When is Mobile Really Mobile?

This weekend my husband, one of the last of the mobile phone Luddites, finally broke down and realized he needed a smart phone. His father was in the hospital and his routine surgery had resulted in a series of complications. To make a long story short, my husband needed to be accessible at all times to receive updates.

We headed down to the local Apple store, intent on getting him an iPhone, as my husband has an iMac and loves it. The first surprise was that on a Sunday afternoon, the store was packed—practically standing room only with people of all ages. Even so, the employees were very helpful in directing us to a display of iPhones that we could try out before purchasing anything.

I have a smart phone (not an iPhone), and the menus are complicated and hard to follow. The differences were painfully apparent as my husband was able to navigate pretty easily through a variety of options on this phone, whereas when he tries mine he threatens to throw it out the window. But the truly remarkable nature of it, and the point of my posting, is what followed when he decided to make the purchase.

We were at the back of the store, nowhere near a register. The entire purchase transaction was performed on an iPhone. The clerk scanned the bar code of the new iPhone on his iPhone. He entered all the information via the browser on the phone and had my husband click the accept button. He selected all the options and activated the phone plan, and then ran my husband’s credit card through his phone.  The receipt was sent to my husband’s email address.

In under 15 minutes, my husband had an operational phone, mobile email device and web browser –all in one. Most of you aren’t strangers to this technology, so I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m writing about “old news”.

Here’s my point:  the iPhone was used not so much as a mobile device, but actually as a replacement for other technology, such as a cash register, a card scanner, and a computer. In fact, the one thing it wasn’t used for in that transaction was a phone.  Among other uses, consider the potential for improved customer service during the Christmas shopping season in the stores–no need for long queues. Clerks with smartphones could check you out anywhere in the store.

We’re starting to see the iPad used in a similar manner—to not only enable work while on the go, but also while stationary—without a lot of other adjunct equipment.  Devices such as these may be one of our ultimate green solutions—get one device, and replace a lot of other stuff which has an environmental cost not just in its manufacturing, but also in its disposal. And lest this appear to be a commercial for Apple, I’ll point out that other manufacturers offer smart phones and a variety of competitors to the iPad are on the way.

From a work perspective, because of the flexibility, organizations have new options in terms of how they enable their employees to perform work, to enable them to be more productive—whether at their desk, or in another location. Those options may also be “greener” than our old way of doing business. From a totally selfish perspective, the iPhone not only solved my husband’s immediate problem, it solved one of mine, as well. I discovered that for the first time, he didn’t mind if I ducked into a shop in the mall to browse, because he could play with the applications on his iPhone.  Now that’s a multipurpose device! And finally, on a personal note, after a second surgery, my father-in-law began to improve, and we have high hopes for a normal recovery. Life is good.

Are your organizations exploring the use of “mobile” devices for stationary work? Do you have suggestions on how your organization is using them to improve productivity or customer service? Or perhaps to help an organization become "greener"? Please share your thoughts!

Thanks for reading,

Rachel Wentink