From cameras and radios, to GPS and walkie-talkies, mobile phones have been replacing countless dedicated devices in homes and on worksites.

Over the past five years, a large amount of research has gone into the development of mobile phone technology. This has resulted in mobile devices that are much more capable and powerful than ever. From cameras and radios, to GPS and walkie-talkies, mobile phones have been replacing countless dedicated devices in homes and on worksites. Of all the reasons that companies have begun to use mobile phones in place of dedicated hardware, five reasons top the list: they’re small and portable, inexpensive, internet-connected, app-based, and flexible and powerful.

1. Small and Mobile

Many dedicated devices, especially push-talk radios, are large, bulky, and difficult to carry around or attach to the body. While mobile phones started out as much larger handheld devices, they have gotten much smaller, thinner, and lighter. This makes them easy to cart around in a pocket or purse, in a toolbox or briefcase, or on a belt clip. Today, a large percentage of people own a smartphone, so they already have a device on hand — which means there is no need for another device in many cases.

2. Inexpensive

As technology becomes more advanced and more options become available, devices tend to decrease in cost. The accessibility of the Internet and availability of apps at such low cost make mobile phones and their enhanced capabilities easy to come by, regardless of budget. On the other hand, a company can spend a large amount of money to acquire and maintain dedicated hardware devices, especially if it needs to buy different types that perform distinct functions.

3. Internet Connected

Many workers in mining and similar industries regularly use sat phones (satellite phones) to help them complete their duties onsite. While these phones make use of satellite for navigation, smartphones with GPS work just as well. Smartphones acquire data from cell phone towers and prepackaged mapping systems (e.g., Google Maps) from the Internet, so connectivity can become a drawback — for example, if a worker is in an area with poor coverage or if interference causes signal interruption. But, fortunately, devices exist that can be paired with a smartphone to increase connectivity.

4. App-Based

Smartphones alone might not meet the specific needs of a worksite. However, smartphones can use apps that are customized to meet users’ needs. Apps can be Internet-based or standalone, and multiply the capabilities of the phone exponentially. On the other hand, apps may require additional training to use and monthly fees could make usage more expensive. In some cases, there may not be an app available with the same capabilities as a dedicated device that is configured to fit the needs of a worksite or industry.

5. Flexible and Powerful

Wired magazine predicts that mobile phones will replace computers in less than two years. ARM, a chip manufacturing company, recently announced the design of new mobile phone chips designed to mirror the capabilities of computers. Couple that with a phone’s small size, Internet connectivity, app repository, and low cost, and the result is highly flexible and very powerful. However, while dedicated devices lack the flexibility to perform multiple functions like smartphones, in some situations they may still serve their purpose well.

Mobile phones and apps have been designed to contain a combination of many of the features found in uni-functional dedicated hardware devices. In the mining, oil, and natural resource industries, technology and apps have made the mobile phone a more powerful tool that is replacing SAT phones, radio systems, and other worksite technologies. While a dedicated device makes more sense in certain situations, it is well worth looking into the benefits of using a cell phone to accomplish the same tasks.