Smartphones aren't just getting larger, they're also packing new technologies designed to change the way you do business and deal with your customers.
The clever use of mobile technologies can help small businesses get a competitive edge, so it pays to keep your finger on the pulse. There's a lot more to business mobility than the race to the screen size sweet spot: there are new ways for handheld gadgets to interact with the world around them, along with new smartphone players looking to make a splash.
New ways to interact
Near field communication (NFC) has all kinds of uses on Android and Windows Phone devices.While many transport and logistics businesses already use NFC chips and scanners to track parcels and inventory, small businesses in other areas are underutilising the technology. As an example, businesses could benefit from quickly configuring workers smartphones by waving them over NFC stickers. One swipe can turn features phone on or off and change handset settings to suit the current environment – such as sitting at your desk, heading into a meeting or getting behind the wheel.
NFC also offers the potential to interact with customers in a retail environment through their smartphones.Based on the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard, beacons can act as a form of indoor GPS, guiding customers around a store with pinpoint accuracy and sending them notifications such as discount offers and in-store events. Google is also reportedly working on a BLE-compatible system in conjunction with US mobile payments service Square, supporting in-store notifications and mobile payments.
New kids on the block
Smartphone makers aren't just thinking of new ways for the devices to interact with the world, in the long-term they're also working to redefine the fundamental building blocks of the handsets themselves.Google's Project Ara is developing modular Android smartphones with components, which click together like Lego. You can handpick the screen, wireless card, camera and other features to build the perfect handset for your needs.
The modular design makes it cheaper and easier to upgrade your smartphone over time, which is obviously attractive to small businesses on a tight technology budget. You can also swap out specific components as you walk out the door each morning, depending on which smartphone features you'll need that day.Project Ara is just reaching the pilot stage (you won't find these modular handsets on Australian shelves this year) but you can be sure the mix-and-match modular concept won't go unnoticed by other handset makers.
The idea of customisable hardware is food for thought when deciding which are the must-have features on business phones.Along with new hardware, handset makers are also looking beyond the usual suspects for new smartphone operating systems. Linux is popular in server rooms but hasn't made much headway on business desktop computers. Now it's eyeing off smartphones via new platforms like Ubuntu Phone.Also known as Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu Phone is a spin off of the Ubuntu Linux desktop environment. We're starting to see smartphones with Ubuntu Phone installed out of the box like the BQ Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition. It's still early days but Ubuntu Phone could one day be jostling for position with the current smartphone giants.