As we prepare our Christmas lists this year, it is inevitable that cellular phones will be at the top of many lists. Now more than ever, consumers and business customers alike are looking at everything from SMART Phones (or as some still prefer to call them, PDA’s – Personal Data Assistants) to Navigational and Music Oriented cellular devices. There are more choices than ever before, and in order to give you an unbiased opinion, I have to take my hat off as wireless business owner and put on my other hats as husband, dad, son and employer.
As a dad and husband who has been involved in wireless communications for the last 20 years, I decided on simplicity and responsibility when providing cellular communications for my teen. When it comes to my 15-year-old, I have tried to look at cellular phones as a tool that will promote fiscal responsibility on his part. Now I know this is not too popular for the kids that may read this article and actually understand what fiscal means, however, prepaid cellular plans are effective for teens when the parent wishes for the kid to be responsible for the time they use. These plans do not require a contract, so if Mom and Dad believe it necessary, they can restrict usage without having to continue the monthly fee.
Family plans also are cost effective and available from just about every carrier out there. These are great for the entire family or just to add a spouse. Family and prepaid plans also work well for some users that do not use cellular much or who are just getting started. Many retirees and senior citizens do not want to be tied down to a long-term contract, and pre-paid plans are available everywhere, including Wal-Mart.
Here is another suggestion. Before you look on the Internet for the best bargain, I would recommend a different strategy: Ask a friend or co-worker about their cellular service and if they have any recommendations. Experience is the best teacher. A good referral from a trusted source will make shopping a much easier experience this Christmas season (especially for you guys who hate it as much as I do).
As an employer, I would have to say that in today’s business environment choosing the right carrier is not as simple as just picking the lowest rate plan. With today’s offerings too much becomes a burden and a distraction for your workers, and too little is a waste of whatever dollars you are paying for the lost potential return you could have gotten.
Many companies are turning to Smart Phones for business, and they are using the devices to better manage their existing resources. With the ability to have mobile e-mail, route work tickets, display maps for service calls and navigation, track workers, etc., businesses now more than ever have to pick the carrier and service that best represent their current and future business needs
From a hardware perspective, my experience has been that the Blackberry devices, which work on all carriers’ systems, work best for mid-level to semi-executive level positions. The main reason for this is that hardware costs are more reasonable and the functionality is better suited for active work environments where one-to-one and one-to-many communications are a necessity.
PDA’s, such as the Treo and the Motorola Q, have more software-driven applications and they are priced higher, and therefore may be suited for a more executive-level job function. You may think it is odd that I have not mentioned devices like the Chocolate Phone or iPhone. It is not because I do not admire these phones and the carriers who provide them. However, I am a pragmatist. These phones are for those with lots of money to play with, and for those early technology adopters. If that is you, then have fun, but don’t expect to get a lot of work done!
The key in choosing the correct carrier and plan is, again, experience. The best results often come from referrals within your own industry. Asking non-competitive companies in your own industry what they have done with communications is a good yardstick. Looking at an existing vendor relationship that has done a good and trustworthy job for you in the past is obviously a great idea, too. Many times, as business owners, we get so caught up in trying to save a buck that we miss out on good consultative recommendations and solutions that could help our businesses prosper and save now and later, for much more than bargain basement shopping appeared to provide at the onset.
In closing, whether shopping for a Christmas gift or choosing the best tool for your business, experience is the key. Get an opinion from a trusted vendor relationship, a friend or business associate.
Marty V. Cayton is president/owner of Amerizon Wireless with locations in Fayetteville and Winston-Salem. Amerizon Wireless is a 2007 Motorola Motostar Recipient and an exclusive sales and service center for Sprint/Nextel.