Buyer's Guide: smartphones for business

Want to work on the move but don't want to lug a laptop? You'll need a smartphone of some kind that lets you do email, open business documents and browse the web, among other things. Here are ten recent contenders.

Smartphones have come a long way in the last few years, and it's now feasible to consider going on a business trip leaving your notebook PC behind, trusting in the functionality of your mobile phone or phone-equipped handheld. That can mean a significant difference in technology travel weight — under 500g for a mobile and its charger, compared to 2-3kg for a notebook and its associated paraphernalia.

The device you choose depends, as ever, on precisely what you want to do with it. But most business travellers will have a minimum set of requirements, which we suggest will include the following: access to email (preferably 'push' email from the company mail server); the ability to open (and preferably edit) business files such as word processor documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs; and a web browser (preferably with VPN access to the company network).

Increasingly, IT departments (if not always users themselves) will be looking for the ability to manage mobile phones and handhelds in the field so that they can be provisioned with software updates, made secure and if necessary wiped clean should they fall into the wrong hands.

Users, or their IT managers, need to consider whether their usage is primarily voice-centric or data-centric. That will determine the kind of form factor required. Luckily there's a wide choice available, ranging from conventional-looking phones to BlackBerry-like devices with QWERTY keyboards, to hybrids with slide-out keyboards. Search around and you should find something with ergomonics that suit you.

Then there's connectivity, which will primarily depend on the amount of data you need to shift around. If you're a heavy data user, you're looking at 3G/HSDPA with perhaps a side order of Wi-Fi (which will also be required to take advantage of fixed-mobile convergence); if you just want to check email occasionally, GPRS will probably do.

Check out the range of devices listed below, and use the compare feature to examine their features side by side. And keep looking at the Reviews channel for evaluations of the very latest mobile devices — including Apple's iPhone, which launches (in the US) on 29 June.