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The best business smartphones

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By Mark Jansen


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note 9 using phone
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Whether you’re at work or play, your smartphone is an integral part of your life. A great phone can make your life easier just as much as a bad phone can slow you down. If you’re looking for a phone that’s the perfect fit for your business life, then you might be confused as to where to start. If you’re a high-powered executive who travels a lot and doesn’t have a permanent desk, your needs are very different from an artist who needs to be able to show off their work to prospective clients — so the phone you need is likely to be just as different.

We’ve looked at some of the best smartphones around, and taken note of the smartphones that come with business-assisting special features, provide excellent value for money, or simply excel in small ways. If you’re looking for your phone to work as hard as you do, and provide some extra features to boot, here are the best business smartphones for every price range.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Galaxy Note 9 front
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The best business phone

Why you should buy this: You want a fantastic phone with features for a variety of businesses.

Who it’s for: Seriously busy people on the go who need a pocket productivity powerhouse.

How much it will cost: $1,000

Why we picked the Galaxy Note 9:

Like the Galaxy S9 range before it, the Note 9 isn’t a redesign of its predecessor, but a refinement. As a result, the Galaxy Note 9 is one of the best flagship smartphones in the world, with the super-powerful Snapdragon 845 processor, a truly phenomenal dual-lens camera, and the Note’s signature S Pen. It’s almost everything you’d want in a modern flagship smartphone, and although there are some missteps — Bixby unfortunately still among them — the Galaxy Note 9 is simply one of the best phones in the world right now.

But that’s not why we’re here. What makes the Galaxy Note 9 our pick for the best business smartphone? As well as being an extremely powerful and polished smartphone, the Note 9 is packed to the brim with features that make it an excellent business partner for a wide range of people. The huge 6.4-inch AMOLED display can show a huge amount of information, and you can use the S Pen to write notes on that screen — even when the screen’s off. The S Pen isn’t just a stylus either — it can also be used to pull up a variety of useful features at a moment’s notice.

But that’s all stuff you could do with the Note 8 — what’s new? Well, the Note 9’s S Pen has seen some hardware upgrades, and it now comes with a low power Bluetooth connection that means it can be used to trigger the phone’s camera, or be used as a clicker during presentations. App developers are able to add new functions to the S Pen too, so expect more and more functionality to arrive with new apps. While Bixby still isn’t the best, Samsung’s A.I. has had some upgrades, including the ability to recognize and scan documents in Bixby Vision with Adobe Scan support. There’s also support for dual-SIM, which is ideal for globe-hoppers and anyone with a business number.

Looking to work away from home? The Note 9 comes with Samsung’s DeX desktop system, so your phone can plug into a monitor and function as an impromptu desktop computer. Pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you’ve got an instant hotel workstation that you can cart around in a small bag. The Note 9’s DeX functionality has been upgraded too, so you no longer need the DeX Station or DeX Pad accessories to get it to work — just plug in a cable and you’re off.

The Galaxy Note 9 isn’t equipped with Android 9.0 Pie yet, but it’s likely on the horizon, and you can bet that it will be among the first of Samsung’s phones to get the update when it arrives. The Note 9 is also equipped with a massive 4,000mAh battery that should see you through most days with power to spare at the end. It’s equipped with some good charging abilities too, with wireless charging and QuickCharge 2.0 that should mean it’ll juice back up quickly.

It’s not perfect. Bixby is still of questionable value, and the phone is expensive at $1,000 — but if the price is no barrier and you want one of the best flagship smartphones around that also comes with great business features, look no further than the Galaxy Note 9.

Galaxy Note 9 Review

iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The best business iPhone

Why you should buy this: It’s an incredibly slick, big-screen phone.

Who it’s for: Someone who works with other Apple products and needs their work easily available on their phone.

How much it will cost: $1,100

Why we picked the iPhone XS Max:

If you’re looking for a phone to complement your other Apple work products, or you’re simply a fan of Apple’s phones, the iPhone XS Max stands at the pinnacle. The XS Max’s massive 6.5-inch screen offers a huge amount of space to read documents, check pictures, or catch up on some work (with a Bluetooth keyboard, potentially) — but Apple’s newest large iPhone isn’t just a huge screen. It’s powerful too.

The iPhone XS Max’s A12 Bionic processor is without a doubt the most powerful processor the mobile world has seen to date, showcasing benchmark results that leave the Snapdragon 845 in the dust. It’s powerful in real use too, giving super-smooth performance in daily tasks and handling high-end mobile games with equal ease. 4GB of RAM means there’s plenty of scope for multitasking, while the option of 512GB of storage gives most users more than enough room. While mobile gaming may be low on your list in a business phone, reliable power that won’t let you down will be important.

It’s an attractive phone, with a stainless steel and glass build that won’t look out of place anywhere, from executive meetings to portfolio discussions. The OLED screen itself is a beauty, with deep blacks and rich vibrant colors. However, be aware that it’s a huge phone, and most will struggle to use it with a single hand — and those with smaller hands will struggle significantly more.

