I made these suggestions in response to a reporters’ inquiry on picking a mobile phone for small business:First and foremost for a small business is coverage. Even today, most providers in the U.S. offer shockingly poor coverage. Thus, small businesspeople should take advantage of the first-month-free trials that many providers offer and test the phones? coverage in the areas that the phones will actually be used. It doesn?t matter how cheap the service is, if the calls don?t connect it?s useless. Worse still, if you find calls from customers getting dropped or failing to connect your poor phone service can be what we call an ?enrager? in our book.
Once you have found a provider that offers decent coverage in your area, the next consideration will involve the price they are asking you to pay for the services you will actually use. Here is where a lot of small businesspeople make a huge mistake, in getting more features or options than they really need, pushed by the desire of the operators to generate revenue from more minutes. So if you think you will be calling mostly locally, why do you need a nationwide plan? If your calls will occur between specific times, why do you need free minutes at other points of time? Are you really going to use the fancy (and expensive) add ons that providers would like you to pay for?
Some specific options that are useful for a small business person include various push-to-talk plans (free between phones that are on the same providers? network), SMS and instant messaging, and in some cases on-the-go email to connect field staff. If you travel internationally, a tri-band phone that can work in other countries can be useful.
Blackberries and similar technologies can be a blessing and a curse ? consider carefully how much of your precious time you want to spend fiddling with the ?blackberry prayer? before signing up.
Of course, a question I would ask is whether as a small businessperson you need a traditional mobile phone at all ? increasingly, VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype, Vonage and Net2Phone are offering far cheaper alternatives. No small businessperson should overlook these services, at least to complement the conventional mobile phones when it is feasible to use them.
In fact, the line between traditional land-line phones and the VOIP networks are blurring, which leads to my final tip: Don?t just look at your mobile phone usage as a small businessperson, look at the whole communication package you need. It may well be that the most cost-effective solution is a combination of a VOIP network and a wireless handset connecting it.