Phone, Tablet, Computer: When You Need Each One

We know it’s possible to be very productive with nothing except a smartphone, but for most business travellers, hitting the road is a multi-device experience, with phones, tablets and notebook PCs all playing a part. As our Business Travel Week coverage continues, we look at which scenarios make sense for which device.

Picture by dorena-wm

Given the size and weight of notebooks, phones and tablets these days, carrying all three in your hand luggage isn’t a massive burden, especially if you can share a charger between the phone and tablet. And while all three devices can perform similar functions, there’s no doubt that some suit particular tasks better than others. Here are some common scenarios and our recommendations.

Writing and creating stuff: computer While it is possible to do some kinds of work on either a tablet or a phone, for major-league productivity having a keyboard and a mouse still represents the best use of your time. Indeed, the main reason for not taking the computer on a trip will be if you’re confident you’ll never need to do this kind of work.

Keeping up with email, schedules and RSS: tablet This is a close-run battle, since most smartphones also handle this pretty well. However, for what amounts to work-related content consumption, the larger screen size gives the tablet the edge. Exception if your device does a bad job of keeping track of read and unread mail (yes, we’re looking at you sometimes Apple), you might choose a different platform.

Waiting in a queue: mobile phone Easier to hold in one hand while you wait. Whether you work or play a game, at least you can stave off boredom.

In a meeting: tablet However, this should be for taking notes — not distracting yourself by doing anything else. Yes, that’s useful in boring compulsory office meetings, but if you’ve bothered to go on the trip, you should be paying attention, shouldn’t you?

Making calls: mobile phone. OK, uber-obvious, but we’re mainly mentioning it because of the one potential exception: if you’re overseas, it will usually be cheaper to use Skype or something similar on your PC, since you’ll probably want to pay for a hotel room wireless connection anyway. Calling rates in that scenario from your PC will be much lower.

Taking pictures: mobile phone. Because you look ludicrous holding up a tablet, and utterly ludicrous holding up a webcam-equipped computer.

Entertaining yourself on the plane: tablet While your notebook might be able to play DVDs if it has an optical drive, tablets win out here because of the longer battery life: just prepopulate with media before you take off. (That said, battery life is not an issue if you can justify business class or are on an A380, and the computer could work here too.)

Additional ideas on where you’d use what? Let’s hear ’em in the comments!

Throughout Business Travel Week, we’re looking at strategies to make business travel more productive.

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