iPhone 5 and the Enterprise: How to Make the Best Business Decision

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-09-18

iPhone 5 and the Enterprise: How to Make the Best Business Decision

There's no question that the iPhone 5, while not exactly ground-breaking, is a nice upgrade to Apple's flagship device. It's faster, the screen is bigger and it finally supports Long-Term Evolution (LTE). Considering that it costs exactly the same as the iPhone 4S used to cost, it must be a perfect deal for your enterprise, right?

Well, maybe. But don't forget that the iPhone 4S is still available, and it costs a lot less money. And the iPhone 4 is free with a two-year contract. So is the iPhone 5 really the best choice for your enterprise? The answer, as is always the case with technology is, "it depends."

What it depends on is what you plan to use it for. Like all smartphones, the iPhone is a very flexible piece of technology. You can use it to make phone calls, of course, and you can use it for email, text messaging, social networking and looking up stuff on the Internet. But you can do all of those things with any smartphone – it doesn't have to be an iPhone 5.

In fact, it may be that the biggest advantage of the iPhone 5 is that it runs iOS 6, and that brings some very useful new features. But you don't need to have an iPhone 5 to get those features.

"It's not so much the iPhone 5 as it is iOS6," said Jon Wallace, director of Emerging Technology and Cloud Services at AppSense. "For me what makes the iPhone really interesting is that the Apple ecosystem is having a profound effect in some spaces, probably for the consumer. If we're now entering the space where you bring your own device, it's inevitable that they're going to penetrate the enterprise."

Wallace said that a little known feature of iOS 6, Guided Access, while designed initially for the education market, is likely to be well suited for interfacing with MDM (mobile device management) software to make the iPhone significantly more secure than it is currently. He noted that iOS 6 includes code allows control of the behavior of the home button, the power button and even access to portions of the screen.

"You'll get better management tools," said Wallace.

But beyond iOS 6, Wallace said he didn't think that for many enterprises the iPhone 5 offers much that the iPhone 4S doesn't. "I don't think there's anything that's going to leapfrog into the enterprise," he added.

iPhone 5 Brings Speed Improvements


Still, there are a number of users who have needs that extend beyond the basics, and need the performance that the iPhone 5's faster processor and access to LTE bring. "The key insight is that while it's not glamorous, the performance and battery life improvements, extra screen real estate and enhancements to WiFi and LTE mean it'll be faster and you can get more done more quickly," explained Dan Kerzner, senior vice president of mobile strategy at MicroStrategy.

Kerzner said that when users depend on specific productivity apps, a bump in performance can mean the difference between choosing to use the device, and choosing not to.

"If you look at the use cases that we suggest, such as purchase orders or downloading content, if the device is fast, you'll do it on your phone," said Kerzner. "These devices become more powerful, you'll expand the domain of use cases in which you will choose to do it right there in an instant."

Kerzner said that all of the factors that improve performance are important in helping a user decide to perform a task on their phone rather than somewhere else, but that "no single thing that improves that more than performance and battery life."

As is always the case, the real decision comes down to the device you need, the device you have now and how much better one is over the other. For many organizations, the lower cost of getting the iPhone 4S more than offsets any advantage the extra performance may provide, especially if those organizations are already using existing iPhones and are getting adequate performance. Unless there's an obvious need for the larger screen or faster processor, then the cost savings may be the critical factor.

But sometimes the extra performance is actually worth the extra cost. As Kerzner points out, if you need to see and approve a purchase order (for example), then the faster network speed, the shorter time required to open and view the document and the shorter time it takes to act on it may mean that your employee may choose to do it immediately on their phone rather than going back to their desk. This productivity improvement alone could pay for the higher cost in a very short time.

So yes, the iPhone 5 is a very nice phone with some very nice features. But whether it's right for your enterprise is a firm maybe. It's all in how you plan to use it, and how much you want to spend to get there.

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