With smartphones and tablets now an essential part of every business’ operations, firms will be facing increasing demands to furnish their employees with suitable devices in order to make their working lives more productive.

But if companies are looking to purchase and manage smartphones themselves, as opposed to allowing staff members to use their personally-owned gadgets, there are many factors to consider to ensure they are securing the most appropriate devices for their workers.

With so many devices on the market, this can be a difficult decision. Should businesses opt for budget-friendly work mobile devices or pay out for more expensive, but more capable options? What should the upgrade cycle look like? Are consumer-focused phones appropriate, or should you be looking for something built with the enterprise in mind?

Every business is different, so there are no hard and fast answers to these questions. But here are a few key considerations that must go into any decision.

The best platform for your needs

A first consideration is what platform will work best for you, and for most firms, this will come down to a choice between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. While larger enterprises may be able to support both, it is much easier and more cost-effective to focus on just one for less experienced companies or those with limited resources. Both have their own pros and cons, but which one you choose will steer your entire mobile strategy for years to come.

For instance, iOS has wide support from developers, with a huge range of apps, and benefits from Apple’s tight control over its app store, so security is usually tighter. However, this level of control means its harder to customise, and you will be much more restricted in the hardware you’re able to use.

Android, on the other hand, can be found in anything from cheap, simple devices to £1,000+ behemoths, and can be tweaked and tailored as much as you like. However, it is more vulnerable to security issues, and the endless variations and customisations make it a more complex, hard to manage solution.

Balancing cost and performance

With IT budgets tight, it can be tempting to look for the least expensive option, but cheap doesn’t necessarily mean cost-effective. You’ll need to consider how your workforce will be expected to interact with devices, including what applications they expect to use, how often they need to use voice calls or data transfers, and more.

If all they need to do is make the occasional call, cheap may work fine, but it will still need to have a good antenna to ensure connectivity. For more advanced workers, higher specs in areas such as processing power and RAM will be important to ensure they can use powerful applications without slowdowns.

One key factor to consider is battery life. If an employee is going to be spending all day in the field, far away from any ability to charge, this will need to be a much higher consideration that if they will be mostly office-based. Elsewhere, if a device will have to be shared between multiple employees on different shifts, having the ability to quickly swap out the battery completely may be a useful feature, as it will not be practical for it to spend hours hooked up to a charging cable.

You should also look at how easy devices are to secure, manage and repair. Some phones are much easier to protect with encryption and strong passwords than others, while there are some models that use more advanced materials, such as display screens, that can be very costly to repair if the screen shatters. Therefore, you should consider carefully whether these phones are worth the extra risk.

Do you need more rugged devices?

For some organisations, it will be important to look beyond consumer-focused devices. While mainstream gadgets have come a long way in terms of drop resistance and sensitivity to environmental factors like dust or water exposure, they still can’t compete with phones that have been designed specifically for harsher environments.

However, as enterprise-focused rugged devices are often more expensive to purchase and may not have the same advanced features as premium consumer devices, you should think carefully about when and where to deploy them.

Warehouse workers, manufacturers, construction firms and employees who will frequently be outdoors, exposed to the elements, are just some of the key locations where, if you’re still using standard devices, you run increased risks of breakages and costly repair bills. Therefore, in scenarios such as these, rugged phones will be a must-have.

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