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James Bourke

What’s the Right Phone for the Mobile Professional?

Walk into your local wireless carrier’s retail outlet and if your head doesn’t spin when you see the selection of mobile devices, chances are you are just dreaming!

June 22, 2009
by James Bourke, CPA.CITP

With mobile and remote computing landing at the number five slot on the AICPA’s Top Technology Initiatives list for 2009, the selection of new mobile devices is likely to remain high on the CPA’s wish list over the next few months.

Where you plan to use the device and how you plan to use it should be the two primary factors in driving your selection. Once those two major decisions are out of the way, the rest is generally a matter of preference and aesthetics.

If your position brings you to locations on multiple continents, then the focus should be on a device that operates on a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network.

Some key factors for a device operating on a GSM network are:

  • “Standard” for the World (outside of the United States);
  • Contain SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards;
  • SIM cards store personal information; and
  • SIM cards easily swap between phones.

If you find yourself primarily doing business in the U.S. with little, if any, travel abroad, then a device that operates on a Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network, could be a solution for you.

Some key factors associated with a device operating on a CDMA network are:

  • This standard is primarily used in the U.S. and Canada;
  • Can NOT be used overseas;
  • Must be programmed by the carrier;
  • Hard to port between other CDMA carriers; and
  • Will NOT work on GSM networks.

Once you have determined where you plan to use the device, you’ll generally be pointed in the direction of either a carrier specializing in GSM devices or a carrier specializing in CDMA devices.

How you plan to use the device should help to drive your focus once you enter that carrier’s place of business.

Most mobile devices can fall into one of the five categories that are representative of the unit’s size, shape and style. These categories are:

  • Bar-Style
  • PDA-Style
  • Slide-Style
  • Clamshell-Style
  • Flip-Style

Each specific style of phone has its strong points and weak points.

Bar-Style devices like this Motorola Q:

… are generally characterized as being small, thin, easy to carry, contain keyboards on the face, making for easy “one-handed” use and ideal for e-mailing and texting.

PDA-Style devices like this Sprint Touch:

… are generally characterized as having larger screens, being lighter than most other devices of similar size, having no slide-out or visible keyboards, similar to the original “Pocket PC,” utilize a “tap” technique to communicate and generally need two hands to operate.

Slide-Style devices like the Samsung SCH-i760:

… will usually have slide-out, full QWERTY keyboard (refers to the arrangement of letters on your computer’s keyboard) that remains hidden unless engaged, have a keypad for general dialing use when the keyboard is not engaged, are ideal for e-mailing and texting and are better than most other styles of devices in its class when it comes to working on documents and spreadsheets.

Clam-shell style devices like the HTC-Advantage:

… look and feel like small laptops, are larger than most Windows Mobile devices, have big screens and big keyboards and are designed as mobile e-mailing and Web-browsing devices first and communications devices second.

Flip-style devices like the Verizon PN-820:

… are compact, light-weight, better for one-handed use, are generally weak when it comes to e-mailing and texting and act as a phone first, and a data device second.

BlackBerry, through most mobile carriers, offers its own wide range of products. Many of these devices are available in both CMDA and GSM flavors and each carrier offers its own version of a specific device. Due to the competitive nature of the marketplace, the same device, at different vendors, may look the same, but offer tremendous differences and features.

When looking at devices, don’t forget about Apple’s iPhone 3G. Although not available at a wide range of carriers, this unit gets high marks for its ease of use, variety of readily available business applications and its built-in VPN and support for the Microsoft Exchange platform of communication.

With all of this information in hand, you’ll be better prepared to hit your local wireless provider’s outlet and significantly reduce the amount of time spent wandering aimlessly around the store searching for the device that is right for you.

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James C. Bourke, CPA.CITP, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown where he is director of Firm Technology. He is a past president of the New Jersey Society of CPA’s and currently serves on AICPA Council and is the chair of the AICPA CITP Credential Committee. He was recently named by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Profession.