How small and mobile can your office be? The laptop has replaced the desktop PC, but now the smartphone is outselling both of these devices – combined. So, can a smartphone replace your PC altogether? Investment Executive sought out some tools that could help to turn your smartphone into a stand-alone workstation that slips into your pocket.
What we found convinced us that you could survive on the road using just your smartphone – although you may need a few extra pockets. Here is our guide to your ultra-portable smartphone-based office – without a selfie stick in sight:
– The smartphone
Financial advisors on the go will need a smartphone that can do a passable impression of a computer and run, at the least, basic productivity applications. Microsoft Corp.’s Lumia 950 is the closest thing to having this capability; the device features the Windows 10 Continuum function. This new feature enables the smartphone to connect to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard through a $129 proprietary dock.
When connected, the Lumia 950 and its larger sibling, the Lumia 950XL, which has a larger screen, can provide Microsoft Office and browser functions on the external monitor. The downside? Canadian carriers don’t appear to be offering these devices, which means that you’ll have to purchase the unlocked versions directly from Microsoft Canada’s online store for the time being. The Lumia 950 sells for $749; the Lumia 950XL costs $849.
An alternative smartphone is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s Galaxy Note 5. Launched last year, the Galaxy Note 5 is a 5.7″ “phablet” that offers a sufficiently large screen for browsing, along with a built-in stylus for taking notes. The previous version has a slower processor, but can take a removable battery and an SD card for additional storage. Both devices are available on contract from some of Canada’s largest wireless carriers.
Should you buy the Galaxy Note and are feeling especially geeky, you can turn it into a fully functional Linux desktop using the Debian NoRoot app, available from the Google Play online store, which will let you install Linux-based applications.
– The keyboard
If you’re trying to be productive with a smartphone on the road, you’re going to need something more usable than the hunt-and-peck software-based keyboards found on most smartphones. These tools are slow and prone to errors.
A traditional Bluetooth keyboard will turn your pocket office into an unwieldy office-in-a-bag, but there is a solution: a foldable Bluetooth keyboard. The Jorno is a compact foldable Bluetooth keyboard that fits in your pocket at just 5.8″ x 3.5″ in size. This add-on folds out, butterfly-style, to 9.9″ wide and will give you 85 hours of typing on its rechargeable battery. Just don’t try to do all of the typing in one sitting.
The Jorno, which is available with a limited introductory offer for US$99 at www.jornostore.com, operates up to 32 feet away from your smartphone. However, you probably will want your smartphone right in front of you, which is why this Journo’s protective case doubles as a stand for your phone. This setup will turn your smartphone into the smallest workstation in existence, enabling you to hammer out Office documents at a push.
– The power
The dirty secret of the mobile electronics industry is that battery technology isn’t keeping up with the power-hungry smarts in the devices themselves. This lack of battery capacity is why your smartphone often will turn into a black mirror after a few hours of intensive mobile surfing and emailing. Until someone invents the air-powered smartphone, you’re going to need to take some extra juice along with you.
The Tulip Compact Power Bank packs a hefty punch for a backup battery that’s roughly the size of a Snickers candy bar. Power up this gadget using a USB charger and you’ll have enough power for at least a single smartphone charge while you’re on the road. This power pack holds 3,200mAh (milliampere hours) of power. Given that a Galaxy Note 5 has a 3,000mHa battery, using the Tulip should help you avoid being caught out of power while you’re on the move. The Tulip Compact Power Bank is available for US$16.95 at www.vinsic.com.
– The luggage
If you’re travelling further afield than usual but want even your luggage to be smartphone-friendly, consider the Bluesmart, available for US$399 at www.bluesmart.com. This feature-rich roll-on luggage comes with a 10,000mHa battery and its own USB ports for charging your laptop, tablet, smartphone or other device.
In addition, the Bluesmart’s Android and iOS applications track the bag’s location worldwide for you by using GPS and global cellphone networks, lest your luggage be lost in transit. The Bluesmart also will lock your carry-on and alert you if you move too far away from it. There’s even a built-in scale that will tell the accompanying smartphone app if your Bluesmart is over the weight limit. The app even holds your flight itinerary and lets you check your flight status.
– The projector
Sometimes, even a phablet’s sizable screen may not be enough while you’re on the road. Help is at hand, though, in the form of a smart projector. The Celluon PcioPro, available for US$349.99 at www.celluon.com, is a portable projector for iOS or Android devices. The PcioPro connects wirelessly to your smartphone and expands its display onto the nearest wall at a resolution of up to 1920 x 720. The projector will work with everything from your smartphone to your tablet, and even take an HDMI input from an equipped laptop.
– The storage
Smartphones still offer comparatively little storage compared with portable storage drives. Western Digital Technologies Inc.’s 2TB My Passport Wireless drive has its own built-in battery; and, at 3.4″ x 5″, the device can slip easily into a small bag. The portable hard drive acts as its own Wi-Fi server, which stores up to two terabytes of data, handles wireless devices from smartphones through to tablets and laptops. Up to eight devices can connect to the hard drive at once and its range stretches up to 30 metres.
The portable hard drive, available for $209.99 at Best Buy, will store your Office files, music and videos – although you’ll have to access them via a Western Digital-supplied mobile app that runs on either Android or iOS devices. This might be useful when you’re staying in a hotel overnight, as the device will stream any audio or video format that your smartphone supports natively. The device’s internal battery provides about five and half hours of operation.
CHOOSE THE BEST MOBILE CONNECTION
It’s not just the device in your pocket that dictates your mobile experience. The wireless carrier you use has a big impact in the quality of your data connection, in addition to calls and messaging. However, according to two independent reports, the top performers might not be what you think.
In November 2014 and March 2015, Westlake Village, Calif.-based J.D. Power and Associates surveyed 13,000 wireless customers in Canada who had used their cellphones within the previous 48 hours to see how their connections fared.
The study measured performance in three broad areas: calls, messaging and data. The research looked for problems, including calls that were dropped or failed to connect, audio issues, web/email connection errors and slow downloads. The J.D. Power 2015 Canadian Wireless Network Quality Study measured the responses in problems per 100 connections (PP100).
You might expect the Big Three Canadian carriers – Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility and Rogers Wireless – to outperform all other carriers across the board in terms of reliability, but that wasn’t the case. In the West, SaskTel, Saskatchewan’s regional incumbent, took the top spot for overall network quality with eight PP100. SaskTel’s service performed well in call, messaging and data quality, according to the J.D. Power report. In Quebec, Montreal-based Vidéotron GP ranked highest in overall network quality, scoring a respectable six PP100.
In addition, Vidéotron and SaskTel had the top average data download speeds in the country from Sept. 1, 2015, to Nov. 30, 2015, according to an analysis by London, U.K.-based OpenSignal, which uses an app to measure wireless download speeds.
Bell Mobility fared the best in speed among the incumbent national providers, averaging 19.9 mbps. Speeds from Canadian wireless companies are far above global averages, as the OpenSignal report notes. Nevertheless, the report adds that real speeds from the Big Three players fell far below their advertised speeds.
The Big Three weren’t entirely trounced in the reports, though. In Western Canada, Telus equalled the region’s average of nine PP100 in the J.D. Power report. Telus was the only firm other than SaskTel to match or exceed the regional average. In the East, both Bell and Telus met or exceeded the regional average, along with Vidéotron.
Ontario clearly is the most reliable market for the Big Three. Bell and Telus took joint first place in Canada’s most populous province, with nine PP100, while Rogers Wireless scored 10 PP100. Wind Mobile, which Shaw Communications Inc. is acquiring for $1.6 billion, lagged with 16 PP100.
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