Who’s Winning the Smartphone Race at Law Firms?

As smartphone adoption continues to rise, BlackBerry’s traditional hold on the legal market is waning as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android devices join the competition.

In July 2013, the Daily Mail cited a study conducted by TalkTalk Mobile that found iPhone owners were more ambitious and travelled more than other phone users, BlackBerry owners earned the most and had more friends, while Android users had the best manners and were better in the kitchen.

Personality quirks aside, is there a clear winner on functionality? What should you choose for your firm?

A shift in the game

A conservative industry at the best of times, the legal profession is playing catch-up in the technology field. A 2012 Thomson Reuters survey of more than 300 legal professionals found that 95 per cent of respondents use smartphones, 67 per cent use tablets and an increasing number use their own mobile devices for work purposes.

Legal sector IT departments are witnessing a rapid shift from their beloved fleet of centrally-controlled and company-owned BlackBerry devices to BYOD (bring your own device) Apple and Android products.

On a global scale, in a survey conducted by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) in 2012, for those firms with 49 or fewer attorneys, 18 per cent used Android, 80 per cent used the Apple iPad family and only 5 per cent used a BlackBerry Playbook. ILTA says the presence of Android tablets in the mobile fleet is now 26 per cent (an increase of 16 per cent). For larger firms, the percentage using Apple products increased and the BlackBerry numbers remained low. However, the use of BlackBerry products as part of a law firm’s embedded operating system was much higher. BlackBerry Enterprise Server was still popular amongst firms as well as the Microsoft Exchange (ActiveSync).

With so many new options for lawyers and firms, what are the pros and cons of these competing products?

1. Google Android

Pros

  • Microsoft ActiveSync.
  • Google app integration.
  • Solid hardware range.
  • Extensive app library.

Cons

  • Open-source nature of the device may cause a fragmented experience.1

 

2. Apple iPhone

Pros

  • Quality web browser and connectivity.
  • Vast app library with impressive business apps.
  • Slick look and feel to the hardware.

Cons

  • Poor battery life.
  • Consumer-centric.

 

3. BlackBerry

Pros

  • Removable battery.
  • Durable.
  • Strong on security.
  • Merges with legal messaging systems easily.

Cons

  • Weaker web-browsing facilities.
  • Reliance on BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BlackBerry Express to integrate with messaging system.

In a bid to regain popularity, BlackBerry released the BlackBerry 10 smartphone in January 2013, but as the company is now up for sale, all signs point to a diminishing stronghold on the corporate market.2 In the end, it often comes down to personal choice. However, with so many smartphones to choose from, law firm support for multiple platforms may be the only way forward.

 

Sources

  1. Desrosiers, M. (2010) ‘Blackberry, Iphone or Android? Pros and Cons of mobile devices for business
  2. Rocha, E. (2013) ‘Blackberry shifting emphasis from smartphones to services’, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May

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