The Editors Page: Mobile phone advantages
The Editor's Page: Mobile phone advantages
10/03/2012

Instead of asking me for my home telephone number, a receptionist at a veterinarian’s office recently asked me only for my mobile phone number. This actually was a good move. I have to admit that the day has come where I am more likely to check for and receive messages on my smartphone much faster. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a landline at home. There is, but I’m not sure for how much longer.

There’s a funny magnet I’ve seen related to this topic. It simply says: “The only reason I have a home phone is so I can find my cell phone.”

I’ve been reluctant to part with having a landline because of the idea that the phone can work even if there is a power outage. However, a cell phone still works if the battery is charged and you can get a signal. If you have a wired phone line connected to a wireless handset, it doesn’t work if there’s no electricity. Now, it seems the mobile phone has the advantage in case of emergency.

Mobile phone advantages have not been ignored by the general public. At the end of 2011, there were 331.6 million wireless subscriber connections in the United States, according to statistics from CTIA, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry. Wireless penetration — the number of active wireless units divided by the total U.S. and territorial population including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands — was at 104.6 percent, and the number of wireless-only households was 31.6 percent and growing.

In short, most everybody these days has a cell phone, including you, your family, your employees and your customers. Many of them probably have smartphones that can allow them to check email, Facebook or surf the Internet any time most anywhere there is a good wireless connection.

This phenomenon can impact your business on several levels, which is what we explore in this issue’s cover story package, “Mobile Ready,” by Features Editor Whitney Carnahan, starting on page 20.

What began as an idea to look at how rental companies can use mobile phones in their business exploded into a multi-faceted package of stories that covers a variety of mobile-related issues.

For example, there’s smartphone security. One story by John Sileo, a data security expert who also was a speaker at The Rental Show 2012 in New Orleans, looks at how you can protect sensitive information from data thieves who now see wireless phones and tablets as a prime target because most people don’t think a mobile phone can be hacked.

We also look at mobile phone usage policies to consider so that your business can protect employees and manage liability risks. While mobile phones make it easier to be in contact with delivery drivers, it is a good idea to ban usage while driving and instruct drivers to pull over, stop, turn off the engine and then check for messages or take calls. There are several other factors, as a rental store owner or manager, to consider related to mobile phones.

Bonus coverage in our digital edition for American Rental Association (ARA) members looks at the ways manufacturers are using things like quick response (QR) codes that can allow mobile users with a QR code reader to download everything to their phones, from manuals and technical specifications your mechanics could use to instructional videos for end users on how to properly operate the machine for the best results.

More bonus coverage talks about what equipment rental software companies are doing to upgrade systems to help their rental store clients easily provide mobile websites and mobile apps to meet their customers’ needs.

Mobile usage will likely continue to grow as time goes on and devices will be able to do even more than they do now. I’ve had my smartphone for a year now and I still don’t know what all the buttons do. I haven’t taken the time, either, to add more apps beyond the weather, Facebook, ESPN, eBay, Mapquest, The Rental Show, QR code reader ScanLife, the City of LeClaire — my hometown — and Angry Birds.

It was only after reading the mobile phone security story that I figured out how to add a passcode to access the phone. Now I figure it’s time to check out the app store and see what else I can use. Check out our coverage and see what opportunities you and your business might be missing.

Wayne Walley is editor for Rental Management, the official magazine of the American Rental Association, 1900 19th St., Moline, IL 61265. He can be reached at 800-334-2177, ext. 253, or 309-277-4253; fax 309-764-2747; wayne.walley@ararental.org.