Your office in your pocket
Until recently, the notebook computer was the definitive mobile business tool offering full functionality for getting the job done on the road. But it still has drawbacks - it doesn't fit into your pocket, requires an extra bag on the plane, and needs add-ons like a headset and cameras for full convergence. The emergence of the smartphone however has meant that everything you need to be connected on the move is now available in one device that fits into your pocket. Smartphones are the ultimate tool in mobility and convergence. They can do just about everything your laptop can and more - receive and send email, browse the Web, handle productivity applications, take pictures and video, play media and keep you in touch with your social networks.
So what has changed that now makes this possible? For starters, battery life on smartphones has evolved significantly so you're not reaching for the charger every few minutes. In fact in many cases, smartphone battery life will now easily outlast that of your laptop under heavy use. In addition, the screen size, resolution and display technology has evolved to a point where Web browsing is now usable for business applications such as Internet banking (the real thing, not a stripped down version), intranet and extranet Web applications and information searching and retrieval. And very importantly, access speed from a smartphone is no longer an issue, as most handsets today are equipped with 3G/ HSDPA, as well as WiFi for when you're in range of a work, home, or public access point.
Email and messaging are still the most important applications for most mobile users and smartphones can integrate directly and securely with company messaging systems over the Internet. Access to MS Exchange is simple via Microsoft's Activesync or Blackberry's Enterprise Server, allowing for interaction with your email, contacts, calendar and tasks - just as if you were in the office. Instant messaging can also be used on the move as most of the IM networks are available on smartphones - handy for quick communication to business associates.
Of course the most basic function of a smartphone is still the phone itself. But in a step forward, many smartphones now also provide VoIP functionality either natively or through applications such as Fring. Mobile VoIP allows business users to reduce call costs using either WiFi or 3G/HSPDA.
To make sure you know where you're going, most high end smartphones today incorporate navigation and map facilities which, together with built in GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers, provide street lookup and voice prompted route guidance, handy for getting to meetings out of the office.
Want one? The big movers and shakers in the smartphone space still remain Nokia, HTC and Blackberry, but since the release of version 2 of their software, Apple's iPhone is also gaining popularity as a business capable device. And with more and more applications being developed for smartphone use, the question really only is, why are you still in the office?