New Smart-Phone Considerations

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2007-12-01 Print this article Print

The choices abound, and IT managers must carefully consider business requirements when evaluating smart-phone platforms.

Smart phones are becoming a key communications, collaboration and customer-relationship tool for many organizations. The choices abound, and IT managers must carefully consider business requirements when evaluating smart-phone platforms. There are some new considerations that IT managers should think about when preparing an RFP. Does the platform include GPS capabilities?

GPS receivers are becoming more common in smart phones, with HTC, Research In Motion and other manufacturers now offering the feature. But GPS isnt just for getting you from point A to point B; various operators offer per-subscriber location/mileage tracking, dispatching and work-order management capabilities that leverage GPS services (for additional fees, of course).

What types of open access will the platform provide?

Vendors and carriers are shoving each other aside to announce open initiatives-to free the mobile operating system, the mobile network and mobile applications. But, as appealing as Googles Android mobile platform, the Open Handset Alliance and Verizons "Any Apps, Any Device" initiative may sound, remember: They are all only promises until 2008 at the earliest.

What is the phones worst-case battery life?

A batterys mAh rating will give only a loose indication of standby and talk-time battery life. Remember, all the radios (cell, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth), the color screen and the speakerphone will drag down effective life. By default, turn off what you dont regularly use-and teach users to do the same.

What Wi-Fi capabilities are included?

Look for new Wi-Fi chips (such as Atheros AR6002 family) to further reduce power consumption by the Wi-Fi radio-both when in use and in standby mode. In return, smart-phone battery life should get a nice boost.

Does the platform support Unlicensed Mobile Access?

Earlier in 2007, T-Mobile launched its HotSpot @Home service, allowing customers to make VOIP (voice over IP) calls using their cell handsets. However, only a couple of Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones worked with the system. By September, RIM announced its first smart phone to work with this network-the BlackBerry Curve 8320. You can expect to see others in the near future.

What security features are included?

There are many security pain points when it comes to smart phones, and, odds are, most are currently unaddressed on your organizations smart-phone platform. Things to look for (from your device or a third-party solution) include device lock, feature lockout, encryption, authentication (to device and network), remote wipe, firewall and VPN.

What multimedia features are included?

To get maximum adoption and uptake, smart phones need to balance business use with personal use. The corporate smart phone loses some usefulness if a worker leaves it in a desk every night and takes his or her iPhone home.

Will the platform support our organizations business applications?

E-mail will likely remain the primary application for most smart-phone usage, so message delivery will remain a core criterion of the purchase decision. But with improving connectivity options, a smart phone has so much more potential.

Is a camera included? What are the specs?

That integrated camera is not just for taking pictures of your kids soccer games anymore. Newer devices can do impromptu video, as well, which could be useful for rich media purposes or for unified communications. And some devices (including Motorolas MC35) can use the camera as an occasional bar-code scanner.

Are femtocells on the road map?

By the end of 2008, we should start seeing femtocell trials from the more adventurous operators, finally making it possible to improve the cell coverage in your house or office with tiny, localized, Internet-connected cells. It remains to be seen what the preferred form factor for these devices will be, however.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at

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