Choosing the best business smartphone
Published 24/04/2014 | 02:30
Looking for the best handset for business? Where iTunes, coloured cases and camera filters might attract dabblers, it is power, reliability, corporate management and battery life that often dominate business users' wishlists in a device. With this in mind, which of these six current smartphones is the best business device? Adrian Weckler lists his top three, with three honourable runners-up.
No 1: Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Best for: Battery life, screen size
Weaknesses: May be too big for some
Price: €660 unlocked, from free on operator contract
Not everyone likes big smartphone screens. But if you do (and I do), Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 comes as close to the perfect business phone as possible right now. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, its battery life comfortably outguns all others. For travellers, that's a major asset. Second, its large screen size makes work stuff – emails, web forms, work apps – genuinely easier to access and complete. Lastly, there's enough power under the hood to keep it all together. A tiny number of people might also find the embedded stylus useful (I rarely used it). This would be my choice as the best business smartphone on the market today.
No 2: iPhone 5S
Best for: Apps, corporate management
Weaknesses: Small screen, battery life
Price: €700 unlocked, from free on operator contract
With the demise of BlackBerry, Apple's iPhone has largely been the model to capitalise on approved corporate-phone plans. It's not just that it's user-friendly and gives older executives access to their legacy iTunes collections. IT departments increasingly prefer them over Android handsets for their security and remote manageability. The 5S is the cream of Apple's crop, meaning it has the best chip and newest design in the iPhone range. In general, iPhones still trump Android when it comes to work-related apps, which is a key consideration. Other than a suspect battery life, its only main drawback is its stubbornly small screen, about half the size of some of its rivals.
No 3: HTC One M8
Best for: Physical design
Weaknesses: Lack of accessories
Price: €650 unlocked, from free on operator contract
Although HTC's One (M8) has been hailed as the best general-purpose Android phone currently out there, I don't think it's the best work phone. Its strengths are partly aesthetic: it's easily the best-looking Android phone around. For non-work use, it also has some excellent features, such as an 'ultra-pixel' camera that gives better results in low light than most of its rivals. And HTC has learned from some of its predecessor's weaknesses: typing is much better now, while its irritating 'Blinkfeed' stream is marginalised to a non-default screen. It has a great screen, but increasingly few accessories due to HTC's slipping market share.
Best for: Microsoft Office
Weaknesses: Relative lack of apps
Price: €630 unlocked
With the demise of the BlackBerry, there was an expectation that Windows phones, with their Microsoft-friendly operating systems, might naturally step in to fill up company provisioning lists. It hasn't quite turned out that way. However, if you are thinking of plumping for a Windows 8 handset, this may be the best bet. It's extremely well built with a (very) large, gorgeous screen As with all Windows phones, you'll notice a relative lack of business-focused apps, despite its excellent synchronisation with Microsoft Office. If that's not important, this may be worth taking a punt on. Great camera, too.
Best for: High-end affordability
Weaknesses: Limited availability, modest battery
Price: €420 unlocked, from free on contract
Nexus devices have a cult-like following, for some pretty solid reasons. They're 'pure' Android machines, which means they don't have the extra (complicating, gimmick-ridden) layers and apps that manufacturers impose. Like other Nexus devices, LG's Nexus 5 has great power (2.3Ghz quadcore chip) and is superbly designed. It's also geared to be up to date with the very latest version of Android (in this case, 4.4). As a business phone, this five-inch smartphone is great in all but one regard: its battery life. I find it to be at the lower end of the scale, regularly requiring a recharge by late afternoon. It's also tough to get on the traditional 'business' operators (Vodafone and O2).
Samsung Galaxy S5
Best for: Power, speed
Weaknesses: Overload of gimmicks
Price: €675 unlocked, from free on operator contract
The most heavily advertised phone around is a worthy handset with a great screen and plenty of oomph. Like its predecessor, much of its added functionality arguably veers close to gimmickry, unless you regard fingerprint and pulse readers to be valuable features. To be fair, some of the touted under-bonnet additions could be effective, such as enhanced 4G broadband reception. And with a quadcore 2.5Ghz chip, 3GB of Ram and at least 16GB of internal memory, no-one outguns the S5. Retaining a slight plasticky feel (despite its new tactile rear cover), this isn't the most elegant device on the market. But it has power to burn.