On the Go

Each phone platform’s pros and cons can help or hurt your business

By James Travis Turner

IN THE-NOT-SO-DISTANT PAST, mobile phones were clunky, limited-use devices designed and priced almost exclusively for big business users. Since then, the smartphone has become an indispensable tool for all manners and size of business.

Apple reinvented the mobile device in 2007 by putting the power of computers into handheld consumer devices through its iOS platform. Add to that Google’s Android operating system, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Amazon’s Fire, and business consumers are left with a dizzying array of platforms from which to choose.

With the holiday season and a new budget year right around the corner, our chart is here to help you choose the best mobile device to compliment your business needs. All costs provided are for outright off-contract purchase of the device.

Amazon Fire PhoneAMAZON FIRE PHONE
Platform: Fire OS
Key Features
• Firefly Product Scanning Technology
• Mayday Customer Service
• Dynamic Perspective
Cost: About $650

Pros: The fire phone is the newest entrant to an already crowded market, but a lot of time was spent developing unique features. It offers a dynamic 3D-like perspective, Firefly product scanning and Mayday help from customer service agents using video chat. The Firefly scanning feature has the largest implication for ecommerce companies. This feature quickly identifies more than 100 million movies, TV episodes, songs, and products by simply pressing the dedicated Firefly button. Once recognized, users can purchase this item on Amazon within seconds.

Cons: Although the Fire phone has some innovative features that could prove useful to the bottom line, the tech community has overwhelmingly suggested it isn’t ready for prime time just yet. If you used any other platforms in the past, it may not seem like much of an update on essential features available today. Also, the Firefly feature is great for companies that manufacture their own products sold on Amazon but could prove troublesome for resellers who can’t control which company appears first on their listings.

iphoneAPPLE iPHONE 5s
Platform: Apple
Key Features
• iWork
• Best Variety of Applications
• Fingerprint Scanner
Cost: $403 to $725, depending on bells and whistles

Pros: As of this publication, Apple had not yet released its much-conjectured iPhone 6. The iPhone 5s, however, marks Apple’s seventh revision of its high-end mobile device. It has a well-refined set of core features and looks very similar to its original design. The iPhone is lightweight with a smaller screen size compared to most of the competition. The biggest advantage of the iOS ecosystem is the App Store, which has 1.2 million apps available for download. These applications range from games like Angry Birds to enterprise-grade software from companies like SalesForce.com. This provides an opportunity for businesses to integrate devices that employees love while also adding value back to the bottom line.

Cons: The biggest limitation of the iPhone is the lack of first-party integration within the individual business IT environment. Currently, companies depend on third-party software solutions to manage iPhones in their environment. This introduces financial risk related to the cost to acquire and support these services but unlocks the ability to manage, secure and protect these devices.

samsung-galaxy-s5-vs-apple-iphone-5sSAMSUNG GALAXY S5
Platform: Google Android
Key Features
• Enterprise Built-In
• Water/Dust Resistant
• Companion Devices
Cost: Up to about $750, depending on retailer

Pros: The Samsung Galaxy S series is the most popular device using Google’s Android operating system. It was the first phone to introduce a touchscreen more than four inches long and continues that trend with a beautiful 5.1-inch screen on the S5. Like Apple, Android has tons of applications and enjoys the same benefits. Samsung differentiated itself by making an early investment in wearable devices like smart watches and fitness bands. These companion devices add a second screen that provides the ability to get information and connect with people without reaching for the phone.

Cons: Like the iPhone, companies using the Android platform depend on third-party software solutions to manage most devices well. In addition, Android phones historically have been known to become infected with malware, spyware and other unauthorized software. This is a result of Google’s embrace of a more open-source platform that allows app makers more access to the core features of the phone. Samsung created a first-party management solution called Knox that provides robust hardware and software integrated security for Samsung mobile devices, which alleviates this concern. Unfortunately, a large majority of other Android manufactures don’t have first-party tools for this level of company integration.

Nokia-Lumia-IconNOKIA LUMIA ICON
Platform: Windows
Key Features
• Microsoft Office
• Enterprise built-in
• Personalized services
Cost: About $500

Pros: The Nokia Lumia series is the most popular line of Windows Phones. It’s marketed as the world’s most personal smartphone with features like Cortana but yet to have built-in Enterprise Integration. Cortana is Windows Phone’s first digital assistant that acts like Apple’s Siri in many ways but is more personalized based on the information kept in her notebook. Once she learns more about the owner in the notebook, users see things like flight information she’s found from email confirmations, weather, the latest news and even traffic information once she learns commute routes. And all of these interests and preferences are under the user’s control via Cortana’s notebook. On the Enterprise side, 96 percent of PC operating systems run on Windows, and Microsoft has built-in Enterprise integration with mobile versions of Office, SharePoint, and OneDrive that doesn’t sacrifice formatting allowing you to get more done on the go. The devices can connect to your existing VPN network or be managed by your IT department via Microsoft System Center, Intune, or a host of other IT management solutions.

Cons: The biggest limitation of the Window Phone platform is the App Store, which currently includes considerably fewer apps than th Android and Apple devices. This has continued to inconvenience former iPhone and Android users who are looking for a specific app from their previous device. Within the past six month, major brands have started to invest in Windows Phone apps, and the top 50 apps are available across the platform. Even with this limitation, the Nokia Lumia Icon is the best phone for business as it balances between work and life with the tools needed to get work done, and more than 250,000 apps.