NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to the gusher of recent small-biz smart mobile devices such as the Motorola (MOT) Droid Pro from Verizon (VZ) - Get Report, the HTC EVO Shift from Sprint (S) - Get Report and the BlackBerry (RIMM) Torch from AT&T (T) - Get Report, the law of unintended consequences is clearly in full effect.
Yes, interesting smartphones aimed at larger consumer markets, in particular the
Nexus S or the T-Mobile myTouch 4G, offer excellent features and value. The Google S has a way-slick curved screen and a crazy-fast operating system, and the myTouch is a dirt-cheap $99. But the market for the larger-business phones is getting so intense, and the features and pricing so specific, that unless you're careful -- I mean really careful -- you're going to wind up spending good money on a smartphone that just can't doesn't cut it on the small-business front line.
The T-Mobile myTouch and 4G Google Nexus S offer excellent features and value and may yet be the wrong choices for a small business.
Here is what you need to know to keep out of harm's way with your smartphone:
1. It's not the screen. It's what you do on the screen that counts.
Believe it: As recently as six months ago big, bright interactive displays were purchase decision drivers on smartphones, and now they're commodities. So while the Google Nexus S' curved, 4-inch Super Amoled screen is impressive, is it really any better than similar screens on the Samsung Galaxy or Droid X? Maybe by the slightest edge -- and an edge that won't last. Hot new phones such as the Droid Bionic, Samsung Infuse 4G and HTC ThunderBolt, all due in coming months, have simply fabulous displays that crush the current generation. So as glamorous as consumerish smartphones might be, the market is at a point where functionality of the interface -- the apps it supports, the features it has -- are what is critical to making money with your smartphone. How it looks really is secondary.
2. A feature is not a solution to a business problem.
By no means are Google and T-Mobile the only companies pushing solutions to business problems that don't exist. But both have loaded their phones with features that seem to do just that. In Google's case, it is a flat-out useless near-field communications chip. These e-commerce chips might eventually be cool, but from what I can tell, right now the thing just drains the battery. And in T-Mobile's case, its Qik video chat app somehow defeats video chat for businesses. In theory, the system should make face-to-face video meetings on T-Mobile's fast video network a real solution for firms. And for small groups of friends and family, the video chat was impressive. For business use it's a nonstarter. Why? It's not T-Mobile's fault, but not enough people have the functionality in their phones to actually use video in a business setting. So why bother?
3. It's about what works in your shop.
As fabulous as consumer-grade 4G networks and new ultra-powerful devices are, there are simply too many variables in these recently rolled-out networks to immediately rely on them for work. It is no secret 4G network deployments are limited to the top markets, and there are even more fundamental issues: While the modern smartphone is becoming a complex computer that can run multiple applications at once, not all of them get along. Business-oriented apps -- rich media tools, navigation systems and even basics such as word processors -- can impede each other. Unless you carefully manage your phone apps, meaning turning off what you're not using, performance can slow to the point where no matter what bells and whistles you put on these devices, they just don't function right for work.
The business of staying in business is about managing change. The cell phone you use is no exception.
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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.