Buy the right enterprise mobile devices for your workers
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Organizations planning to purchase enterprise mobile devices have hundreds of smartphones and tablets to choose from, all varying in size, features, capabilities and performance. Although buyers can benefit from having such a wide range of choices, the large number of devices can also make it difficult to know which ones are right for their circumstances.
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This article explores nine leading vendors that offer both smartphones and tablets and discusses some of the products they sell that are more suited to business workers.
Apple has driven mobile adoption in the workplace more than any other vendor. The company currently offers eight iPhone and four iPad devices.
Apple's latest smartphone is the iPhone X, which starts at $999. The phone offers an edge-to-edge screen with a 5.8-inch, Super Retina display that uses organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology to provide 2,436 x 1,125 resolution. Apple has also eliminated the home button and has replaced Touch ID with Face ID. The phone comes with the high-performing A11 bionic chipset, supports up to 256 GB of storage and includes an all-glass design that enables wireless charging.
One of the most popular iPad tablets is the largest iPad Pro, which offers a 12.9-inch Retina ProMotion display with 2,732 x 2,048 resolution. The ProMotion feature makes the screen more responsive to touch gestures, while providing support for the Apple Pencil -- which is not included. The iPad Pro starts at $799 and includes the 2.4 GHz A10X chip, 4 GB of RAM and up to 512 GB of storage, with a battery life averaging between 10 to 12 hours.
All Apple devices run the iOS operating system, which includes built-in mobile device management (MDM) capabilities, making it possible to use an enterprise mobility management platform to administer the devices. Apple also provides numerous other services to support small and large organizations, although their devices' high price tags might make them inaccessible to smaller businesses and startups.
Even so, Apple continues to push for a presence in organizations of all sizes, offering services such as the Device Enrollment Program and the Volume Purchasing Program, as well as programs for leasing and financing their products. In addition, the company provides support that specifically targets both public and private organizations, making Apple one of the most business-friendly mobile device vendors out there.
Asus offers over 30 Android smartphones and tablets, with most of the focus on the ZenFone and ZenPad product lines. Although half of Asus's mobile devices are smartphones, it's rare to see those phones recommended as enterprise mobile devices. However, that doesn't -- and shouldn't -- prevent buyers from considering Asus phones for their organizations -- or Asus tablets, for that matter, which are generally viewed as more business-friendly devices.
One phone that might be suitable for businesses is the new ZenFone AR, which lists for $599 and comes with a 5.7-inch OLED display. The screen uses super-active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) technology to deliver 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. The phone also includes triple rear cameras and is certified for both Google Tango -- an augmented reality computing platform -- and Google Daydream -- a virtual reality platform. In addition, the phone supports up to 8 GB of low-power Double Data Rate (LPDDR4) RAM and up to 128 GB of storage.
One of the tablets that Asus lists on its commercial site is the ZenPad 10 (M1000M), which comes with a 10.1-inch display; a quad-core, 1.3 GHz processor; 2 GB of memory; and 16 GB of storage. What makes this tablet and others in the M Series stand out is their support for the ASUS Device Admin for Mobile system, which includes the management APIs built into the M Series devices and a centralized control console that system administrators can use to manage those devices.
Asus does not list its prices for its M Series tablets, but does support a volume purchasing program. Organizations must contact the company directly for details. Asus also offers phone support for its commercial customers, although it's limited to weekday business hours.
Given that Google developed Android, it's no surprise that the company offers a few of its own Android devices under the Pixel brand.
The Pixel line currently includes only four smartphones and one tablet. One of Google's biggest advantages is that the devices are configured with pure Android, which means that there are no extra layers, skins or bloatware. The Pixel products also receive Android updates immediately, unlike devices that come from other vendors, which might have to wait months to get the latest Android builds, if at all.
One of the newest smartphones to come out of Google is the Pixel 2 XL. With a list price of $849, the phone offers 4 GB of RAM; up to 128 GB of storage; and a six-inch, always-on display. The phone also comes with the Active Edge squeeze feature, which lets users launch Google Assistant or ignore phone calls by quickly squeezing the device. In addition, the phone includes Google Lens, an object recognition tool that uses Google Assistant and machine learning to enable users to interact with their physical surroundings.
With extensive research into mobile devices, TechTarget editors focused this series of articles on vendors with considerable current market share that offer both smartphones and tablets available in the U.S. Our research included Gartner and TechTarget surveys.
The only tablet that Google has offered recently is the Pixel C, a basic device listed for $599. The tablet includes a 10.2-inch LCD display with 2,560 x 1,800 resolution. The tablet also comes with the NVIDIA Tegra X quad-core processor, 3 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64 GB of storage. However, the Google Store currently shows the Pixel C as out of stock.
