Smarter phones for business

Competition among the four platforms for the key business market is increasing all the time

Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 06:00

The latest round of smartphones may just have made your decision on whether you want to opt for iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry that little bit harder.

It used to be so simple. If you wanted a phone for business, your first choice was usually Blackberry. But things have changed. In 2007, the iPhone came along and quickly established itself as the smartphone everyone wanted – even business users. Blackberry saw its market share fall, as more people jumped ship to ioS.

Then came some serious competition from Google, with its Android powered handsets, and Microsoft, with Windows Phone. Both platforms have gained ground in recent years, and now it’s not uncommon to see Samsung smartphones in the hands of executives.

Blackberry hasn’t gone away though. Earlier this year, it unveiled its Blackberry 10 devices and, although they certainly have some way to go to regain any kind of dominance in the boardroom, Blackberry isn’t giving up.

For this comparison, we took some of the top smartphone handsets – the iPhone 5, the Blackberry Z10, the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (the Galaxy S4 isn’t due to land until next month at the earliest) – and compared them to see what smartphone is best for your business.


Security
First and foremost in the minds of many businesses is security. Companies need to know that the data they store on devices will stay safe and secure, even if the device is misplaced.

Given blackberry’s reputation for security, you would expect that this is one area where it would excel. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The new Blackberry Balance feature allows you to keep your work and home profiles completely separate, keeping the work applications and data into a walled off area. This means you can have two profiles existing side by side on the device, but without fear they will cross over.

And should you leave the company, the work profile can be deleted remotely, leaving your personal files untouched.

Add into that the Blackberry Enterprise Service support, which encrypts mails and messages, and you are covered on most fronts.

The iPhone is no slouch when it comes to security though. It has a whole host of security features from hardware encryption and app sandboxing that prevents apps from accessing certain data, to file data protection that protects data stored in flash memory.

One of the major problems with Android is the amount of malware that exists for the platform. This can be tackled in part by never installing applications from unknown sources – i.e. outside the Android market – but experts say the amount of malware for Android is rising. That doesn’t mean that Android is wide open though. Google Apps for Business users can locate stolen or lost devices on maps and reset passwords or lock the device remotely. Administrators can also encrypt the data on a device.

But what about non-App customers? There are plenty of third party security apps available for the system and, like the iPhone, Android offers multi-layered security, supporting everything from encryption to third party VPNs.

Windows Phone 8 also allows remote device management and encrypts everything from documents to passwords using Bitlocker device encryption. All you need to do is turn it on, and anything that is saved to the phone will be automatically encrypted. It also has a Secureboot function, which allows only verified software components to run, protecting against malware.


Winner
Blackberry just has the edge.


Apps
Apple leads in the apps count. The App Store at last count has more than 775,000 apps. That’s followed by Android, with 500,000 apps, then Windows at 150,000 as of December. BB10 is a new kid on the block, but Blackberry already has some important business apps already available, with Cisco and Citrix working on software. And it is working on getting even more.

But for now, app developers seem to favour the iOS platform as a first port of call when developing their software. So if you want your apps as quickly as possible, Apple’s platform seems to be the place to be – for now.


Winner
Apple.


Display
Size isn’t everything when it comes to displays. If our phone is going to double as a business tool, you’ll not only need a decent sized screen but also one that responds well to touch and is readable in harsh light.

The iPhone display comes in as the smallest among the four handsets. The Blackberry z10 is 4.2 inches, but the screen is a vast improvement on previous touchscreen Blackberry devices. For anyone who remembers the Storm 2, you can banish those fears. It is responsive and the onscreen keyboard pops up suggestions that make it easier to use, rather than an annoying hindrance.

The Nokia Lumia 920 has a 4.5 inch screen and the ability to use the screen even when wearing gloves. The Note 2 is the giant among the devices, at 5.5 inches, with a bright, vivid screen.


Winner
For size you can’t beat the Note 2. Plus it is crisp and clear, despite its super-amoled screen being edged on pixels per inch by the iPhone 5.

Battery
Battery life is a major issue for smartphones. With increasingly large screen sizes and more functions being added, something has to give. And new battery technology will only add so much to your overall usage time.

The iPhone 5 battery will last 225 hours in standby, with eight hours of talk time. But the battery isn’t removable, and it has its own proprietary charger too.

By contrast, the other two handsets – Nokia excluded – have a removable battery, which means you could, in theory, carry a spare. Plus they all use micro USB to charge, so should you forget or lose a vital cable, it won’t be as difficult to find a replacement in a hurry.

The Note 2 has a whopping 890 hours of standby time and 16 of talktime, compared with 400 and 10 for Nokia in 3g, and 312 and 10 for the Blackberry handset.


Winner
The Galaxy Note 2 has some impressive battery specs.

Camera
You may not find the camera a necessity in everyday business, but video conferencing is becoming a more common event and, for that, you will need a decent front facing camera.

The iPhone 5 camera is the lowest quality at 1.2 megapixels, but even so, you get decent footage from it. It may be a little more grainy that its rivals though, and you need some good lighting conditions for it to perform at its best. Its rear camera is much better, at 8 megapixels.

The Nokia Lumia 9 bumps it up slightly to 1.3 megapixels for the front-facing camera, while the main camera is 8.7 megapixels. The Blackberry also goes down the route of screen sharing, over blackberry messenger. The front camera is 2 megapixels in resolution, with the rear at 8.

The Note 2, meanwhile, goes for 1.9 megapixels, with an 8 megapixel rear camera.

Winner
On resolution alone, the Blackberry Z10 has it.


The future
Announced earlier this month, the Galaxy S4 is about to up the ante. The device comes with a larger screen than its predecessor, but not quite as large as the Note 2 at five inches. This makes it a little more compact if you don’t want to go down the “phablet” route.

The front-facing camera is 2 megapixel resolution, with a 13 megapixel rear camera. Plus you can mix video and photos from both cameras, share your screen with another user and

On the security side of things, Samsung’s Knox will make your phone more secure.

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