How smart phones can increase profits
Executive summary: Smart phones can more than pay for themselves, if you have the right hardware and services for your business. Buy carefully and choose the right add-ons.
Tell us how you use smart phones to increase your profits.
With a smart phone, you can do a lot more than make calls. The best of them let you access e-mail; browse the Web at high speed; run business software; and keep your projects, contacts, and calendar nearby at all times.
But does spending as much as $600 on a device that combines a PDA, a cell phone, and Internet functionality help your bottom line? Here's how to make sure.
Outfit only mobile employees
If employees spend most of the day in the office, it may not make sense to spring for smart phones. However, if you're thinking about buying PDAs
anyway, it probably does make sense to get smart phones so that everyone can have just one device.
Calculate the cost-benefit ratio
Say you want to give smart phones to five employees. That's at least $2,000 for equipment that will last maybe two years, plus data plans and insurance that can cost about $500 per month total. Calculate whether you will be able to recoup those costs. Donovan Andrews, president of Performance Bridge Advertising in New York, says he recently won a bid because he was able to edit Microsoft Office documents while on the way to the airport and e-mail them back to a partner.
Get the right model
Will workers need to read or edit office documents? Do you want to talk on the phone while doing so? How much battery life do you need? What kind of Internet access is necessary (Bluetooth
, and so on)? Do you travel internationally and need to handle different countries' standards (triband or quad-band phones)? For tips on choosing the right smart phone, check out our buyer's guide
Get the right add-ons
Do you need an extra memory card? How much memory? A wireless keyboard for typing documents? Extra chips for traveling overseas and logging on to international networks? A belt clip that won't let you lose the device? A special headphone or mouthpiece?
If you don't, be prepared to buy new devices when the ones you've bought inevitably get lost, stolen, crushed, dropped in the bathtub, kicked down a sewer, or run over by a truck--all things we've seen happen.
Get the right software
You may need third-party options such as Goodlink 4.5 to synchronize in real time with your Outlook e-mail and calendar. You can find applications for construction, travel, project management, and more on third-party Web sites such as Handango.com
. Agents working with Coldwell Banker real estate manager Richard Nesbitt in San Diego, California, run an MLS (Multiple Listing Service) application on their Treo 650 smart phones. "One can be out showing property to a client, drive by a house, say 'Whoa, what's that?' and we can look it up right away," said Nesbitt. That software, plus the ability to handle e-mailed customer inquiries and research new properties on the fly, all lead to more closed sales.