The Best Business Smartphone Available (Today)

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, then you have some affinity to technology and that you’re in the business of technology (whether directly, or using technology to do your job – and I don’t mean having a computer on your desk at work). This is a pretty tech-savvy crowd around these parts so I’m guessing that most of you own a smartphone of some sort. Many have iPhones. Perhaps as many have BlackBerrys. A few of you are sad, sad people who own Treos.

A swath of new smartphones have just hit the market and, though I don’t claim to be a gadget or phone blogger (Really, you need to go read Boy Genius and Gizmodo for a far more geeky and informative analysis of all the various devices that hit the market), I do know that I’m a businessman and entrepreneur. I know that, from my perspective, there are key principles and requirements in any phone.

In order for a businessperson or entrepreneur to invest in a phone (again, from my perspective), there needs to be a few key things.

  1. Email – Clearly the killer app forever now, any phone must support email. As part of this, there needs to be a wireless sync/push feature.
  2. Productivity – Any smartphone needs to be able to open files from major vendors – Word, Excel, PDFs, Images, etc.
  3. Competent mobile browser – As mobile professionals, we need the web more than the average home user. We need access to sites that are not inherently broken because they appear on the mobile device.
  4. Reliable network – This is not a plug for Verizon because several U.S. and international carriers can be considered “reliable”. Whatever the network that the phone is on, it needs to be reliable.
  5. Third Party Applications – How easy is it to add apps that you need to your phone? Are there quality apps available or not?
  6. Copy and Paste – One of those “Duh” features that is essential.

You may notice some notable omissions from this list that emphasize the angle of business utility. For instance, cameras, WiFi and GPS are all nice but unnecessary for business. Touch screens, such as the one that comes with the iPhone or BlackBerry Storm are also nice additions, but not required for business utility.

In my mind, there are three phones on the market that are worth considering for business use. I have my preference on which one is best, but businesses all have to decide what their needs are and, if they are practical, choose among one of these three devices.

Apple iPhone 3G S

apple-iphone-3gThe third generation iPhone just hit the market on June 19th. It boasts all of the features of the iPhone 3G plus a quicker OS and a better camera. Most of the new features of the iPhone are available via an OS 3.0 upgrade available for free for older iPhone owners. With the new iPhone, you can tether your iPhone for broadband access on your laptop (except AT&T customers in the US), and an all important Remote Wipe capability that will allow network administrators to remove sensitive data in case the phone is lost or stolen. Cost: $199 with new two year contract from AT&T (US)


  • Huge number of third party apps including many business apps via the iTunes App Store
  • Remote Wipe
  • Intuitive touch screen
  • WiFi or 3G connectivity


  • AT&T as the carrier in the United States has been hugely unreliable delivering even basic services like voice mail
  • Exorbitant data plan fees
  • Large glass screen lends itself to breakage
  • Insecure Microsoft Exchange integration
  • Inability to multi-task applications

Palm Pre

palm-prePalm used to be the dominant manufacturer of handheld devices. With the rising popularity of BlackBerrys and iPhones, Palm has slipped tremendously. They recently, however, came to market with a very sleek phone that has an open development structure with their WebOS. Unlike the iPhone, the Pre does a very good job of multitasking and with it’s touch screen, switching between open applications is a smooth process. Also unlike the iPhone, the Pre provides a physical keyboard that, while somewhat awkward to use, should appease users who like the tactile feel of actual keys. Cost: $199 with new two year contract from Sprint.


  • Small form factor
  • Sprint has a very good data network
  • Bright HVGA screen (touch screen)
  • Email and integration with Microsoft Exchange
  • WiFi or 3G connectivity
  • Classic Konami Nintendo game Contra code to unlock developer mode. Geek Props.


  • Screen is much smaller than the iPhone
  • Awkward slide out keyboard with tiny keys makes typing difficult
  • Third party application availability is limited at this time
  • No Remote Wipe, a security requirement that might prevent large scale adoption in enterprise

BlackBerry Tour 9630

blackberry-tour-96301For BlackBerry afficionados, the new BlackBerry Tour (available for both Sprint and Verizon Wireless) is a beautiful phone. It has the brilliant screen (if slightly smaller version) as the BlackBerry Bold from AT&T and the form factor and keyboard styling of the new BlackBerry Curve 8350i (from Sprint). It has all the Enterprise integration that BlackBerry has been known for including remote wipe and Exchange integration (via Blackberry Enterprise Server for Exchange). Cost: $199 with new two year contract on Sprint or Verizon Wireless


  • Familiar usability for BlackBerry users
  • OS 4.7, which includes a usable browser (departure from the norm)
  • Multi-tasking applications


  • No touch screen
  • Awkward position of MicroUSB slot makes it difficult for right handed users to use the device while it is plugged in
  • Still no competent native Mac support, though this is supposedly coming soon.

