On Business Smartphones

by Tina Holmboe 18th of March 2009 (archive)

Let’s be serious for a moment. Form, rationally, follow function. When it comes to portable computers in the workplace, function follow /business requirements/.

Yes — a camera. Doesn’t need to be more than 5mp, but definetly a camera. Nothing quite like it to, for instance, take a snapshot of a whiteboard, a set of rusty pipes, or something else that needs to be visually recorded during meetings or inspections.

Yes — a microSDHC memory card. Take a pic, store a document, record a meeting, and swap the memory card with a new one when back at the office, for sharing, or for efficient archival of the information on it. Or, even, to make sure /this/ information is separated from /that/ information. Don’t dick around with a proprietary card.

Yes — a sound recorder. Need one say more? Yes, it /is/ useful to record meetings. Yes, it /is/ useful to record statements — remember the rusty pipes inspection up above?

Yes — MMS. Stop the dithering about this. Being able to send those inspection photographs directly from one mobile unit to another without necessarily involving a mailserver is of great value.

Yes — a touch screen. A resistive touch screen. The ability to sketch a quick map — try that with fat fingers — or do handwriting far outweight the prettyness, if any, of a capasitive screen. Don’t even start on the need to take one’s gloves off. Some people operate under conditions below zero degrees Celsius, and would like to /keep/ those fingers.

Yes — a front–facing secondary camera and the ability to do video calls via 3G. There is really no point in expanding on that feature.

Yes — wifi. It doesn’t roam very well. There are no hotspots in most places you’d take this thing. But there very well may be in the office, at which point wifi will be worth the lower batterylife and heavier unit.

Yes — long battery life and replaceable battery. Yes, and yes again. Carrying a spare battery is far easier, and better, than carrying a spare charger and hope one get a chance to plug it in somewhere. The idea here /is/ for the unit to be portable, after all.

Yes — mini or micro USB dataport. Don’t go proprietary on us, people. We don’t have the time or space to lug about a converter. USB cables are everywhere.

Yes — the biggest physical screen you can fit in a comfortable package … and I don’t just mean comfortable to /men/. Test it for women as well. Don’t forget that the resolution is only important in terms of DPI; yes, one does want to read on this device, if, perhaps, not entire books then certainly documents, specifications, and notes, and the higher the DPI the better.

Yes — PIMs. PIMs! Month view, week view, day view, task list, /hierarchical/ task list, extensive contact management … don’t *ever* release a portable computer meant for business without good, extensive, well–tested and /flexible/ PIMs.

Yes — on–screen virtual QWERTY keyboard. A physical one ain’t needed, mate; it takes up space, it weighs the unit down, and it pulls more power.

Yes — A2DP compatible, at least, Bluetooth. Wired headsets are nice, but implies wires. Wires are no good. The ability to play a sound–clip in a headset — which is what the A2DP bit is for — is a boon if you don’t want anyone else to listen to it at the time.

Yes — More bluetooth. We want to transfer files, contact entries, calendar entries, images and sound. The Palm could do it in 2001.