These smartphones are the business

The BlackBerry Classic aims to be a no-nonsense smartphone built to meet the needs of productive people. (Supplied)

The BlackBerry Classic aims to be a no-nonsense smartphone built to meet the needs of productive people. (Supplied)

The corporate technology revolution that carries the label “bring your own device” (BYOD) means individuals in many organisations now choose what phone or computer they bring to work, rather than having a standard imposed by company policy.

But that doesn’t mean the end of phones geared towards the enterprise. Quite the opposite: BYOD has resulted in a network nightmare for many organisations, and even a backlash, as companies seek to regain control.

It helps, however, if the phones they want to mandate for company use make sense to both the company and the employee.

Two phones released in South Africa in the past week promise to do just that.

BlackBerry Classic
The new BlackBerry Classic harks back to the once wildly popular Bold, boasting a QWERTY keyboard combined with a more generous and interactive display than the old Bold could ever offer. It also brings back the trackpad, which, along with the keyboard, set BlackBerry apart. The return to these near-retro features gave the device the “Classic” label.

The company describes is as a “no-nonsense smartphone built to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard”.

The other big benefit is a 22-hour battery life, building on the battery management that puts BlackBerry ahead of most of the pack, along with Sony and Huawei. Long life is helped by a smaller touch screen – only 3.5-inches – but which offers excellent HD resolution at 294dpi. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 means less scratching and potentially more durability.    The phone offers the usual BlackBerry World app store, as well as Android apps through the Amazon Appstore. The BlackBerry 10 web browser is claimed to be among the top mobile browsers for “web fidelity”, i.e. online content appearing as it was intended. Notifications and messages can be brought to a tablet or computer via BlackBerry Blend, underlining its productivity credentials for the workplace.

Answer to Siri
The BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and supported by two gigabytes RAM and 16GB of device storage, expandable by up to 128GB. A two-megapixel front camera and 8MP rear upgraded imaging sensors.

Finally, it offers an answer to Siri and S-Voice with BlackBerry Assistant, a digital assistant and can be used with voice and text commands to manage email, contacts, and calendar, among other native BlackBerry 10 applications. Most significantly, the feature responds to different contexts, such as responding silently if one types and speaking back if one speaks.

Individually, any one of these features is available elsewhere. As a package, it is a compelling executive option. The price tag of R6 000 upward means it is not aimed at the younger generation that made the Curve one of the most popular phones in Africa.

That could well turn out to be a target market for another phone aimed squarely at the enterprise. 

Proline SP4
The Proline SP4 is the first Windows phone to be branded by a South African computer manufacturer, namely Pinnacle Africa. The Proline range of PCs, notebooks and TVs are well-known across the continent, with 15 000 units rolling off the assembly line every month.

Pinnacle’s decision to emblazon the same brand on a phone had less to do with market share than with a need it encountered among its corporate clients.

“You won’t find it in stores,” says Max Stone, brand executive at Pinnacle Africa. “We’re targeting it at the corporate market as an affordable business tool. It’s also aimed at an entry-level user within the corporate market, so it still has a manual, and we’ve set up a website for support and frequently asked questions.”

The phone offers several differentiators for corporates. The most attractive, apart from price, is the option of branding the cover with the company’s logo, and to preload the device with the company’s app if it has one for staff. That is all made possibly by Pinnacle’s own assembly line, which is geared to customising products belt elsewhere.

The phone is also a dual-SIM handset, meaning that it can carry both a company SIM for business calls, paid by the organisation, and a pay-as-you-go SIM for private use. A Kid’s Corner provides security of company information – and blocking unwanted content and payments – when the phone is used by family members at home.

That’s not the only area where it attempts to emulate BlackBerry’s security reputation. It is designed to boot up in such a way that malicious coding can’t be inserted. As a Windows 8.1 phone, every app is validated in the Windows Store.

At only R999, the specs of the phone will be appealing to both the employer and employee in the target market. A four-inch screen, 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM and four gigabytes internal storage don’t shoot the lights out for high-end users, but those would probably be BYOD troublemakers anyway. The presence of FM radio is probably the dead giveaway, since that is a feature in demand in the mass market, but rare on high-end phones.

“We’re expecting good take-up,” says Stone. “Then we’ll also look at other devices, perhaps a high-spec option like a 5.5-inch or six-inch phablet. We can go all the way to eight-inch devices and still use the Windows 10 environment.”

That may be significant, but not nearly as significant as the impact such phones could make in the ever-shifting corporate environment.

Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel.



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