How to select a mobile device – Part #1 (Keyboard)
When it comes to picking the best mobile device for your organization, there are many parameters that needs to be considered. Price, performance, operating system, ease of maintenance, security, stability, resistance, usability, memory, screen size, compatibility with the mobile software and more.
The “How to select a mobile device” guide is based on our experience and includes some tips you will hopefully find useful.
In this part of the guide: Keyboard.
One of the questions I often get relates to the keyboard, especially when thinking about PDAs. There are many kinds of form factors, many of them without a keyboard, so if your business requires a lot of typing, it’s obvious that a virtual keyboard may cause a problem of accuracy and speed. In such cases I would recommend on having a device with a physical keyboard. If the business nature include drawing on maps, capturing signatures, and a simple selection process from drop down lists, a physical keyboard might not be critical (although my personal feeling is that a physical keyboard is always an advantage).
So now the next question would be: what kind of keyboard?
Numeric only? Full QWERTY keyboard? A clamshell style like in BlackBerry devices or maybe a sliding keyboard like the HTC Tilt/Touch Pro?
This question should be answered by looking at both the hardware and software requirements. Here, again, the required field processes will determine.
Many organizations use their mobile to capture mostly numeric data.In such cases, a numeric keyboard will have the advantage of bigger keys, simple use etc.
f the mobile data capturing involves text, or if the application includes a heavy use of messages, mails, etc. – numeric keyboard may frustrate the users, full QWERTY will speed up the writing speed.
Remember, in the field – simplicity of the mobile solution is very important. minimum clicks make life much more simple.
Sliding keyboards are very popular. There are many successful devices like HTC Touch Pro, Sony Ericsson XPeria, Nokia N97 which are considered to be very good in terms of productivity. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of those devices mainly due to the fact they require opening the keyboard every time you want to type, which is usually done by 2 hands.Thinking of field conditions, using 2 hands to perform a simple typing might not be optimal.
The keyboard problem is less significant when talking about PC computers (laptops and tablets) because all the mobile computers allow connecting a keyboard extension. Trying to use the virtual keyboard will convince anybody that a physical one is a must.
The last thing you want to do is make a decision based on IT or price considerations only, make a massive purchase of hundreds of devices and then find out that it doesn’t fit the nature of the mobile software.
Selecting the keyboard is a perfect example where a decision should be a made after considering both hardware and software.