When it comes to technology, small businesses continue to ratchet up their use of emerging wireless solutions, including tablet computers, 4G devices, and GPS navigation mobile apps, according to the 2012 AT&T Small Business Technology Poll. Nearly all small businesses (96 percent) surveyed use wireless technologies in their operations, with almost two-thirds (63 percent) indicating that they could not survive or it would be a major challenge to survive without wireless technologies.
More than four in 10 (43 percent) small businesses surveyed report all of their employees use wireless devices or technologies to work away from the office, a nearly 80 percent jump from three years ago. Despite being a relatively new technology, two thirds (67 percent) of small businesses surveyed indicate that they use tablet computers, up from 57 percent a year ago. By the end of 2012, some 50 percent of small businesses surveyed expect to have all their employees using wireless technologies to work away from the office.
In addition, 85 percent of small businesses reported using smartphones for their operations, up from 80 percent last year and more than double the usage five years ago (42 percent). One third of smartphones used by small businesses for business purposes are 4G. Nearly nine in 10 (86 percent) of the businesses using 4G smartphones are satisfied with the speed. Of those who don t have 4G devices, more than one-third (35 percent) report that they expect to purchase 4G smartphones within the next year, and more than half (54 percent) within the next two years.
Half of small businesses indicated that touchscreen is the predominant type of keypad in their operations, followed by traditional QWERTY keypads at 21 percent, and 21 percent indicated that their businesses use both types of smartphone keypads. Almost one-third (30 percent) of small businesses surveyed use mobile apps for their business, with key reasons being to save time, increase productivity and reduce costs.
Mobile apps are gaining in importance for small businesses that use them, with half saying they could not survive -- or it would be a major challenge to survive -- without mobile apps, a 31 percent jump over the past year. Of small businesses using mobile apps, GPS navigation and mapping are by far the most popular with 80 percent of business owners using them, followed by location-based services (44 percent) and social media marketing (42 percent).
Based on responses to questions regarding four factors -- perceived importance of wireless, use of wireless technology, use of mobile apps, and percentage of employees using wireless to work remotely -- a Wireless Quotient, or "WiQ," was calculated for each of the 12 markets surveyed. Dallas was ranked as the top market, followed by Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Indianapolis and San Francisco. Miami took sixth place, followed by San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Oklahoma. Kansas City and Cleveland placed 11th and 12th, respectively.