At the end of the day, each organization needs to determine what is best for them. iPhones are fantastic devices for custom applications and is being used in the military, enterprise and government alike. They are not the most secure devices though and, for now, require AT&T in the U.S. The Palm Pre offers a significant value for businesses, but lacks Enterprise features such as remote wipe. It is also the first generation model of this phone. The BlackBerry is the most utilitarian phone and remains popular for businesses but its lack of a touch screen, the likes of which Apple has made us expect and long for, makes it “meh” for some users.

Whatever works for you.

Mobile Apps – Gold in Them There Hills?

For those of us waiting outside the Finnish Embassy earlier this week to get in for Mobile Monday (a.k.a. dcMOMO)””all that was missing was the velvet rope. “œOkay, we’re only going to let 20 more people in””to the rest of you, we’re sorry.” Me lucky.

Geez. You’d think it was a not new club. Well, to some, it is. Many attendants were prospectors with apps in their back pocket . . . and the prospect of generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in download revenue for an iPhone app is just too exciting to pass up. Forget Facebook and MySpace apps. This is real cheese.

Cheesy Good 2.jpg

Cheese indeed. Everyone knows the story of iFart, and no doubt many were there Monday night to hear Ken Burge (president of InfoMedia, creator of said gaseous phenom) tell his story. Download revenue to date: $490,000. Yet Burge’s electronic alter-ego (he attended from Colorado via Skype) actually let some, er, wind out of the sails: “œThe days of throwing something into the AppStore and getting traction””if they ever existed””are over.” Even with iFart, he acknowledged, they shilled for Mashable and TechCrunch. “œPlan your costs based on a 50/50 mix of development and marketing.”

Ouch. Them windows of opportunity just seem to get smaller and smaller, don’t they? And what with development costs running a minimum of $10k to $20k per native app (according to panel moderator Viq Hussain, recently of Intridea, now launching his own media marketing effort at Kongruent), mobile launches start to get a little daunting. Panelist Isaac Mosquera of PointAbout, a DC firm that mobilizes sites, said it’s going to be a lot more, “œbecause your first version is probably not going to be successful.” Multiple platforms, too. And don’t forget the server component. As Burge pointed out, you not only going to want to know who downloaded the app, but analyze and capitalize on all that valuable data.

Okay””enough of that negativism . . . let’s put on the pink glasses.

According to another dcMOMO panelist, Jason Siegel of Qorvis Communications (they built WashPost’s popular Going Out Guide for the iPhone””get it, it’s free), revenue from mobile platforms is destined to explode. “œMobile ad revenue will grow 36% to $200M in 2009, and by 2011 it will double to $400M.” Okay, peanuts compared to the billions in TV and online . . . but that’s a helluva ramp. Siegel is psyched because he’s seeing first-hand the movement of traditional advertising to the third screen””Qorvis is currently developing apps for, among others, AAMCO (the transmission folks).

Beep, beep . . . ring a bell? If it doesn’t, then you’re likely among the Millenials, who only register a 10% to 20% recall rate on the brand””vs. 90% for Boomers. Which is why all the panelists admonished “œChoose your platform . . . wisely.” Blackberry, not iPhone, might be the place to start. (To some, the iPhone is still not a business phone.)

Still, it’s hard not to get excited about the potential for mobile apps. First of all, the platform is . . . mobile. You got it with you, right? So geolocation has a lot of buzz. Qorvis has partnered with PointAbout to do the kind of cool stuff you’d expect from a computer that knows where you are. “œStep right into this Mall, son””and I’ll give you half off your second entrée at your favorite restaurant.” (And we know which is your favorite). Personal couponing, Siegel called it. Sweet. (Still, he creeped folks out a bit talking up Bluecasting“”drive by, and your [mandatory] Bluetooth headset chirps “œC’mon in, Ray . . . $10 off on an oil change for your Lexus today!”

Shades of Minority Report. Good afternoon, Mr. Takagawa . . .

Anyway, the future is bright through these glasses. Panelist Samuli Hanninen, the Director and Head of Ovi Product Marketing at Nokia (hey, it was the Finnish embassy, who’d you expect””Motorola?) got the geeks worked up a bit with visions of phones (sorry, mobile devices) supporting web runtime, and yes””Flash. “œWe currently have 300 million phones in the market that support Flash,” he noted, “œand we’re working closely with Adobe to do more.” (Stick that in your pipe, Steve.)

The iPhone AppStore has generated in the range of $100M in revenue, according to InfoMedia’s Ken Burge. (Lightspeed Ventures’ Jeremy Liew has an interesting take on Apple’s take here.) Not huge, but then it’s really a driver of hardware sales.

