Are you in charge of recommending or deciding what technology your company provides for staff? How will you decide between smartphones, tablets or laptops? What criteria will you use? This decision carries a number of risks. Get it wrong and you may have unsatisfied and unproductive staff. But get it right… and there is nothing better than a happy and productive workforce.

It’s a big decision, but no need to panic. We’ll help guide you to the right solution for your environment. Just follow these 4 evaluation criteria to help you decide if you should get smartphones, tablets or laptops for your staff.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #1 – Is the work conducted remotely?

This may determine whether the person or department should have a company mobile device at all. If this person’s duties are 95% based in the office – is there really a need for a smartphone or tablet? In this case a laptop is the best choice.

Identify who is working away from the office during business hours. Are they a road warrior working out of cabs and airports where information and responses are needed immediately? In this case a tablet might be a smart choice.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #2 – What type of work is done remotely?

Once you have determined the staff working remotely, the next thing is to determine what they do and the environment they are working in. Are they simply answering the phone and responding to emails? Are they using an application which they need to enter and record information? Does the work they do require immediate feedback from any location?

I like to pay attention to the user on this one. Are they doing a lot of data entering (typing or selecting items from a drop down datawindow)? The reason this is important is because from our three device choices, typing is best done from a laptop. But if I’m selecting items from a drop down datawindow, this opens up certain smartphone and tablet options.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #3 – Where is the work conducted?

Working remotely … it is the “remotely” that means many things to many employees. Is the work environment in a sewer underground doing inspection? Is it on a construction site? Is it in a hotel, car, or coffee shop? Is the employee setting up an electrical tower somewhere in the middle of Utah? Or perhaps the employee is working in a location without cellular connection. (Yes, there are still a few of these locations. I hit a big one driving from Denver CO to Flagstaff AZ.)

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: Evaluation Criteria #4 – Are there any physical limitations?

This one seems like a strange one, but it is very real and important. I worked with a company that provided really cool, new smartphones for their techs working on heating units, boilers and pipe lines. The biggest complaint was “MY FINGERS ARE TOO BIG FOR THIS &#&*!@# thing.” Did I mention some of the employees were ex sailors?

In addition, make sure the user can see the screen – is it visible in sunlight? Do they need to type on the device and cannot because of the size of the device? Also keep in mind that the device my need to be ruggedized or have an otter box provided.

Smartphones, Tablets or Laptops: The Summary

One you gather all your criteria, it’s a good idea to have details in a grid – this will give you a picture of employee’s real needs. As a rule of thumb, if a user has to collect and enter a lot of information, a smartphone is not the way to go. Users who mainly respond with short answers like “Yup”, “I approve”, or “No thanks” – a certain smartphone makes a lot of sense. Like the Galaxy S4 which has the larger screen.

Keep in mind sometimes there is a valid case for having any combination of laptop, tablet or smartphone. Of our choices the laptop will always be best for heavy information gathering where a lot of typing is involved and certain smartphones are good for short text and emails.

There are also some best of both worlds hybrid options like the MS Surface Pro or the Lenovo Thinkpad. If you’re still unsure, don’t force your decision. Allow your users to test a few devices and inform you which they like the best and why.

Wondering how to fully manage your devices in an enterprise-sized environment? Read more in Benefits of Implementing an MDM.