When smart phones first hit the market they were mainly used by business people so they could have access to their corporate email. Thanks to Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPhone and Android phones,the prices have dropped and most people can afford them.
The non-corporate user often does not get to enjoy the same features though. I have seen many users who have to delete an email from their phone, then still have to delete the same email from their email client on their desktop. Or the opposite may be true. If they download the email on their desktop, it's not available on their smart phone. This is because most users have POP email accounts and the POP protocol simply was not designed for managing the same email account from multiple devices.
What makes corporate email accounts better is that they are typically hosted on a Microsoft Exchange Server. Exchange is much more robust than an old style POP server. I will address many of it's features in a moment, but first the great news for the consumer is that a few years ago, many web hosting companies started offering to host Microsoft Exchange accounts for anyone. The prices were not great at first, but due to the amount of competition, the cost has dropped quite a bit in the last couple years.
The world's largest Exchange hosting service is Intermedia. They charge about $11 per month. There are some as low as $7 per month. The mailbox size limit will vary from company to company. Many offer different plans and discounts for multiple accounts.
This site has a list of Exchange hosting companies: http://www.msexchange.org/services/Exchange-Hosting
Now for the features...
Accessibility: With a hosted Microsoft Exchange email account you can access your email, contacts and appointment calendar from your desktop computer using Outlook, from any computer using a web browser and from most smart phones. All Android phones, iPhones and Blackberries have the ability to synchronize with Exchange Server just like the Windows phones.
Contact Management: Where do you keep your email addresses and phone numbers? On your phone? On your computer? Are those lists the same or do you often find yourself on the road looking on your phone for a number thats at home on the computer? With an Exchange account, your contact lists are all the same. If you add a contact on your phone, it's on your desktop and online in seconds. Delete or edit a contact on your desktop and the same changes are made on the phone.
Email: No more deleting an email from your phone, then having to delete it from the desktop as well. When you delete an email from any device, it's gone from all. Send email from your phone and it shows up in the Sent Items folder on the desktop.
Calendar: Now you can be at a lunch meeting and add an appointment to your phone. By the time you get back to the office it's already on your desktop. Or someone at the home office can add appointments to your calendar throught the day for you and they appear on your phone in seconds.
Item Sharing: You can create public folders in Exchange to share emails, contacts and calendar items between multiple users.
If you have a small business or rely heavily on access to your email, contacts and calendar, Microsoft Exchange may be the answer for you. Please call if you have any questions about using Exchange.