Galaxy Note 3 rules business smartphone universe
Technology editor Adrian Weckler picks the top smartphones currently available to Irish business mobile users
WE constantly hear about megapixels, coloured cases and other non-business frills for smartphones. But which phones are really best for the work user? What are the features you should look for? And what should you avoid?
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
There are several reasons why Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 is the stand-out business phone on the market.
First, it has the best screen of them all. And it's not just its 5.7in size, although this does make tasks such as email and document management far more efficient. It's the clarity and resolution, which tops rivals by some distance.
There is also the phone's 3,200mAh battery. For those who need a handset that will absolutely last a whole day without needing an extra charge, this is probably the only model on the market that is truly fit for purpose.
Remarkably, the phone's large battery, top-resolution screen and bigger display don't significantly impact the device's heft. It weighs in at a modest 168g (including stylus) which compares to 143g for the (much smaller, 4.7in) HTC One or 112g for the (even smaller, 4in) iPhone 5S.
In other words, this is easily pocketable. And 32GB of onboard storage is generous compared to competitors, too (this costs an extra €100 on an iPhone). The more you use this phone, the less you will have to use a tablet.
Price: from free on operator contract, €675 by itself
Apple iPhone 5S
In many ways, iPhones are inferior to rivals when it comes to business-friendly metrics. They generally have the smallest screens, the weakest battery life and are often a generation behind in connectivity (the iPhone 4S is alone among contemporaries in not being 4G-ready).
But there are three crucial facets that bring them into contention.
The first is apps. Although Android is just about there in terms of matching iOS, all business apps still prioritise iOS for iPhone and iPad. That means everything from professional accounting apps like Sage to VPN apps.
Secondly, iPhones are favoured over Android devices for security and manageability by middle-aged IT system administrators in big companies. (Do not underestimate this factor.)
Thirdly, because iPhones are the middle-aged person's smartphone of choice, there is safety in numbers. The 16GB 5S itself is modestly endowed, bar its high-end 64-bit processor and good camera (its fingerprint ID system is a little gimmicky). It's 4G-enabled, although not yet compatible with Irish mobile networks.
Price: from free on operator contract, €700 by itself
Samsung Galaxy S4
Although Samsung still sells the (4G-enabled) S3, its 'workhorse' device is arguably now the S4. Forget all the gimmicks (eye-tracking control, contactless swiping) that you heard about when it was launched: this is a powerful, fast, effective device that lets you get on with things in a fairly impressive way.
There's a very beefy engine that is responsible for most of this, including a quad-core 1.9Ghz processor and 2GB of ram. It also comes with 16GB of onboard storage, expandable through an (internal) memory card slot. Its 5in screen is bright and sharp, while its battery life is better than average for a large-screen phone (although a full day's use is only barely achievable for heavy users).
Other than the slightly superfluous nature of some of its software features, the main criticism is aesthetic: it's a little plasticky. Although this makes it lighter, it is also less pleasing to hold in your hand. But Galaxy phones have always been thus, so it may not bother people.
Price: from free on operator contract, €650 by itself
Nokia Lumia 925
In the absence of Nokia's latest 6in 1520 model being available here, it has two potential options for the business person: the 'premium' 4.5in Lumia 925 or the cheaper 4.7in Lumia 625. There is no question that the 925 is the better choice. It is far more impressively powered, with a much better (if slightly smaller) screen, than the lesser-priced model. Over a two-year period, this will matter a lot.
The bigger question, though, might be: why choose a Windows phone? The ecosystem's big shortage has never been the quality of the handsets, which are excellent. It has always been the relative paucity of apps available.
This is slowly changing. with some key additions. That leaves a relatively powerful, well-made smartphone available at a cheaper price than most rivals. The operating system is also geared to align itself more closely with Microsoft Office and Exchange than iPhones or Android devices.
Price: from free on operator contract, €500 by itself
HTC One Mini
Is there a premium phone to be wary of? If so, I'd choose this one. Whereas HTC's anchor 'One' model is arguably the best-looking phone on the market and has a number of good features, this sibling device suffers from a few problems.
The main one is that typing on the One Mini is less accurate than on rival devices, mainly due to how the touchscreen buttons are aligned. This affects speed and efficiency. Sometimes, this really matters.
The phone still looks and feels great in your hand. Its specifications are decent, too, with a bright, 4.3in screen, 4G compatibility and adequate (1.4Ghz chip, 1GB RAM) power.
But if you're like me, you'll suffer more frustration with this phone than with others when going about your business.
Price: from free on operator contract, €450 by itself