Mobile Devices: The Quick Buying Guide for Service Autopilot Users

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UPDATED FOR 2019-ready devices:

Service Autopilot Members frequently ask  us, “What’s the best phone or tablet for using the Mobile App?” 

Running a service business is already a ton of work, so we’re going to save you the time and effort of hunting down the best mobile devices, and give you our list of recommendations.

These mobile devices will give you the best experience (and the best value) when using Service Autopilot in the field.

Table of Contents:

Phoning It In: Basic Requirements from Our Development Team

Your intrepid blogger spoke with Ron Harris, one of the developers responsible for our mobile app, about the minimum specs he would recommend for a good experience with a mobile device.

Ron’s Recommendations:

  • Any iPhone/iPad from the last generation.
  • A name-brand Android Phone, running at least Android 6.0 but, preferably the latest Android OS (at the time of this update 8.1).
  • A dual or quad-core processor
  • 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM

If any of that is Greek to you, never fear; I’ll explain.

Ron’s Recommendations, in plain English:

  • An iPhone 7/8 or any from the current X line, iPad Pro, or iPad Air 2 (for iPads, ensure it was made in the last two years)
  • Samsung, Sony, Nexus, Motorola, etc. These are recognizable electronics companies.
  • “6.0 or 8.1” refers to the operating system of the phone. This should be listed with either the number or the name of the version.
  • The specs on the phone will directly say, “Dual-core” or “Quad-core”. This is the phone’s brain.
  • RAM will also be listed in the specs of the phone. Keep in mind that gigabytes are bigger than megabytes (e.g. 1GB equals 1024MB). This is the short-term memory of the phone. 2GB puts you in the range of that friend of yours who can hear a phone number once and recall it an hour later.

A very inexpensive and popular option is the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S9. The S8 has an octo-core processor (pretty smart brain), 6GB+ of RAM (able to remember and think about more things all at once) and has the quality of coming from one of the major phone manufacturers.

Phones vs Tablets

This is personal preference; either will work well with the Service Autopilot’s mobile app. The app has been developed to work across all screen sizes, so the decision comes down to budget and how the device will be used in the field. 

Phones

family-34l_pr-print
iPhone Family Photo

Pros:

  • Compact, fits in a pocket
  • Makes contacting field employees simpler (you can call or text them)
  • Typically, more affordable
  • Easily used one-handed

Cons:

  • Small-size makes it difficult to use with dirty or wet fingers
  • Small-size can also make it make it harder to read or select options
  • One-handed operation makes it more likely to get dropped
gs4-active_001
The Samsung Galaxy S4

Recommended Makes and Models:

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 – very affordable, still reasonably quick.
  • iPhone 7 – pricier, but part of the Apple ecosystem, if that’s important to you. iOS, especially on the current iPhone, is quick and responsive.

Tablets

Pros:

  • Large screens are easily readable (for employees filling out forms and clients signing off on estimates)
  • Larger keyboards are easier to operate with dirty hands
  • Can set up messaging service that’s akin to texting

Cons:

  • Since it doesn’t fit in all pockets, it may be more likely to be misplaced
  • Typically, less affordable
  • Can’t be used for calls (conveniently)
  • Can be difficult to operate one-handed

Recommended Makes and Models:

  • iPad – A more expensive option that makes up for it’s high price by being ultra lightweight and having a responsive operating system. Just make sure it’s from the last couple years.
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – This tablet is fast and is a good compromise in size between a phone and larger tablets. It still won’t be easy to type one-handed, but it’s easy to hold in one hand and scroll, etc. with the other.

How much data should I be paying for?

The second most common question in these calls is: how much data should I be paying for? There are a number of variables that go into how much data you’ll use each month that make it impossible for us to give you a ballpark figure. The number of devices, amount of other data use the devices will see, whether you’re GPS-tracking your resources (and how frequently that tracking is updated) all play into the amount of data used.

You can use data calculators provided by AT&T and Verizon to get a better idea of data usage based on what you know about your business (how many emails go out a day, on average, etc.) AT&T doesn’t offer a navigation minutes (using GPS) slider, but you can use the hours of web surfing as an approximation for GPS Resource Tracking.

Our best recommendation is to use the calculators above and then test the waters for a few months. The major carriers offer metrics so that you can look at your usage over several months and update your data plan accordingly.

Accessorize: Must-Haves for Devices in the Field

Case. Put the phone or tablet in a case. Check to see if LifeProof makes a case for your phone (they make them for Apple and Samsung releases, mostly). Their cases are waterproof and can bring your device through a nasty tumble, wet or not. If you can’t get a LifeProof, get an Otterbox or another type of cushioned case, so that your device is protected from falls.

Stylus. This will make signing off on estimates feel easier and more professional for clients. In addition, it can make using your device easier with gloves or dirty hands. Make sure you get one that works with a capacitive touch screen (most styluses available for sale right now will be).

Holster. Keep the device hooked on to a belt or the jeans of your employees. It’s difficult to pull a rubber-cased phone out of a jean pocket when it’s 95* and your hands are dirty or wet. Make sure calls are answered and schedule updates received by making it easy on the employees.

Mount. A mount for the truck or van is absolutely necessary. It keeps the device out of your employees’ hands, even when being used for navigation. Many retailers offer a range of options here. Personally, I prefer the variety that suction-cup to the windshield because they make the device available at a glance while driving.

Car charger. A device without a battery is useless. Make sure your employees are able to keep their devices charged throughout the day. This becomes especially important if the device is used for navigation or to track resources in Service Autopilot.

But who’s going to pay for all of this?

You’ve chosen a phone or a tablet for your employees, but who’s going to pay for it? You have a few options here:

  • Lock down all the features of the device, limiting it to strictly business use. You pay for it, they use it exclusively for work and have their own personal phone.
  • Leave it open for their use, but require a portion of the bill from their check. This way, they don’t have to continue paying for a personal phone and it covers some of your costs. Make it a perk and save a little bit of cash.
  • Require employees to provide their own phone that meets the minimum requirements. No cost to you, but it may prove unhelpful in the hiring process.

The Final Word of Advice

Any of the devices from our recommended lists will perform well for your company.

A quality device in the hands of your employees with reliable service helps eliminate inefficiencies and frustration. Cheaper alternatives will only slow your team down. Choose the best mobile device for your company and put your employees in a position to succeed.


Related: The Best Uniforms for a Lawn Care Company 


Updated Jan 22, 2019 7:00 AM

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