Mobile devices in your company: how do you choose?


Smartphone, mobile phone, tablet, laptop, hybrid. You can barely count on a one hand the different mobile devices your employees have. Plus, each of these devices are part of your mobile strategy. We help you put the puzzle together.


In 2015, an employee in a typical Belgian company is more likely to be equipped with a mobile device (whether it’s a laptop computer or tablet) than a desktop PC. And this means you need to know a few things. Which mobile devices should you choose? Why? And what choice is everyone else making?


1. Smartphone (or mobile phone)

Every employee has a fixed telephone. Nonetheless, the smartphone, with WiFi and 4G, is gradually becoming the standard. The fixed device appears to be on the way out. "The smartphone is the only device used when employees in our organisation make calls," says Stefan Danschotter, General Manager at Telecom-IT, a consulting company and integrator. "At a lot of companies, the smartphone is only for the internet or emailing, but you can do so much more with it. We have them linked to our internal security system. If someone is at the door of the office, we see who it is on our smartphones." There is also a strong trend towards phablets: smartphones with extremely large screens.

Almost all 30 staff members at Telecom-IT have a smartphone that they have brought from home. "For a long time, I tried to go against the trend and, for example, discourage iPhones. But it didn’t work," explains Danschotter. "iPhones are popular in company life, but in terms of numbers, Android devices are better represented. 90 per cent of mobile applications that I see are for Android devices. Windows still has a lot of catching up to do."

With iPhone, Android or Windows, smartphones have still not found a home in every organisation. "With us, the regular mobile phone still reigns supreme. However, I have noticed a lot of interest in the smartphone," says Eric Van Habost, IT Director at Croix-Rouge, the Wallonia and Brussels division of the Red Cross. "Of the 750 employees who have a SIM card, only about 100 have a smartphone."

The Bring Your Own Device approach is also in effect at Croix-Rouge. The organisation permits all devices to be used and manages them with a Mobile Device Management solution that was implemented in partnership with Orange.


The four biggest benefits of smartphones:  

  • Thanks to 4G, they offer both data and voice traffic.
  • They are the most compact devices of all.
  • The screens are getting larger in response to the popularity of phablets.
  • They have a well-established presence in companies as part of the BYOD trend.


2. The laptop (or desktop computer)

Although the PC appears to have reached its high-point long ago, it still counts. Even desktop computers. At Croix-Rouge, there is currently an exercise being performed where staff members are divided into user groups. They are offered a suitable device on the basis of these groups. "Of about 1,500 employees, there are approximately 900 who still work with a desktop computer," says Eric Van Habost. "About 200 use a laptop," he adds.

The benefits of a PC are clear: it is indispensable for data input and processing. Although mobility is still a factor to consider. "You can bring a laptop with you to the meeting room for instance," says Stefan Danschotter.


The four biggest benefits of a laptop:  

  • Computers, including laptops, are still the most powerful devices.
  • A laptop is easy to transport.
  • All company applications are available on a laptop.
  • It is more suited to typing than a tablet.


3. Tablet

The tablet is finding its place in the office and not just with classic users. "Typically, tablet users are sales people. Even with us they’re eager customers. A tablet has a certain charisma and starts up instantly. That’s important. Before, if you were a salesperson for example, and you turned your laptop on, the client quickly became bored," explains Stefan Danschotter, who considered switching to tablets from laptops. "A technician who needs to programme is better with a laptop. But to fill in a work order, a tablet is much better."

More and more organisations are switching to tablets. At Croix-Rouge, 400 staff members are equipped with a desktop computer–in combination with a tablet. ‘They have two devices so they can work comfortably and they can still enjoy mobility,’ explains Eric Van Habost.

On top of this, tablets are also appearing in places where you wouldn’t expect to find them. 60 to 70 ambulances that provide non-urgent transport for Croix-Rouge have been fitted with 7-inch tablets. "These tablets are a part of a whole project based around digitalisation. By implementing them, the transport and the company processes related to it are better automated. These are not isolated mobile devices," he clarifies. The tablet in the ambulance relies on the Android operating system and is therefore not an iPad. "The price played a role here. But another factor was that you have more control over one of these Android tablets and better determine what the end-user sees."


The four biggest benefits of a tablet:  

  • It’s compact and intuitive.
  • It offers mobile internet via WiFi and 4G.
  • It starts more quickly than a laptop.
  • It has a full-fledged screen in comparison with a smartphone.


4. Hybrid devices

The line between a laptop and a tablet has become vague. So-called hybrid devices combine laptops with tablets. When closed, these devices often look a lot like relatively fat, failed little laptops from which you can take the screen away. Other hybrid devices appear more like powerful tablets to which you can attach a keyboard.

These combi-devices could replace the laptop and the tablet. "This is definitely a possibility I believe in for the long run," says Stefan Danschotter. "Because now you have to spend 800 euro on a laptop and 300 on a tablet, plus extras like a keyboard." Although it appears to be a genuine breakthrough, Danschotter believes it’s still a little too soon. "If you ask me, devices that combine the functionalities of both a tablet and a laptop have not quite made the cut yet. And if they have, they appear to be extremely expensive."


The four biggest benefits of a hybrid device:  

  • You only need one device.
  • More powerful than a tablet.
  • More mobile than a laptop.
  • Better for your budget in the long-term.


The three big operating systems


At the moment, three leading operating systems are doing the rounds in the business world: Android, iOS from Apple and Windows from Microsoft. BlackBerry also has its place as a fourth contender, although it has become more and more of a niche product.

The three big operating systems are appearing on every device nowadays: smartphones, tablets, hybrids and PCs. But it is surprising to see that one operating system seems to have the upper hand for each device. Windows is the market leader for PCs. Android sets the standards for smartphones and iPad and iOS lead in tablets, although Android (and Windows) are certainly up there too.


Worldwide device shipments by segment (Thousands of units)

Table: Phablets, the smartphones with large screens, also fall under the heading of smartphones. The so-called hybrid devices (that combine a laptop and a tablet in one) are in the tablet category. (Source: Gartner, 2014)


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