According to a company spokesperson, Google is retiring the tablet. Whether a new one is on the horizon remains to be seen. The tablet is still available through resellers such as Amazon, and Google continues to update and support it. Even so, organizations will likely want to look to other vendors for their tablets, given Pixel C's uncertain future.
Despite Google's formidable global presence, the company does not handle business sales directly. Instead, organizations must go through Verizon. Google has an exclusive relationship with Verizon for managing Pixel devices, and Verizon offers business customers volume discounts and support. The only trick is that an organization must be willing to go with Verizon for its cellular service.
Although Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. offers over 40 Android smartphones and tablets, it can be tricky to determine which of those products are sold in a specific region, particularly in the U.S. market. Even so, Huawei has made significant inroads into the workplace and has established itself as a competitor in the enterprise mobile devices market.
One product that has garnered a fair amount of attention is the Mate 10 Pro. Although the phone is not yet available in the U.S., it will likely be released in the near future. The phone is already making a non-official appearance with some sellers, coming in at around $945. The Mate 10 Pro incudes a six-inch OLED display, the powerful Kirin 970 chip, 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, up to 64 GB of storage and a 5,100 mAh battery for extended usage.
Another strong contender for businesses is the MediaPad M3 tablet, which lists at around $287. The tablet comes with an 8.4-inch quad, high-definition, in-plane switching display; the Kirin 950 chip; and a slim, low-flex aluminum casing. Like the Mate 10 Pro, the tablet includes 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, up to 64 GB of storage and a 5,100 mAh battery.
Huawei does not provide list prices, but the company offers online resources for organizations to submit requests for pricing information and to search for resellers.
Huawei also provides dedicated product support for enterprise customers, although the list of products does not include mobile devices. In fact, Huawei is hesitant to provide information about its mobile devices for business use. Potential buyers should contact Huawei or one of its representatives directly to get more concrete information on enterprise mobile devices.
Lenovo is working to get its mobile devices in the hands of business users. The company offers resources for organizations of all sizes, although the focus seems to be more on smaller businesses. Lenovo lists over 40 Android smartphones, many of them under the Motorola brand, as well as 15 Android and Windows tablets.
One of Lenovo's most promising phones for business is the Motorola Moto Z2 Force. The phone is listed for $720 and includes a 5.5-inch shatterproof display, the Snapdragon 835 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage -- which is expandable to 2 TB with a microSD card. In addition, the phone comes with a dual-lens rear camera -- both 12 megapixels -- and supports Moto Mods, components that snap onto the back of Moto phones to extend their functionality. As a result of its thin design, the phone includes only a 2,730 mAh battery.
Lenovo is specifically targeting business users with its second-generation ThinkPad X1 tablet. Listed for $1,439, the tablet runs Windows 10 Pro, which means it comes with a built-in MDM client and can interface with the Windows management ecosystem.
The tablet also supports several processor options, the most powerful being the seventh-generation Intel Core vPro i7-7Y75. In addition, the tablet can include up to 16 GB of LPDDR3 RAM and up to 512 GB of storage. The tablet can also connect to external modules that extend its functionality.
In keeping with its business-centric focus, Lenovo offers a store, financial services and other resources for small businesses, the implication being that Lenovo wants to work with enterprises directly. Regardless of their size, businesses should contact Lenovo for product quotes and other details. Lenovo also provides dedicated support services for its business customers.
LG Electronics USA Inc. sends out a lot of mixed messages when it comes to using its mobile devices for business, and it can be difficult to know exactly what services they provide to their business customers. For example, unlike many Android device vendors, LG offers an enterprise products site that includes mobile devices, which in itself is a good thing, but the tablets are listed as discontinued products, leaving buyers uncertain about their future. Fortunately, the phone listings fare much better.
One of these phones is the V30, which comes with an $800 price tag. The phone offers a six-inch OLED FullVision display with 2,880 x 1,440 resolution and a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 screen to protect the display. The phone also comes with dual rear cameras and wireless charging. Plus, the phone includes the Snapdragon 835 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The V30+ provides 128 GB of storage.
Another business-sanctioned LG product is the G Pad X II tablet. Although the device shows up as discontinued, Amazon is still selling it for $230. The tablet includes a 10.1-inch display with 1,920 x 1,200 resolution. The tablet also comes with the Snapdragon 617 MSM8952 processor and a 6,000 mAh battery.
Because the future of the G Pad X II is so uncertain, LG loyalist might want to consider a different LG tablet, even though none of them are listed on the LG enterprise site.
When shopping for LG products, buyers should look for those that support LG's Guarded Access to Enterprise technologies, which provide MDM capabilities and security mechanisms, such as data encryption and VPNs.
LG also offers dedicated business support for its products, as well as advanced service plans. However, the company provides no clear path for purchasing its products in bulk. As with most vendors, the best approach is to contact LG directly for specific details.
