Android vs iOS phones for business
2nd Aug 2013 | 07:00
Get the company phone that's best for you
BlackBerry's secure servers and focus on email, coupled with the full on QWERTY keyboards on devices, made it the stand out candidate for workers. It is still a viable option, with the BlackBerry 10 software, new handsets including the Z10 and Q10 and the updated BES 10 backend infrastructure
But Android and iOS handsets have come on leaps and bounds and some now exceed the offerings of BlackBerry.
If you're looking at iOS then your choice of handsets is pretty slim. You've only really got two options - the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S - although if you hold on a few months the iPhone 5S/iPhone 6 will make an appearance.
The iPhone 4S is slightly cheaper and offers many of the same features as the 5, which in turn has a larger display, beefier processor and slimmer body - but Apple products carry premium price tags.
Android, on the other hand, has a vast array of handsets available, including a strong range of budget offerings.
High end Android phones include the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, which easily rival Apple's offerings and won't look out of place in the boardroom. And if you fancy a slightly bigger screen check out the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, or the Galaxy Note 3 later this year.
Today's smartphones are more than capable of delivering a decent email experience and both Android and iOS offer fully featured email clients.
A little confusingly on Android devices you'll find two clients installed, 'Email' and 'Gmail'. But unless your company uses the Google ecosystem including Google Docs, Drive and Gmail, you're unlikely to require the latter.
The Email app allows you to set up multiple accounts and feed them into one inbox, but you can filter by address if things become too congested.
Over on iOS there's just the one email client out of the box going by the name 'Mail', and as with Android you can link several accounts into one app with the option to view a unified inbox or filter by account. It's all pretty simple.
The days of physical keys on phones seem to have gone, and while BlackBerry is still making handsets such as the Q10 and Q5, the majority of smartphones now on the market are fully touchscreen.
This may ring alarm bells for those wedded to their QWERTY keyboards, but the onscreen keyboard needn't be feared, as after spending a little time practising you'll be up to your normal typing speed.
On iOS you only get one option - the stock keyboard which Apple installs on every iPhone, iPad and iPod, with no third party solutions allowed. It's a pretty robust offering with good travel between keys, haptic (vibration) feedback if required, and spell check to ensure no embarrassing mistakes; but it's not the best typing experience on a smartphone.
By contrast, Android offers a stock keyboard and a huge array of free and paid for alternatives in Google Play. Our personal favourite is SwiftKey, but the joy of Android is that you can download as many as you want, try them all out and find the best one for your writing style.
With variable screen sizes on the handsets available you'll find the keyboard experience can range wildly between Android devices. If you're going to be doing a lot of typing we'd recommend getting a handset with at least a 4-inch display.
Making sure you can contact the right people at the right time is extremely important, so you want to be able to rely on your phone having the details of everyone you may need at the touch of a button.
Android allows you to pool contacts from various sources, be it email accounts, Google or social networks. The phones can also store email addresses, physical addresses and home, office and mobile numbers.
You can even attach photos to contact cards (which can be pulled through automatically from social networks), allowing you to put a name to a face, which can be invaluable in networking.
The standard Android contact integration is solid and straightforward, but you can give it a boost by choosing a handset from the likes of Samsung or HTC.
These manufacturers add additional features to improve contact matching from various accounts - linking up people's profiles from various networks and combining them into one manageable contact card.
On iOS things don't quite match up to the Android offering. Sure the contacts app is easy to use and simply laid out, but if you're keen to pull in data from different mediums then you're out of luck.
But you can still add all the details on a person and the simple user interface may be easier for some to understand on iOS.
When new software becomes available you'll want to roll it out to your staff as soon as possible so they can take advantage of the new features, improvements and fixes it offers.
For Apple devices this is easy as the firm pushes out updates to all devices (we're currently on iOS 6, with iOS 7 round the corner) at the same time, allowing you to quickly upgrade all handsets with minimum fuss. Just remember to back up your data first.
Things are a little trickier for Android thanks to the number of different handsets from various manufacturers. You'll find that when Google pushes out an Android update (the latest is Jelly Bean) it first goes to the manufacturers who do their own tinkering and tests before pushing it out to their devices - and usually it's one or two models at a time.
If your workforce has a range of Android devices then you may find that some receive updates before others and the discrepancy in software between colleagues may cause compatibility problems.
On balance, iOS has the upper hand here. It offers a fully integrated security platform for devices which spans iPhones, iPads and iPods, allowing you to ensure all data stored on them is safe. Hardware encryption protects all the data on the devices and it can't be turned off by the user, so there's no fear of it being accidentally disabled.
The iOS architecture also provides security for third party applications, meaning you can trust the apps you download as Apple prevents malware and viruses sneaking in.
Over on Android things are not so clear cut, with no protection built into the OS for businesses. But there are remedies: various security apps can be downloaded from Google Play, and the openness of the Android ecosystem allows companies to develop their own security software.
Both iOS and Android have well stocked stores in the form of the App Store and Google Play, which boast over 800,000 applications each.
They offer similar quantities, but Apple's offering beats Android when it comes to the quality of apps. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of business orientated applications in the App Store with everything from word processors and spreadsheet managers to social media tools and PC remote controls.
Android still has a decent array of business focussed apps, but it's not as strong in this department as iOS.