Walmart giving half its workforce free Samsung phones to keep in ‘constant communication’

Walmart will give half of its workforce, about 740,000 employees, free Samsung cell phones by the end of the year in an effort to keep in “constant communication” with workers.

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Some employees will be given Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro cell phones with cases and protection plans as part of a plan to use a company app to manage shifts and clock in for work, Reuters reported.

“Until now, associates have shared company handheld devices. We did an initial test with the new smartphones earlier this year, and the response was good,” Walmart executives Drew Holler and Kellie Romack said in a blog post. “We are now expanding the test and will continue to evaluate to make sure we’re providing our associates with the best tools to do their jobs.”

The phone’s retail price is $499. Walmart did not comment on how much it paid for the devices.

The phones can also be used as a personal device. However, the retailer would not be able to see personal data. It would be able to see work emails, installed work apps, web history on the work-specific browser, device specifications and clock-in locations. The phone use is not mandatory.

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“Constant communication is essential for our business,” officials said. “Walkie talkies were one solution, but not every associate has one.”

Employees can use the “Me@Walmart” app to check their schedules up to two weeks in advance, request time off and ask for changes. There is a voice-activated personal assistant and a feature that allows employees to communicate instantly with each other in stores.

Walmart has 1.6 million employees in the U.S.

“The idea of this app started as a way to manage associates’ schedules and has grown into our single in-store app for U.S. associates, saving them time and helping them be more efficient,” the company said in a statement. “We believe it’s the first of its kind in the retail industry.”