Mobile / Buying Guide

A Guide to Phones for Business Travelers


For most people, traveling isn’t much fun. Tickets are expensive, planes are cramped, and taxi drivers prefer a spiral route over a direct one to your destination. If you’re traveling for business, knowing that you’ll spend your stay in meetings instead of on the beach or exploring a new city makes your trip that much more unpleasant.

A good smartphone can help alleviate your pain, though, even more than an equivalently priced hotel minibar chocolate. So, if you’re shopping for a new handset that will meet your needs on the road, here’s our guide to some features and accessories to consider.

Huawei Mate 9 Smartphone

International travelers who want to connect in their destination country may gravitate toward a device with dual SIM cards. SIM cards act as wireless IDs, making sure that cellular towers know you’re you and preventing calls and messages from being misrouted. They have gold contacts, similar to those found on the authentication chip on a credit card, and the smallest ones, called nano-SIM cards, are about the size of the nail on your pinkie finger.

Ultra Mobile 3-Size SIM Card Starter Kit

Purchasing one in a foreign country gives you a local number and helps you avoid high roaming charges, and a dual-SIM phone lets you use it without removing your home SIM card and losing contact with your country of origin.

However, not all dual-SIM phones are created equal. Dual Standby SIM, or DSS, is the most basic option, and is typically seen on very inexpensive devices. One card is turned off while the other is turned on, so you’ll have to switch back and forth manually to receive messages and make calls.  

Dual SIM Dual Standby, or DSDS, is by far the most common. Both cards are active, so you can receive calls and texts from either number. You’ll still have to choose which card to use for outgoing calls and messages, though. You’ll see this option on 99% of dual-SIM phones.

Finally, Dual SIM Dual Active (DSDA) is just like DSDS, only you’ll still be connected on one SIM while using the other. That means that you can be on a call on one number and have the other number ring. DSDA is the rarest of the three, and isn’t necessary for most travelers.

One thing to note about dual-SIM devices is that wireless data won’t work on the second SIM—it’s for calls and SMS messages only. Keep that in mind when purchasing your SIM, and be careful to avoid costly data roaming charges.

Even if you’re not traveling internationally, you may want a card slot of a different variety: microSD. After a few years of Android phone manufacturers moving away from microSD card slots in favor of tiered storage options, expandable storage seems to have made a comeback, thanks to overwhelming consumer demand. Long plane rides are far more bearable when you can load up an external card with gigs upon gigs of movies and TV shows, and many destinations lack reliable or affordable Wi-Fi and mobile data.

Moto X Pure Edition Smartphone

Most handsets with microSD card slots support microSDXC cards, which have a theoretical maximum capacity of two terabytes, although the largest you’ll see in the real world hold about 256GB. Others support microSDHC cards, which only go up to 32GB, so make sure your phone can handle the card you want to use with it.

SanDisk 128GB microSDXC Memory Card

If you want a phone with dual-SIM capability and a microSD card slot, be warned: most devices with both capabilities use a hybrid slot, which means that the second SIM card slot can also hold a microSD card, but not both at the same time. If you don’t want to sacrifice your second SIM for storage, you can get an external drive like Lexar’s C1 microSD card reader, available for phones with USB Type-C or Micro-USB ports. That way, you can use your microSD card on the road in the reader and pop it into the hybrid slot when you return home.

Lexar M1 Micro-USB microSD Card Reader

Finally, there’s battery. Nobody wants to be stranded without juice in their phone but, in today’s world, I don’t recommend sacrificing features you love for a gigantic battery. Instead, just get an external battery pack. Prices on external batteries have plummeted in recent years as capacities increase, and the peace of mind you gain with a battery that can replenish your phone half a dozen times over is invaluable.

Xuma 2600 mAh Portable Power Pack

Some external batteries have features like flashlights and digital readouts but, for some road warriors, that’s not enough. The Kingston MobileLite combines external storage and power with a wireless router equipped with its own Ethernet port, so you can connect wirelessly to the Web without dealing with occasionally spotty and typically expensive hotel Wi-Fi. Even when you’re not connected to the Internet, you can still access, wirelessly, files stored on its internal storage, a USB flash drive, or an SD card.

Kingston MobileLite 64GB Wireless Pro

Hey, look! It’s the end of the article! Congrats on reading this far, you’re a real trooper. You may have noticed that, so far, I’ve refrained from recommending specific phones, and that’s mainly because today there are dozens of devices that fit the needs of the business traveler. There is one, though, that’s especially well-suited to life in hotel rooms, and that’s the Moto Z with Insta-Share Projector. After a long day of client meetings, presentations, or conferencing, draw the blackout curtains, snap the projector onto the phone, point it at the ceiling over your plush mattress, and let your eyes glaze over as you watch videos, TV shows, and movies on a larger-than-life screen. Trust me, it’s great.

Moto Z Play Smartphone with Insta-Share DLP Projector

If you’ve got your own top-tier tech tips to transform tiresome travel, teach us your secrets in the Comments section, below.