Phoning it in Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2009

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of business being done out of the office.

I’m not talking about lunch meetings, golf outings or mixers. I’m talking about the little device that’s most likely attached to your waist that you couldn’t possibly live without. It allows you to leave the office without leaving your business behind. E-mails find you no matter where you are, stock prices stream directly to you, and people can call you when something big happens. And the gizmos are also pretty good at helping you kill time at the airport.

The problem is that the technology is advancing so fast that it’s hard to keep up with what phone is best for your needs. Maybe you find the phone you need, but will the network it’s on give you the coverage to keep you from being out of touch with your business?

There are a lot of questions to sort through to find the right device. For instance, up until a few years ago, BlackBerry was the business standard. But it won’t integrate with every business’s network, which can be an inconvenience. The iPhone has come on strong, but is it a consumer device with spotty coverage or a can’t-live-without-it handset with no problems? Depends on who you ask. What about the other phones that are out there? Would they be a better choice for what you use it for? Droid is generating a lot of buzz; would it be the best choice?

For all of these questions, if you query 10 different people, you’ll get 10 different answers, and they’ll each point to a “must have” function that only comes on one phone or another. And if you wait 10 minutes, the technology will change again.

I just got used to my old phone, but now it’s outdated. Navigating through this technology maze to find a new phone takes time and effort, and there are no clear answers. Some people simply give up and use two phones because they can’t find one that has all of the features and coverage that they need. The industry is advancing so quickly that it’s almost impossible to catch up. By the time you find what you like, the next great thing has arrived on the shelves, and everyone has moved on.

But if you want to be efficient and have the convenience of being in touch with the office no matter where you are, you are going to have to take the time to do a little research to find the phone that best fits your needs.

Look at all the features available and prioritize what’s important to you. For me, I focus on the basic function of the phone — making phone calls. I don’t want to miss an important call while I’m out of the office. But be wary, because the best “business” phone with its multitude of features may not necessarily be the best phone for making and receiving phone calls.

Go to a store and try out anything you are considering. Some of the phones have buttons and keyboards that look like they were designed for elves instead of humans. If every time you try to dial you are hitting four different numbers simultaneously, is this really helping your efficiency? Touch screens are cool, but are you comfortable using one?

The key is to narrow down your choices with some basic research, then go out and give your finalists a test drive before committing to one. While it might be difficult to figure out which phone, which network and which applications are for you, in the end, it’s all about staying in touch in a way that works for you.

But no matter what direction you decide to go, don’t forget the most important feature of all: Can you make a phone call on it?