10 Ways Consumers, Companies Can Prepare for iPhone Ubiquity

NEWS ANALYSIS: There is a good chance that the iPhone won't be trapped on AT&T's network much longer in the United States. So, as we all get ready for that release, both consumers and companies should start preparing now for the day when more than one carrier offers Apple's iPhone.

iPhone exclusivity could soon be a thing of the past.

France's Orange telecom announced on Monday that it will be bringing the iPhone to U.K. shores once Telefonica's O2 exclusivity deal with Apple and the iPhone expires. For the first time in Great Britain, those looking to buy the iPhone will be able to do so not from one carrier, but from two.
Although it's great news for the U.K., the country is far behind other European countries. So far behind, in fact, that only Germany will be left with an exclusivity deal on the continent. In that country, T-Mobile holds the exclusive partnership with Apple.
But what about the United States? AT&T still holds the exclusive deal with Apple. But just how long that will last is in doubt. Apple has shown in Europe that it plans to bring the iPhone to as many carriers as possible. And the exclusivity deals that contributed to the iPhone's allure of being a premier product is now giving way to Apple's desire to sell as many iPhone units as possible.

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Realizing that, it's time those of us in the United States start preparing for Apple to start offering its iPhone on multiple carriers. But preparing for that shouldn't wait until the announcement. Both companies and consumers can do quite a few things now that will help them get ready for a more readily available iPhone.

1. Evaluate contracts
Consumer contracts are much different than carrier deals enterprises get into. Consumers can get out of a contract with their carrier for a fee and go where they want to go. Companies, on the other hand, aren't so lucky. They typically sign multiyear deals with carriers, which precludes them from getting out quickly. Because of that, companies should evaluate their contracts, find loopholes that might exist and see when they should be prepared to switch to the iPhone. Preparation is key.
2. Education is important
Although users might not have the iPhone in-hand just yet, knowing about the device is a necessity before deciding to use it. Does it have the e-mail features companies require? Will it enhance productivity? Are there security concerns that IT staff should know about? These are just some of the many questions companies (and consumers, for that matter) need to answer before they make a buying decision. The iPhone is a great device, but it's not perfect.
3. Determine the value of current equipment
Just because an iPhone is appealing, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a better product than a device consumers or employees are already using. What makes the current phone viable? Answering that question isn't as easy as it might seem. The iPhone's allure is powerful and it sometimes clouds judgment.
4. Buy an iPod Touch
OK, so maybe buying two Apple products is out of the question for some users, but if they have the ability to do so, both consumers and a company's IT staff should buy an iPod Touch. There are several benefits of doing so. Not only will users be able to determine if the touch screen is something that would appeal to them, but it gives them time to get used to the device. It also helps them find apps that might be useful when they pick up the iPhone. And since the iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without the phone, it will also give companies the opportunity to research potential security issues that might arise when the iPhone is being used in the office.
5. Forget everything you know about cell phones
One of the biggest mistakes any user makes when they start using the iPhone is that they believe it will work the way a BlackBerry or a Windows Mobile device will. It doesn't. Realizing that, users will need to prepare for entering what is an extremely different mobile-phone space. Learning how to use the iPhone will take time. There is a definite learning curve. Preparing employees for that is extremely important to ensure productivity doesn't slip.
6. Evaluate iPhone plans
The iPhone is accompanied by some of the most convoluted mobile-phone plans in the space. Depending on what the user needs, it can cost a little or a lot to use the iPhone. Consumers especially need to be mindful of that. They need to know what AT&T offers and, when the time comes, ensure that the new carrier's deals are on-par with AT&T's offering. Simply walking to the carrier's store, signing a contract and leaving with an iPhone isn't enough. Knowing how many text messages and minutes a user wants should be step one.
7. Enact security policies
This step is for the enterprise. Any company that is preparing for the use of iPhones in its operation needs to establish a security policy to ensure sensitive data doesn't leak out. Unlike the BlackBerry, which has historically provided a finite amount of socialization with the rest of the world, the iPhone is a hotbed of social activity. With more than 85,000 applications, Apple's App Store provides users with the opportunity to do much more than what some companies might like. A security policy will help limit some of those issues.
8. Know the App Store, inside and out
A key component in the value users derive from the iPhone comes from Apple's App Store. But it can also be a place where productivity slips, security issues arise or wasteful spending is a common concern. Companies especially need to prepare for an iPhone deployment by determining which apps are allowed on employee phones and which apps are not. Some applications on the service contain what might be objectionable content. Having those installed on an employee's iPhone can spell serious trouble for the respective company.
9. Be prepared to switch
Preparing for a possible switch to another carrier is an important step as users prepare for iPhone ubiquity. If and when Apple announces the iPhone's availability on another carrier, both consumers and companies should know what to expect. What kind of coverage do the various networks offer? Do they provide 3G networking? What are their policies on in-network calling? Being prepared now cuts down on the research later. It means users will be able to quickly pick up the iPhone and put the switch behind them.
10. Consider alternatives
Just because there is a possibility of the iPhone being offered on more carriers, and thus, making it more appealing to companies and consumers who don't want to switch to AT&T, it doesn't mean that it's a guarantee. It also doesn't mean that there won't be other phones offered that can rival the iPhone. As users prepare for the switch to the iPhone, they should consider alternatives. They need to determine if there are other phones on the market that would provide an iPhone-like experience. If there are, they should consider trying them out.
After all, the iPhone is great, but it's not perfect.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...