The XS Max runs Apple’s latest iOS 12, and it’s a breeze to use, with smooth performance and some genuinely useful additional features like Siri Shortcuts. iOS’s new gesture navigation controls may throw some people off for a moment, but they’re fast once you get used to them.

One of the major advantages of the iPhone XS Max is the close relationship iOS has with other Apple products. You’ll be able to access documents from your iMac or MacBook from your iPhone, thanks to iCloud synchronization, pulling them up at a moment’s notice. While it might not be as big an issue if you’re constantly traveling with your MacBook, it does take the pressure off if you suddenly realize you’ve left your laptop behind. The iPhone XS Max also comes with dual-SIM capabilities.

The battery will last a day, and you can top it up through wireless charging, or with the included charger. If you want fast charging though, you’ll need to pick up a specialized charger for that — Apple doesn’t include a fast charger in the box. The biggest point against the iPhone XS Max is undoubtedly cost. Prices start at $1,099 for the 64GB model and rise to a staggering $1,449 for 512GB of storage — and there’s no MicroSD card slot, so that’s going to be all the storage you get outside of iCloud.

Still, if those downsides are no problem for you, the iPhone XS Max is an exceptional phone for business.

iPhone XS Max Review

Samsung Galaxy S9

samsung galaxy s9 review
Galaxy S9 Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The best small flagship business phone

Why you should buy this: Because you want a manageable, affordable phone with great features.

Who it’s for: Someone who wants a smaller, full-featured Android flagship.

How much it will cost: $720

Why we picked the Galaxy S9:

It’s not all about the big screens — even smaller screens can be plenty big nowadays, and the Galaxy S9’s 5.8-inch screen is likely to be big enough for most. Like the Note 9, the Galaxy S9 is a beautiful phone with a style that’s not out of place anywhere, with softly curving glass and a truly stunning AMOLED display. It’s not all beauty and no brains either — the S9 is equipped with the same powerful Snapdragon 845 as the Note 9, LG G7 ThinQ, and other powerful flagship phones, and 4GB of RAM makes sure that performance stays smooth.

The Galaxy S9 has no S Pen, so it’s lacking the features the Note 9 excels in. However, there’s still access to Samsung’s DeX mode — though you’ll need the DeX Station or a DeX Pad to get it to work. Still, DeX will allow you to quickly and easily set up a hotel TV as a monitor, without having to lug a laptop around. The S9 is also equipped with an excellent camera for quick pictures of business cards — and Bixby Vision can pull the information off them into a contact card, just like on the Note 9.

Unfortunately, the battery isn’t as large, and if you’re a heavy user, the Galaxy S9 may struggle to last the day without a top-up. However, a fast charger is included so you can top up quickly, and wireless charging is also supported. Samsung remains a heavyweight in personal security though, with Samsung’s secure Knox security preloaded.

While the Galaxy S9 has a few issues that make it slightly weaker than the Note 9, this is still a fantastic choice as a working phone.

Galaxy S9 Review

OnePlus 6

oneplus 6 hands on chrome
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The best midrange business phone

Why you should buy this: It matches the performance and functionality of the top flagships.

Who it’s for: Someone with a limited budget, but still in need of plenty of power.

How much it will it cost: $530

Why we picked the OnePlus 6:

Line the OnePlus 6 up next to a bunch of this year’s flagships and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the OnePlus 6 costs around half the price of many of them. Despite being firmly in the midrange bracket with a $530 price tag, the OnePlus 6 is one of the most gorgeous phones of the year. You’ll find the usual flagship specifications here, including a glass and metal body, a notched display, and an exceptional dual-lens camera.

Peer inside and there’s some power too. It’s powered by the same Snapdragon 845 you’ll find in the Note 9, Galaxy S9, and other high-end flagships — and it’s not just there for show either, since it provides incredible and smooth performance. You get the choice between 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — but either option will provide excellent performance, so pick according to your storage needs. There’s no MicroSD card slot though, so outside of cloud storage, your initial storage is all you’ll get.

One of OnePlus’ major holdouts has been the mute switch, which gives you a hardware option to mute your phone. It’s super easy to reach into a pocket and flick a switch to mute your phone, so you don’t have to take your phone out during a meeting when you suddenly realize it’s not muted. Since it’s an Android phone, you also have access to the Google Assistant, which can remind you of your day, and Google Lens, which can be used to pull information from business cards, and place it into a contact.

The 3,300mAh should make it through a day pretty easily, and the OnePlus 6 comes equipped with the Dash Charge method of fast charging, which is among the fastest methods available. There’s no wireless charging available, unfortunately.

The OnePlus 6 might not have some of the useful features you’ll find in a more expensive phone, but if your work requires the power of a flagship phone for less, then the OnePlus 6 is for you.

OnePlus 6 Review

BlackBerry Key2

blackberry key2 full
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The best business phone with a keyboard

Why you should buy this: Nothing replaces a physical keyboard for productivity, and BlackBerry has a security focus.

