Mobile communications devices such as cellular phones have been a dominant part of life in this country for many years, but their dominance has been limited to simple communications. Slowly, however, as smart phones gain popularity, the line between computer and mobile device will blur and mobile devices will become the go-to business tool.
As dominant as mobile devices are, more housing industry professionals use or own a laptop (60 percent) for business purposes compared to those with a basic mobile phone (44 percent); BlackBerry (21 percent), iPhone (16 percent) and Android-based device (11 percent), according to the 2010 Media Consumption Survey conducted by Residential Design + Build and Qualified Remodeler magazines. Surprisingly, 7 percent of remodelers, 2 percent of builders and 4 percent of architects do not use or own any mobile device for business.
The future of mobile device usage among housing professionals will continue to hinge on the laptop computer, as 26 percent plan on purchasing a new one within the next 12 months; 12 percent will buy an iPhone, followed by Android phones (10 percent) and basic mobile phones (6 percent). Overall, 58 percent of respondents plan on purchasing a mobile device of some kind within the next 12 months.
For now, printed magazines remain the main source of housing industry information for builders, remodelers and architects. When asked how they receive housing industry information, our survey respondents told us they use magazines, news websites and e-newsletters — in this order — to stay on top of the market; mobile devices were toward the bottom of the list. This is no surprise — housing pros use their mobile devices to communicate, not to read news.
We talked to a few builders, architects and remodelers to further understand how they use mobile devices. David Werschay, president, Werschay Homes in St. Cloud, Minn., gets his industry news on his laptop in the morning, or on the run during the day via e-mails on his Android-based smart phone.
“I must have the latest tool out there to be more productive. I’m doing more on this device than in the past, including browsing the Internet and watching videos. The amount of business we conduct on mobile devices will increase,” Werschay says.
Bob Burnside, president, Fireside Home Construction in Dexter, Mich., gets his news online as well. “The news I read online is when a headline catches my interest. And I’ll only go to a magazine’s website if someone referred an article to me. I haven’t received a newspaper in years,” Burnside says.
Once or twice a week, Burnside will watch an online video on his Droid Incredible, but waiting for videos to load can be frustrating. Despite the frustrations, Burnside knows it’s important to keep up with technology. “I think change for people like me, who has never been a techy kind of person, can be helpful. If you have people who can explain the technology to you, it can be a big help in business,” Burnside says.
Working at an architecture and interiors firm, Joe Eisner, president, Eisner Design in New York City, is in his office more than in the field and therefore is on his laptop most of the time. He doesn’t read magazines online and prefers the print version he can physically take with him while away from the office. “I even use it to tear out information of value, such as products advertised for a job I’m doing, and I log those in job folders,” Eisner says.
“If there’s an online video I want to watch, I won’t watch it on my iPhone; I would watch it on a bigger screen on my computer at work. I use the iPhone for supplementary work, like if I have multiple programs open on the computer and I need to look something up, I’ll look it up on the iPhone because it’s quicker,” Eisner says.
Some people, such as Chris Stebnitz, CGR, CAPS, of Stebnitz Builders in Delavan, Wis., use their mobile devices for absolutely everything, especially keeping up on their social networking activity. “I get our Facebook news and even have a filter that sends me anything that has Stebnitz Builders mentioned in it,” Stebnitz says.
Stebnitz maintains a 30,000-ft. view of the industry with news filters and alerts on his smart phone. His magazine reading is done half the time on his mobile device and the other times he’s reading the print version.
“I’ve gravitated more toward electronic magazines,” he says.
ROI on tablet devices isn’t quite enough yet for Mike Payne Jr., vice president of operations, Payne & Payne Builders in Chardon, Ohio, to purchase an iPad or similar device. “I am watching them closely. As soon as they are more compatible with Microsoft Office tools, I can see investing in them. At this time, I don’t think the apps are quite there for us,” he says.
Instead, Payne relies on his BlackBerry Curve to handle phone calls, e-mails, text messages, calendar management, contacts, Web surfing and sending pictures. “These devices are especially beneficial for our field guys as they are more accessible via e-mail despite not being in an office. The accessibility helps us accomplish quicker response times for clients that need attention. I typically only respond to e-mails that require immediate response, preferring the faster laptop for the majority of my e-mailing,” he says.