Smartphone to feature phone? Like moving from email to carrier pigeon.

By Alyson Edmunds mobility expert at Telefónica UK

Last week an idea was mooted to me about moving away from smartphones and going back to feature phones. I have to be honest this suggestion shocked me. Smartphones are fast becoming the remote controls to both our work and personal life. The thought that an organisation might want to take a backward step goes against everything my team are working towards.

So how did I reply and would I change any of my answers?

Firstly, we live in a digital world with ubiquitous connectivity. Always available content is just what we have come to expect. Going back to simple voice and text with really limited internet access and a tiny screen is like stepping back in time, comparable – for those of us old enough to remember – to going back to a time before email.  It’s simply unthinkable.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a great believer in user profiling and making sure the right people have the right tools, connectivity and applications to do their job well. And I accept that for certain user groups a feature phone could well be the right tool to do the job, for example as a push to talk replacement. It’s all about scoping end user requirements and desires to determine a device estate that’s right for you – something my team consults on regularly.

Cost used to be a reason to stick with feature phones. But with such a wide range of smartphones now on the market the premium between feature phones and the lower entry smartphones is insurmountable. Likewise with data usage; while the data usage that 4G drives can be a worrying factor a wide range of tariffs and data management tools are now available to manage costs.  Here at O2 we offer , which allows you to view and control spending. We also offer text alerts that update end users on their data usage, and bespoke data monitoring services that limit access based on application.  As a result customers have greater control than ever before to avoid bill shock.

What’s more much like choosing the right device, if you get the user profiling right and support your device strategy with defined internal processes and a clearly communicated mobile policy costs can remain managed without stifling innovation and user experience.

I also think that Security is no longer challenge enough to consider a smartphone to feature phone U-turn. Ok, smartphones do need to be secured but the Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms available nowadays do a great job of pushing out policy, applications and content. And as we move away from ‘computing while mobile’ to ‘mobile computing’, applications written mobile first will become key. IDC recently quoted that by 2017 100% of apps in customer facing roles will be available whilst mobile and 75% of internal line of business apps will be built for mobile consumption.

Another thing to consider is end user adoption, and talent acquisition. For many – particularly as millennials gain a stronger foothold in the workplace – the work life balance that comes with flexible working is a key a differentiator for talent acquisition. For this employees need the right tools for the job; reverting to a feature phone device estate could considerably impact your future talent flow.

So after this somewhat therapeutic piece of writing would I change my answer? Absolutely not. With an accomplished 4G network underpinning a digital world in which we live I think taking a backwards step could have a considerable impact on the of your business. The digital revolution is happening; you need to make sure that it doesn’t leave you behind.

For more information on a mobile first strategy view our website or contact me on Twitter @AlyFairburn.