Despite the company's uncertain mobile future, Microsoft continues to display its Lumia line of smartphones on its website, giving no indication of their future. The Lumia line includes 12 phones, with the Lumia 950 versions being the most current.
Despite the apparent availability of these phones, the Microsoft Store does not list any of them. In addition, the company has announced that it has no plans to invest further in smartphone hardware or in Windows 10 Mobile, leaving organizations with little incentive to purchase Microsoft phones or any phones running the Windows 10 OS.
Microsoft's Surface Pro is a separate matter altogether. One of the most powerful and flexible tablets available, the Surface Pro has a 12.3-inch display and runs the latest seventh-generation Intel Core processors, with options including the m3, i5 and i7 chips.
Users can also configure the tablet with up to 16 GB of RAM and up to 1 TB of storage. Because the Surface Pro runs Windows 10 Pro, the tablet includes the built-in MDM client, supports the latest Windows technologies and can be integrated into the Windows management ecosystem.
The Surface Pro starts at $799 and includes support for Windows Hello face authentication, promises a battery life of over 13 hours for video playback and can be used with the latest Surface Pen -- which is not included. Although the Surface Pro is now listed without a version number, it replaces the Surface Pro 4 as the next generation of the Microsoft tablet. Microsoft also offers a commercial edition of the tablet.
When it comes to the Surface Pro, Microsoft goes out of its way to accommodate businesses, regardless of the organization size or type. Buyers interested in purchasing enterprise mobile devices can call the Microsoft sales team, complete an online form, visit a Microsoft store or contact an authorized reseller.
The company offers special business pricing for large orders and supports monthly financing. Microsoft also provides its business customers with dedicated resources for finding information and getting support for Surface Pro devices.
Out of all the Android device vendors listed here, Samsung appears to be the most eager to support its business customers, rivaling both Apple and Microsoft with resources and information specific to implementing enterprise mobile devices in the workplace. As part of this campaign, Samsung lists its mobile devices on its enterprise site, along with other enterprise products, offering 12 business-sanctioned phones and 14 tablets, all part of the Galaxy line.
One of the most well-received of these phones is the Galaxy Note8, which is listed for $994 and comes in an enterprise edition. The phone offers a quad octa-core 2.35 GHz processor, a 6.3-inch display with 2,960 x 1,440 resolution, 6 GB of RAM and up to 256 GB of storage. The phone also supports the enterprise Firmware Over-the-Air system and the Samsung Knox security platform. In addition, Samsung delivers the phone's enterprise edition free from bloatware, something few other vendors can claim.
Another business-friendly device is the Galaxy Tab S3, an ultra-thin and ultra-light Android tablet that lists at $600. The device comes with a 9.7-inch super AMOLED display, a Qualcomm APQ 8096 quad-core processor, up to 32 GB of RAM and up to 256 GB of storage.
The tablet also includes the Samsung S Pen, supports the Pogo keyboard -- which is not included -- and enables users to work between their tablets and their Samsung phones. Like the Galaxy Note8, the Galaxy Tab S3 is integrated with the Knox security platform.
Samsung provides business customers with dedicated support for its smartphones and tablets, with no distinction for an organization's size. As part of this support, Samsung provides a resource center with information specific to products and industries. Organizations interested in purchasing Samsung devices in bulk should contact the Samsung sales team directly by phone, email or the online form.
Sony sells over 20 Android smartphones and tablets, all part of the Xperia line. Sony also offers resources to support its business customers. However, those resources treat all the Xperia devices as consumer products, without distinguishing which ones might be geared toward the workplace. Even so, the company appears committed to supporting its business customers, regardless of the organization's size.
Despite the lack of product distinction, one device that is gaining ground in the workplace is the Xperia XZ Premium phonr, listed for $630. The phone provides a 5.5-inch 4K HDR display -- an industry first -- and supports 4K video recording. In addition, the phone comes with the Snapdragon 835 processor, a 3,230 mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, expandable to 256 GB with a microSD card. Plus, the phone supports Bluetooth 5 and is currently one of the few Android devices outside of Google to ship with Android 8.0 Oreo.
Sony also offers the Xperia Z4, a thin and lightweight tablet that provides a 10.1-inch display with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. The tablet also comes with the Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, expandable to 128 GB with a microSD card. In addition, the tablet supports basic Android features, such as split screen and app standby, with extra Sony-added features. The tablet also comes loaded with Microsoft Skype, OneDrive and Office for Android.
Sony offers a number of resources specific to managing smartphones and tablets in the workplace, including information about security, device management and Xperia Configurator. However, Sony does not appear to offer dedicated product support for its business customers.
In fact, Sony seems to be yet another vendor that is hesitant to sell its mobile devices for business use. The company fails to provide any clear details about how organizations should approach buying their products, other than to point to resellers such as Amazon or Best Buy.