Burge and others expect Android to eventually eclipse the iPhone (Google was to be represented on the panel, but got waylaid in travel).

All in all, a great evening, upbeat discussion””and extremely well moderated by Hussain.

Here are some salient bullets, in my view. (For another view, see the Top 10 Tweets)

  • Stretch your dev dollars by developing in-house, and incentivize your stars by offering a revenue share.””KB
  • Cloud computing will play more and more into the architecture, taking over processing and storage once bandwidth (4G?) is sufficient, rendering mobile devices little more than thin clients.
  • Make sure your mobile app has “˜share’ functionality””help spread it, duh.
  • Try to figure out ways to be paid when your audience makes use of your content, as in couponing. “œBake revenue into your content.”””JS
  • Stay focused on the business model.””KB
  • Make sure you have the right people on your team. “œGreat thinkers, yes . . . but also flexible, and with a sense of humor.”””KB
  • Context is key. “œRemember to keep it personal.”””SH
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. “œCreate several apps””if one takes off, your others can feed off its success.”””KB
  • Be ever mindful of privacy issues. “œIt has to be good for the consumer.”””SH
  • And stick with it. “Stay stubborn.”””SH

Not motivated enough? Check out Entrepreneur magazine’s roundup of iPhone moneymakers.

It's a Read/Write/Execute Web and We Just Live In It

I hesitate to put any kind of definition around the versioning of the web. The fact that the internet world has to quantify the differences between the so-called Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is silly at best. However, there is no doubt that there is a vast degree of difference between the web that was known in, say, 1999 and the web that we know of in 2009.

Objectively speaking, the first generation of the internet was based around a premise of “Read only”. It, of course, was not termed that, but the technology did not exist to support anything else. People used the internet to read the news, find weather forecasts and catch up on sports scores. Blogs didn’t exist. Facebook and Twitter were but thoughts in their founders minds, and likely thoughts that did not even exist yet. Who knew that a time would come when the most interactive thing on the web would not be shopping and ecommerce?

Somewhere in the middle of this decade, the web took on a more interactive approach. Tim O’Reilly began calling it Web 2.0 to note the clear cut difference between a “read only” web and a “read/write” web. Social networks and blogs gave users of the internet a chance to participate in the creation of it, by generating content. Eventually, content generation transformed from the written word to video, podcasts and microcontent.

On the cusp of a next generation to the web, there is a movement toward meta-data, that is granular information to help discoverability on the web. APIs allow developers to take content from, say, YouTube or Twitter, and repurpose that into something usable in other forms by humans, applications and mobile devices. It is, in essence, a “read/write/execute” version of the web and we are already beginning to see this.

Ari Herzog, a longtime reader of this blog as well as a longtime opponent of mine, wrote a post declaring Europe’s Government 2.0ish aspect of their EU site a win over the United States. See his post for his rationale.

He certainly makes a good point with his premise after the jump:
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Own Your Travel Itinerary with TripIt

In October 2006, a new service appeared on the web that promised to make it easy to manage all the fine travel details of a trip. As a frequent traveler, I signed up for TripIt in November of 2006, shortly after they launched, and have never looked back.

The concept is really simple. A traveler is headed to Austin, Texas (as I will be for SXSW Interactive in a few weeks). He books his flight on Southwest airlines and gets an email confirmation with ticket reservation, itinerary, etc. Sight unseen, he forwards this email to and moves on to reserving his rental car and hotel.

On the backend, TripIt recieves the forwarded confirmation email and knows exactly how to read it into their master database. The email can even be forwarded from an unregistered email address which you can claim later.

The beautiful next step is the organizing of all this information. TripIt sorts your travel plans out into “Trips” and will give you everything in chronological order. This traveler going to SXSW, for instance, has a chronological listing that shows his departing flight, his rental car pickup, his hotel information and his return flight. As a bonus, Tripit gives him a Google Map of the area you’re staying on.


Now, I don’t like just plugging services for the sake of plugging services. You can go to Mashable if you want to be filled with nonsense. However, TripIt actually is a useful web product, but more than that, it’s a useful mobile product. If you have a smartphone (Blackberry, Treo, iPhone, etc) then TripIt becomes infinitely more useful.

For mobile users, you can access all of your itineraries by browsing to, something that has become the defacto reference point for all of my travelling and checking in. It literally, if you’re a smartphone user, eliminates the need for a stack of trifolded paper printouts from 6 different reservations.

If you really want to own your travel itinerary and you own an iPhone, consider buying the “TravelTracker – with Tripit” iPhone app. While everything about TripIt is completely free, this app costs $19.99.