Tech Essentials for the Business Traveler

Wherever your business takes you, here's the mobile technology you need to keep on going.

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Bradley Skaggs lost track of his frequent flier mileage balance long ago. But the 38-year-old keeps close tabs on the messenger bag he carries on routine cross-country flights for his eponymous firm, Skaggs. It's loaded with gadgets including his 15-inch G4 Apple PowerBook, his Sony Ericsson P900 mobile phone and, yes, his Apple iPod. The latter, by the way, doubles as a backup drive for his computer. "I could boot off it if I needed to," Skaggs says.

The 10-person boutique advertising and graphic design agency, whose sales are expected to reach $1 million this year, has headquarters in both San Francisco and New York City, so Skaggs and his wife and co-founder, Jonina, are often on the go. All the technology Skaggs uses is, by design, mobile. And rather than buying, he arranges for leases that let him update his gadgets more frequently.

"The last thing you want is to have a bunch of computers piled up in the corner," says Skaggs, who enjoys the flexibility leasing gives him to keep his equipment up-to-date.

So what could Skaggs buy now if his lease was up? And what about your business: Are you thinking about adding to your arsenal? No matter your situation, you'll find the answers you need in our special annual report on technology products, trends and innovations that make the life of the mobile entrepreneur a little bit easier--from cell phones and data communications devices to full-featured notebook computers. If you're on the go, at least one of these products is for you.

Call Me Anytime
When it comes to mobile phones, the thinner, the better. But that's no reason to sacrifice all the goodies you've come to expect in mobile handsets, including larger, crisper color displays; basic text-messaging support; digital cameras; and Bluetooth wireless connectivity for running peripherals such as hands-free headsets.

"We're finally at a point where consumers understand they can do more with their mobile phones than voice," says David Linsalata, analyst for mobile devices at research firm IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Voice will always be the killer application, but they're starting to look beyond that."

Another researcher, Gartner Inc. in Dripping Springs, Texas, projects 13 percent unit growth in mobile phone sales this year, to approximately 750 million units. For the first quarter of 2005, Gartner and IDC reported that worldwide phone shipments reached approximately 180 million devices. While Nokia retained its No. 1 position globally, Motorola was the leader in the United States, buoyed in part by interest in its ultrathin RAZR V3, both research firms reported.

Weighing 3.3 ounces, the RAZR V3 measures 3.8 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.5 inches thick. The phone supports quad-band usage, and its technical specifications claim a talk time of five hours. It comes with Bluetooth, a 4x digital zoom camera and a speaker-phone, among other features; the price in mid-September was $249 (all prices street), or $199 with a two-year contract from Cingular or T-Mobile.

This fall, Motorola plans to introduce at least two variations on the RAZR platform, both designed to take advantage of EDGE communications services, which will support applications such as music and data file downloads. The first phone, called SLVR, will come with push-to-talk capabilities (the walkie-talkie-style feature popularized by Nextel Communications) and the ability to add up to 512MB of memory. The PEBL V6, due by the end of 2005, will feature an oval-shaped, dual-hinged design.

LG Electronics, which ranks fourth worldwide in mobile-phone shipments, is also coming on strong in the North American market, according to IDC. One of its latest phones is the LG VX8000, a flip phone that takes advantage of 3G data services. In mid-September, the phone cost approximately $155 after a $70 mail-in rebate from LG.

Linsalata says handset manufacturers will continue to stress more multimedia features into early 2006, improving cameras and enhancing audio capabilities. While these advances are primarily consumer-focused, they will provide the foundation for business applications such as two-way mobile videoconferencing, he says. While some carriers offer entry-level phones for next to nothing if you make a long-term commitment to their monthly service, you can expect to pay a differential of $200 to $250 for these premium features.

This latest twist in the evolution of mobile phones points toward a new kind of converged device--in this case, one that marries the phone with a portable digital music player. A deal between Apple and Motorola, for example, lets you download files from the iTunes online music store onto certain next-generation handsets. While this won't necessarily help you seal a business deal, it might help you kill time in an airport lounge.

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This article was originally published in the November 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: I'm a Wanderer.

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