The Practical Computer | By Tom Ledford
A mobile ecosystem includes your wireless services company, hardware, apps and data. But, it also needs to integrate with your home and office systems. The Internet ties them all together.
If you use mobile technology for work, your employer’s ecosystem will overlap yours. This can make it more difficult to decide what technology to use.
A practical mobile ecosystem will cost as little as possible, and will integrate well, into your personal and professional life. How can you make practical choices for mobile technology?
Apple, Windows or Android?
It is no surprise that Apple Mac users use iPhones and iPads. That’s the logical choice for them, because they know the devices will work together seamlessly. Apple’s desktop and mobile applications share data easily and have a common look and feel.
iPhones and iPads integrate well with Windows desktop systems also. iTunes, the most popular Apple app, is available for Windows and email is easily synchronized Microsoft Exchange, Hotmail and Gmail.
Microsoft Windows phone and tablet users can have seamless integration with their desktop technology too. Microsoft apps are available for Windows desktops, phones and tablets. Microsoft plans to bolster their nascent mobile technology using ease of integration with their business systems. Many businesses may prefer to deploy mobile applications using Microsoft because they already have management systems in place.
Android is Google’s open source, mobile operating system, and it has captured nearly three fourths of the global mobile market.
Samsung, LG, Asus and HTC are mobile hardware companies using Android. Many think Google will soon be a major, mobile hardware supplier too, especially since their purchase of Motorola. The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD is a popular phone now.
Google’s Nexus 4 phone is manufactured by LG. Their Nexus 7 mini tablet is manufactured by Asus, and the Nexus 10 tablet is manufactured by Samsung. It will be interesting to see if Google Motorola takes on more manufacturing or, if they continue to partner with other manufacturers. Either way, Android, as a standards based, open platform, can only be good for the consumer!
Will it work with my other stuff?
If you have to pay your own way, you will need to consider if, and how you will connect to your professional systems. This is usually not a problem for email. Most corporate email systems will send and receive email with Apple, Windows and Android systems, but you will probably need some cooperation and information from your employer to connect with them.
You can even get all your email in one application. For example, I use Microsoft Outlook.com on my Android to get email from Gmail, Hotmail and my business accounts in one inbox. I use rules to automatically sort email into different folders. I could do the same with Gmail, but I started with Outlook and it works fine. I can always switch later if need too.
Applications, or apps, can be either native to the operating system, or web applications that will run on any operating system with a browser. Native apps can be faster and easier to use, but some require licensing fees.
Not all apps are available for all mobile platforms, but there is usually an acceptable workaround. For example, Microsoft announced they would no longer be selling a native iOS (iPhone, iPad) Office app. ~ http://reut.rs/11DnBpG
Workarounds may require creating or editing a document in a different application and converting it, but that usually isn’t too difficult. You may not need to use your phone or tablet for office applications at all.
Will your personal technology integrate with your professional technology?
For many, professional systems are part of their ecosystem. They need to communicate and collaborate with coworkers. Some businesses provide mobile systems and services to employees. Others may accommodate BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) but offer access to fewer apps and data.
Many decisions require trade offs and compromises. This one is no different. If you are lucky enough for your company to pay a chunk of your mobile expenses, you should consider adapting your personal technology to fit your professional technology requirements.
If you need to connect to your employer’s systems, make sure you understand their policies and requirements first. Some may require you agree to use antivirus software and encrypt company data. Others may require you agree to have your system remotely “wiped” if it is lost.
How big is the learning curve?
How soon can you be productive with your new mobile platform? Do you have a support system in place? if you have friends or family using the same technology, you will have someone to ask questions. Your employer may also support your systems and may even have a help desk you can use.
Of course, there are great resources for all three platforms on the Internet, and it’s not that difficult to learn about a new app or device. Just make sure you don’t try to learn something completely new, if you need to use it to help you meet a deadline!
Can you afford it?
New devices can be expensive, but monthly fees will be the biggest part of your mobile budget. Fortunately, recent competition has helped to bring some of the costs down. If you are willing to purchase your own phone, or if your contract period is over, you can save a great deal of money by going to a prepaid service plan.
Most prepaid plans work with the big mobile networks (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint) If you already have a phone you want to use, you will need to verify its compatibility with the network your prepaid plan uses. For example: Straight Talk and Net10 use AT&T and T-Mobile networks. You can purchase a SIM from a prepaid plan to use in your phone if it is compatible.
Prepaid service plans offer unlimited voice, text and data, and allow you to auto-refill your account so you don’t need to worry about a lapse in service. The best thing about them is, there are no contracts. You can switch plans at any time, with no penalty!
Mobile companies offer phones at a steep discount because they get a subsidy from the manufacturer, and they make the money back from higher monthly fees and contract termination penalties. However, many great phones are coming onto the market now that aren’t that expensive to begin with. There is a big resurgence in the used iPhone market too.
In fact, you can buy one of the best phones available, the Google Nexus 4, untied to any carrier, for as little as $299. I bought my LG Optimus Extreme at Walmart for $149! It doesn’t have the fastest processor, but it runs Android 4.0, has a 5 megapixel camera and a 4 inch screen.
I haven’t seen any data only, prepaid plans for tablets yet, but you can add data only plans with other mobile providers. For example: you can add a data only plan on AT&T’s family plan for as little as $10/mo/device. Otherwise, data plans from AT&T are $14.95/mo/device.
Savings from a prepaid plan can more than pay for a nice phone. The smallest savings over two years is about $700, but you could save as much as $1400!
Tell us how you are juggling phones, tablets, home and work!