Figure out which mobile technology fits best with your department by weighing these three factors:
- Portability vs. needs: Narrow down your list by evaluating your current use of technology. If you use heavy-duty software like AutoCAD, there’s no question that it should be handled by a traditional PC. However, if you need a portable device for field tasks and can do without as much storage space, a tablet or smartphone might meet your needs.
- Specific tasks: By its very nature, a tablet offers much more screen space than a smartphone. You can even pair tablets with detachable external keyboards and mice that have equally condensed footprints. That’s why it can support “heavy communication and information,” Campbell says, though it lacks the capability for the real heavy lifting on a project.
- Size: Tablets do not share a universal screen size, and choosing the right one requires a careful examination of exactly what functions you need the device to fulfill. For example, a smartphone is absolutely sufficient for email, task management, and data conversion – there are even apps that use the iPhone’s internal orientation sensors to mimic a bubble level.
However, some functions simply don’t translate well to a phone-sized screen – tasks like complex database management need a bigger screen, such as the 10-inch screen commonly offered by tablet manufacturers.
The smaller 7-inch screen on the newest tablet, the iPad Mini, is bigger than a smartphone but significantly smaller than the full-size iPad, so it may not fit every business process you’d want a tablet for.
“Not all products are created equal. Some may prefer a smartphone, as it’s compact and easy to use on the fly, while others prefer a tablet due to its size and seemingly endless functionality,” Garrett notes. “In reality, a smartphone and tablet are universal in that you can accomplish most tasks with both devices. When looking for the perfect middle ground between a mobile device and a computer, I would select a tablet – it’s the perfect go-between when you consider its overall capabilities.”
Whatever function you need in the field, there’s an app for that – or, more accurately, five or more apps for that. In fact, Apple’s App Store alone boasts over 500,000 apps for the iPad and iPhone, and apps compatible with Google’s Android operating system are similarly prevalent.
For example, a simple search for HVAC turns up inspection checklists, conversion and calculation formulas, and more.
It seems daunting to narrow down which specific app best performs any given business task, but there are a few resources that can make the choice easier. The internet is flush with user reviews for many of them. You can also download apps like App Advice, Apps Gone Free, or AppStart that spotlight reviews from subject matter experts who evaluate apps for basic functionality and value, Garrett notes.
“Creating the right marriage of apps is critical,” Garrett says. “Selecting apps that produce the best ROI can be daunting considering the amount of time required to properly research quality apps prior to purchase – unless, of course, you don’t mind wasting lots of money on apps that don’t deliver as promised.”
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.