Who it’s for: Someone who loves a physical keyboard, wants great security, and doesn’t mind a few compromises

How much it will cost: $450

Why we picked the BlackBerry Key2:

What sort of business phone round-up would this be without a Blackberry phone? The Key2 is Blackberry’s latest phone, and it’s only the second in recent years to come with a physical keyboard. It’s certainly different looking to every other phone on this list, with a shorter display to accommodate the keyboard underneath — but don’t take that to mean that it’s lacking in style. The Key2 looks great, with an elegant, minimalist style, and it will fit any executive surroundings.

It’s a bit underpowered compared to the phones above, with a Snapdragon 660 and 6GB of RAM. It’ll handle most tasks fairly well, but we did notice some performance hits when juggling several tasks at once — but that was fairly rare. You’ll have the choice between 64GB and 128GB, but there’s the option for MicroSD storage expansion, so there’s no need to worry about storage.

Where the Blackberry Key2 really shines is — surprise surprise — in its productivity tools. You can bind a key to open a particular app — like tapping M to open Google Maps, and holding M to launch a messaging app — and you can use the new Speed Key to quickly jump to one app while in another with this functionality. It seems overwhelming, but it’s something we got used to quickly — and it really sped up our usage.

Blackberry’s even added to the OS to make your life easier. The BlackBerry Productivity Tab gives even more ways to quickly access apps, while you can store certain apps or files in the secure Locker, which requires a passcode or fingerprint to open. The Privacy Shade keeps your screen hidden from prying eyes, and the DTEK app will let you know if an app starts accessing information — and lets you shut it down. The battery life is also incredible, with the phone managing to reach the end of the day and then some.

There are some compromises — the camera is solid, but nothing special, and the display’s weird shape won’t be the best for watching movies or looking at pictures — but if you want a security-focused productivity machine, then you need look no further.

BlackBerry Key2 Review

Nokia 6.1

Nokia 6.1 smartphone
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The best budget business phone

Why you should buy this: You need a solid phone that won’t break the bank.

Who it’s for: Someone who doesn’t need all the toys — they just need a great phone for a great price.

How much it will cost: $250

Why we picked the Nokia 6.1:

Sometimes you just need a phone that works, doesn’t cost too much money, and you don’t need all the fancy stuff. Enter the Nokia 6.1. HMD Global’s phone is an absolute bargain, with great performance, excellent build quality, and prompt updates — for under $300.

Of course, you’re not going to get such a price point without a compromise or two, and the design is one of those. It’s attractive enough, with copper accents and a metal body, but it’s not up to 2018’s standards, and the 16:9 aspect ratio on the 5.5-inch display is evidence of that. But fire it up and you won’t care. It’s smooth enough, and while it’s going to be as quick as flagship phones, it outpaced its competitors in the same price bracket. 3GB of RAM keeps it ticking, and while 32GB of storage is a little low, there’s the option for MicroSD expansion here too.

Part of the secret to the Nokia 6.1’s performance is Android One. It’s a pure version of Android with no bloatware and no skin laid over the top, and it gets updates directly from Google. This phone is guaranteed to get two years of software updates, and three years of security updates. That means it’ll definitely get Android 9.0 Pie and Android Q when that releases.

The camera is good enough for the price, and the battery is capable of handling more than a day with ease. You won’t find much in the way of special features outside of Google Assistant, Google Lens, and other Google services, but the Nokia 6.1 does come with Bluetooth 5, and NFC support for easy mobile payments. It might not have all the bells and whistles, but this is an extremely solid phone that will perform well as your business phone.

Nokia 6.1 Review

Moto E5 Plus

Moto E5 Plus review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The best budget business phone with long battery life

Why you should you buy this: You need a budget phone that can last days between charges.

Who it’s for: Anyone who can’t guarantee they’ll be able to charge their phone often.

How much it will cost: $225

Why we picked the Moto E5 Plus:

Most modern smartphones struggle to go past a single workday on one charge, and it can be frustrating to see your phone’s battery dwindle when you need it most. The Moto E5 Plus is a good budget phone with a modern design, large 6-inch display, and great performance — but the headline feature is the astonishing multi-day battery life.

During normal usage, we saw the Moto E5 Plus’s battery drop by just 35 percent in the course of a 12 hour day — which means that Motorola’s claim of 36 hours of battery life probably isn’t far off the money. The secret of this amazing battery life is the enormous 5,000mAh battery sealed into the E5 Plus, and if you’re not using the phone much, expect to see it last for a few days on a single charge. It’s not the fastest charger around, but Motorola’s TurboPower charger is faster than most other Micro USB chargers.

It’s not just long-lived — the E5 Plus’s Snapdragon 435 provides great performance for this price range, and 3GB of RAM helps that. There’s 32GB of storage, but you can expand that by up to 128GB with a MicroSD card. It’s not perfect by any means. It comes with close to stock Android, but you might find lots of carrier bloatware, depending on where you buy it. The camera is decent, but it really struggles in low light — but that’s a common gripe with lower cost phones, and it’s easily overlooked if camera performance isn’t a draw for you.

It might be on the expensive side for $225, but if you can pick it up for a price below $200 then this phone is an absolute steal if you’re looking for a phone with great battery life. As a lower-powered, budget phone it doesn’t come with many business-centric special features, but it will keep you connected on long trips.

Moto E5 Plus Review


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