With the official unveiling of Apple's iPhone 5 on Wednesday, the world, including small-business owners, now has a better idea as to whether or not they should spring for the company's latest iteration of the popular smartphone. Features like 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network compatibility allow road warriors to surf the Web and download data at faster speeds, while a longer battery life means less downtime or minutes spent linked to a charging device. With more and more small and midsize businesses (SMBs) adopting bring your own device (BYOD) policies, the iPhone 5 offers several benefits, but also limitations, to business use.
Let's start with the positive: The iPhone 5 continues to lead customer satisfaction surveys with its ease of use and overall user experience, something the latest version of Apple's mobile operating platform, iOS 6, is likely to bolster, thanks to improvements to its mapping system, with Apple-designed cartography and turn-by-turn navigation. As businesses become increasingly mobile, the need to quickly navigate travel from place to place is becoming more important, and Apple's decision to replace Google's Maps application with its own in-house app is a bold move for the company.
The iPhone 5 also sports Passbook, which allows users to store boarding passes, tickets, retail coupons and loyalty cards in one place-another useful feature for road warriors and businesses that like to keep on the move. Apple is also touting the iPhone 5 as the thinnest smartphone around, which also makes it easy to carry while still offering a 4-inch screen. The elongated screen allows for an extra row of applications, so business users can add more productivity apps to the main screen.
However, the iPhone 5 lacks near-field communication (NFC) capabilities, which many Google Android-based smartphones and BlackBerry devices currently offer. NFC technology allows devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity and can be used in contactless payment systems, similar to those currently used in credit cards and electronic ticket smartcards.
Another downside for businesses currently using iPhones in the workplace is the introduction of a new charging dock to replace the previous version. Although the new "Lightning" connector is smaller, smarter and more durable than the previous connector, it means SMBs that have invested in accessories or other connecting devices for previous iPhones will now have to purchase an adapter for $29-not a huge sum of money, but something for businesses on a budget to keep in mind.
Finally, we have the price: $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB model and $399 for the 64GB model. While there is no doubt the iPhone 5 is a highly sophisticated and polished smartphone, there are plenty of other competitive options out there for small-business owners to consider, and with Apple playing catch-up to the competition on a variety of fronts (such as LTE and larger screens) and still lagging on others (including NFC), small businesses should take a good, hard look around before settling on Apple's latest shiny new object, however beautiful.