with CLIPREVIEWED learn the articleSmartphones, Mobile Carriers, and Mobile Operating Systems
Stuck at home? The phone in your pocket is probably now a lifeline to work, too. Few people can conduct business these days without a mobile device, but which phone, carrier, and mobile operating system is best for your professional needs? We asked our readers to weigh in, and these are their picks for the top brands across all three categories.
The Best Smartphone Brands for Work 2021
In this year’s survey, we saw some ferocious competition between Google, Samsung, and Apple. The trio tied for overall satisfaction for work phones with an 8.5 out of 10. That’s the closest score we’ve ever seen, and it’s the lowest score ever for Google—it’s dropped every year since a high of 9.1 five years ago.
But Google still wins this award, buoyed by another all-important metric we asked about: work-related tasks. Google’s 8.8 stayed just ahead of Samsung (8.7) and Apple (8.6). Google tied for reliability (8.9 for all three) and showing video (8.8 tied with Apple). It’s also on top for setup (9.1), ease of use (9.0), taking photos (9.1), use as a Wi-Fi hotspot (8.8), and management of contacts (8.5) and calendar (8.7).
No one is going to feel like they can’t get through the workday with a Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone, of course. Those brands frequently tie and sometimes even best Google in select measures. For example, Apple’s tech support rating of 8.2 can’t be beat. Likewise, it’s on top for messaging with a 9.1.
Samsung is the most recommended business smartphone brand, earning an 8.8. We also used that question to determine a Net Promoter Score—which lets companies know what customers think of them, good or bad—and Samsung landed at a 61 out of 100, making it the most recommended brand by far. How it didn’t win outright in any other category is a mystery. It lost when it came to a voice assistant; people must really hate Bixby.
Only two other phone brands had enough responses to make our list this year. One of them, LG, is at the bottom, which is no surprise: the company’s smartphone division is struggling. That leaves Motorola, once one of the biggest names in phones, to languish just above LG. It outshines the competition in just one area and that is cost, with an 8.7 out of 10. But making cheap phones doesn’t help the Moto brand in any other measure.
For more, read The Best Phones of 2021The Best Phones of 2021.
The Best Mobile Operating Systems for Work 2021
When we started rating mobile operating systems for work two years ago, there were only two OSes left standing—Android and iOS. (RIP BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.) The story has been much the same since: Android wins with an 8.7 for overall satisfaction each time (talk about consistency), and this year that was only ahead of iOS by a thread, as Apple’s software earned an 8.6. The two run close to each other on many qualifiers, with Android on top for likelihood to be recommended to a coworker at 8.9—iOS was at a still-notable 8.6.
One important factor that helped in our decisions this year was how devices scored when we asked about using them for work-related tasks. Readers said both OSes were evenly matched for business duties, tying at 8.6 out of 10.
Android scored higher than iOS when it came to important work stuff tasks calendar management and email. But iOS was on top for vehicle integration (via CarPlay), contact management, and messaging, all important items for workers on the go. Considering how close the two OSes came on so many measures, you’re not likely to be unhappy with either—it’ll come down to personal preference, as it usually does with an OS. And if you don’t have (or get) a preference, it’ll come down to how much help you can get, or who assigns the phone to you.
For more, read Android vs. iOS: Which Mobile OS Is Best?Android vs. iOS: Which Mobile OS Is Best?
The Best Mobile Carriers for Work 2021
How does a mobile carrier like Consumer Cellular—which is so consumer-oriented it’s right there in the name—get a winning slot in a Business Choice survey? By being the personal carrier for many PCMag readers and being absolutely beloved by them.
Keep in mind that this is a survey of individuals; a business owner might care about features such as plans with lots of lines or business-specific service, but people who are working from home and using their phones just want something that works. Consumer Cellular has also won our more home/consumer-oriented Readers’ Choice survey eight years in a row, including this year. It’s no shock that it could steal this spot easily with the scores it earns for satisfaction (9.3), data network reliability (9.1), customer support (9.2), and the likelihood to be recommended to a colleague (9.3).
Consumer Cellular’s award is helped along by the fact that our survey didn’t get enough response this year to include Google Fi. Last year, that hybrid-MVNO (a mobile virtual network operator that auto-switches between the T-Mobile and US Cellular networks, plus Wi-Fi connections) stole the show with a 9.1 overall satisfaction rating. But consider that Consumer Cellular (which lets you use either AT&T or T-Mobile’s network) jumped from last year’s second place of 9.0 to a 9.3 this year. It’s possible Google Fi wouldn’t have had a chance.
The only areas of the survey where readers find Consumer Cellular wanting are in phone choice and coverage in a home area, and those numbers are only 0.1 point behind the top scorers.
The companies that build the mobile cellular networks that cover much of the country are at the bottom of the list, with T-Mobile (8.1 for overall satisfaction), Verizon (8.0), and AT&T (7.3) bringing up the rear. Nevertheless, we’re giving a Business Choice award to one of them because they are the backbone of it all. Of the big three, the top provider with readers is T-MobileT-Mobile, with high scores for overall satisfaction, support, phone choice (tied with Verizon), and the likelihood to be recommended.
There’s a very interesting paradigm shift in the companies that placed as business mobile carriers this year. Traditional MVNOs we’ve seen in the past—such as the aforementioned Google Fi, and carrier sub-brands such as Cricket Wireless—have dropped off the list entirely. Instead, appearing for the first time in the survey, are newer MVNOs formed by the major cable providers, specifically Spectrum (with an 8.7 for overall satisfaction) and Comcast (8.8). Perhaps it’s not a surprise: People stuck at home probably turned to their local cable monopolies for cheap cell service to temporarily replace their office phones.
Both Spectrum Mobile and Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile use a mix of Verizon Wireless’s network and Wi-Fi hotspots to provide service, yet both more or less crush Verizon’s numbers in our results. The only exceptions are a tie for phone choice and Spectrum’s spectacular score of 9.4 for fees—a number that even outperforms Consumer Cellular’s 9.3. But to say those numbers are ahead of the 6.0 for Verizon and AT&T is an understatement. It appears everyone hates paying the big networks’ fees, though at least T-Mobile’s fee score of 8.0 stayed above the other two.
Spectrum, by the way, is also on top even for coverage in a home area, a smidgen ahead of Consumer Cellular. It’s a service worth considering.
For more, read Fastest Mobile Networks 2020Fastest Mobile Networks 2020.
The PCMag Business Choice survey for Smartphones, Carriers, and Mobile Operating Systems was in the field from February 22, 2021 to March 15, 2021. For more information on how our surveys are conducted, read the survey methodology.
You could win an Amazon.com shopping spree! Sign up for the What’s New Now mailing listSign up for the What’s New Now mailing list to receive invitations for future survey sweepstakes.
keyword: Smartphones, Mobile Carriers, and Mobile Operating SystemsSmartphones, Mobile Carriers, and Mobile Operating SystemsSmartphones, Mobile Carriers, and Mobile Operating Systems