So, how do you decide whether unprovisioned smartphones make sense for your company? If you're at a large enterprise with a support staff based mostly in the United States, you'll probably save money getting your devices from a carrier. They'll give you a much better deal than you see in the ads, and they'll do a lot to support you, as well.However, if you're a smaller company, especially if your employees travel a lot, you may find yourself better off getting an unlocked phone and provisioning it to meet the needs of the employee who is getting it.Some of the advantages of unprovisioned smartphones include:
- You can match the choice of carrier with the location of the employee. - Employees can get local phone numbers when they travel internationally, which can save money-in some cases, a lot of money. - You support only one phone and one operating system, regardless of where your employees are based. - It's easier to implement consistent compliance, backup and security features when you provision the phone yourself.But there are also reasons you might not want to choose an unlocked, unprovisioned phone, including:
- Your carrier of choice makes a financial arrangement that will offset the costs of using other phones outside the United States. - Your carrier has the global presence you need, making it less of an advantage to use unlocked phones. - Your carrier will agree to unlock your smartphones so you can get a foreign phone number. - You have a specific type of phone that you need to support (such as a BlackBerry) that's not available from primary sources in an unlocked version, and you don't want to tackle the support costs of a device with no warranty and perhaps no support for your carrier's features.Of course, you can have it both ways. You can buy an unprovisioned smartphone for those employees who need one and buy devices from a carrier that are as similar as possible. You could, for example, select an HP iPaq 910c with a touch-screen and a QWERTY keyboard for your field service force and your non-U.S. staff and a different Windows Mobile-based device for everyone else. Either way, you're supporting Windows Mobile; the only thing that differs is the hardware. For many IT departments, buying an unlocked, unprovisioned smartphone may not make sense. But for some companies, not only does it make a great deal of sense, but it may be the only acceptable solution. Contributing Analyst Wayne Rash can be reached at email@example.com.