NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- 'Tis the season for ... small-business smartphones?
I couldn't have imagined, even last year, that the combined smartphone might of Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL), Motorola (MOT), Verizon (VZ), Samsung, AT&T (T) and Microsoft (MSFT) would flood the market with so many business-savvy communications tools. But the competition for the smartphone dollar has become so fierce that some excellent devices are not getting the media love they deserve. Sure, these tools may not be true uber-devices like the iPhone 4 or HTC EVO. But they offer small-business users real value, plus many features the better-hyped phones don't have, such as full keyboards, customizable business tools and no cell phone company contracts.
Here are my picks for some of the under-covered best business phones:
Dell Venue Pro Windows 7 Smartphone ($100, with contract and rebate)
Michael Dell might have finally figured out the smartphone thing. The Venue Pro, currently in pre-order at Dell.com, is showing some real smartphone hustle. The unit sports a business-ready 1Ghz processor and a high-resolution, 4.1-inch, touch-enabled screen. And assuming you don't have monster fingers, it has just enough of a keyboard to do some real business typing. I found Dell's order-direct model a revelation that let me spec my phone exactly how I wanted it. And I have been generally impressed with the included Office Mobile as software that gets real work done. Sure, full testing awaits for this device, and Dell has a lackluster -- read: no -- track record in smartphones. But at first blush, the Venue looks to be a business communications success story waiting to happen.
To find yet another source of Research in Motion's (RIMM) woes, look no further than the BlackBerry killer Motorola Droid Pro. This phone tends to get overshadowed by such truly legendary Motorola devices as the Droid X or the Droid 2, but the Droid Pro is darn handy for business types. It has a 3.1-inch, touch-enabled screen that is just big enough to use real apps, along with a decent-sized full qwerty keyboard. And the phone integrates nicely with the latest version of Android. In fact, it is hard to find a business task this phone can't handle. BlackBerry and Apple purists will sniff distastefully at the relatively small screen and keyboard, and this thing isn't cheap -- it's $180 in an age $99 buys a lot of phone -- but for business use, you should see that the Pro is a pro. One warning: The Pro may produce snafus -- many Droids do -- when interfacing with larger corporate mail networks: You may not get "pushed" email without manually updating your inbox during a sync. For the average small firm using basic email services, the phone can provide robust results. Samsung T369 ($70, with no plan or rebate)
This was the year I saw the pay-as-you-go light for mobile business telephony. No contracts, no need to get in your employees' business. You just get some phones, pay for minutes as your employees need them and your team is connected. Handset makers are also joining the fray by offering solid, low-cost, business-savvy prepaid phones. I like what Samsung is doing with its basic T369: For $70 you get a surprisingly powerful text, video and messaging device. Expect none of the fancy features you would get from an iPhone, but none of the hassles or high cost, either. If you just want to stay in touch with your people, but not go nuts with business apps, the T369 is the way to go. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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