones malfunctioned at some point during the first three years of service, compared to about one in five of basic mobile phones. This number did not include damage from dropping a phone on the ground or in water (God forbid a toilet!).
While I’ll take the reliability issues with a grain of salt I’ve had good luck with the various smartphones that I’ve tested and more than a few problems with other handsets too. I do agree that it is worth considering whether the benefits outweigh the costs. For those that work primarily from home or do little travel you probably don’t need a smartphone (unless you’re looking for a status symbol), and if your business is a start-up on a budget there are better ways to spend the money than springing for smartphones for the staff.