Top smartphones: Opening doors to a communications revolution
So, what is the definition of a smartphone? To put it simply, smartphones feature much more computing ability and connectivity than standard phones. They are able to run applications and have powerful processors that make accessing the internet speedier. They also have bigger memory space than standard mobile phones, earning them the name ‘compact mobile computers’.
It has taken a while for the technology to reach Africa, but now that it has, smartphones have opened up the door to communication across the continent and will only become more popular as 2011 progresses.
In South Africa in particular, the smartphone revolution is in full swing. Global technology researchers Gartner predicts smartphone penetration in South Africa will likely reach 80 percent by 2014.
With handset prices reducing all the time, research suggests that Africa, along with the Middle East, will be among the top two global smartphone markets with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 39 percent to look forward to over the next four years.
Even Maasai vets are benefiting from the use of donated Google smartphones through a Vet Aid charity project. Pre-loaded software has enabled farmers and vets to use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to monitor how animal diseases are spreading in their area and begin vaccinating to prevent them.
MTN, Africa’s largest mobile operator, has invested 15 million rand in the past two years in network upgrades to accommodate the high-intensity data requirements for smartphones.
Considering the usability and advantages a smartphone has over a standard mobile phone, buying one would certainly work out to be a shrewd investment. Indeed, the line between laptops and smartphones is continually blurring amidst advancements in technology that are allowing for better operating systems and quicker internet access via the 3G network. The need to carry around a laptop is being lessened with each development, and it is widely predicted that by 2012, smartphones will outsell laptops.
The features of smartphones vary according to model and type as just like computers, smartphones function using an operating system (OS). The below-named five are certainly among the best smartphones on the market, one that can be used away from the office for busy businessmen and women on-the-go.
RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700
Users of BlackBerries will say that for the use of email, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 is the best on the market, and it is hard to argue that point. The term ‘crackberry’ is now often used to describe BlackBerrys, such is the notorious addictiveness of the smartphone to its users.
The Bold 9700, powered by the BlackBerry 6 OS, is a 3G phone with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth plus secure email, picture messaging, and web browsing. It can also integrate up to 10 email accounts into one easy-to-access place, along with your calendar, contacts, and other important data so business can be conducted almost anywhere.
Proudly labelled by Apple as ‘the world’s thinnest smartphone’, the iPhone 4 boasts a 960x640-pixel resolution touch screen, 3.5 inches in size. Users can read new emails from all accounts in one combined inbox, and multi-tasking is enabled.
There are thousands of third-party iPhone apps designed for business use. You can manage your sales pipeline, tap into your accounting system, manage your supply chain, or even attend a web conference.
Samsung Galaxy S
Using the Android OS, the Galaxy S allows business users to edit documents easily. It features ThinkFree Office Mobile, which allows images and text to be edited within Microsoft Office documents (Excel, Word and PowerPoint).
It also has an intelligent text input system called Swype that makes it possible for the user to trace their finger from one letter to the next with the on-screen QWERTY keypad as it recognises which letters to type, rather than single letter input.
Billed as a ‘high-performance device tailor-made for seamless business and personal communication’, the Nokia E72 is built for purpose. Using the Symbian OS version 9.3, it has full support for push email, web browsing, and attachment editing. It also allows for Windows Live Messenger, made easier with a traditional QWERTY keypad.
The product’s battery life too is very desirable as it boasts nine hours talk time along with GPS and a 4 GB MicroSD memory card included, with support for a whopping 16 GB.
Also using the Android OS, the HTC Desire offers support for exchange mail, contacts, and calendar making it an attractive business option.
It has a high-resolution 3.7 inch OLED screen alongside thousands of apps available for business users, including one that uses the 5 megapixel camera to scan documents and turn them into PDFs. Another app meanwhile allows a USB connection to print from the phone to an office.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”