How the iPhone 5 can benefit your business

5th Oct 2012 | 08:36

How the iPhone 5 can benefit your business

Can Apple's smartest phone boost your bottom line?

As with the previous iPhone, the 4S, the iPhone 5 boasts a wealth of business features and functions including; PC-free activation and updating; notifications of incoming emails and messages on the lock screen; encrypted email; secure private networking; location-based reminders; Microsoft Exchange and IMAP email, calendar and contact information; mobile device management to monitor, lock or even wipe managed iPhones; wireless app distribution for businesses who want to create and distribute their own internal apps; and an App Store full of business-friendly software covering everything from time management to secure networking.

So what else does the iPhone 5 offer your business?

The email client supports multiple accounts, and the new VIP inbox prioritises important messages

VIP inboxes and improved email

If you'd rather filter emails to prioritise the most important ones, you'll like the new iPhone's email: it enables you to mark contacts as VIPs, and there's a new VIP inbox that only shows messages from those people.

You can also set alerts for just VIP emails, so for example when you look at the lock screen you can see instantly whether you have any new VIP email without being alerted about less important messages.

Mail also enables you to flag messages for later action, and the improved photo and video handling makes sending pictures and clips much simpler: instead of sending each attachment in a separate message, you can add multiple items to a single email.

It's a little change but a big time saver, as is the new, larger screen, which enables you to see more of your inbox and to spend less time scrolling when you're reading messages or email attachments.

The customisable notification area can preview emails, show appointments or just predict the weather

Improved calls, messages and videoconferencing

Apple has improved the iPhone's telephone hardware and software: there's an improved multi-microphone system for clearer in-call audio, a Do Not Disturb setting that enables you to disable ringtones and alerts either at specific times of the day or on an ad-hoc basis, and a new Reply With Message option that enables you to reject a call and send the caller a quick message or set a reminder to call them back.

iMessage, Apple's alternative to SMS texting, is improved too: it now unifies Apple IDs and phone numbers, enabling you to send and receive iMessages across multiple devices - iPhone, iPad, Mac - and that unification also comes to FaceTime, Apple's video calling system.

That means if somebody sends an iMessage or tries to make a video call to your iPhone, you can receive the message or answer the call on your iPad or Mac.

In addition to improved noise cancelling, FaceTime also benefits from another new feature: it's no longer limited to Wi-Fi wireless networking connections. Now, you can make video calls over the 3G mobile phone network, and the newer, faster 4G one too.

4G mobile broadband, and roaming abroad

The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to support 4G LTE, the latest mobile broadband technology. 4G has been designed specifically for mobile data and should deliver real-world speeds four times faster than current 3G networks, which should mean more reliable video calls, faster downloads and a much better mobile browsing experience.

4G doesn't just mean faster browsing on the phone, though. It means faster connections to other devices too. The iPhone supports tethering, which means it can create a Wi-Fi hotspot that your other devices - laptops, tablets and so on - can connect to, and in 4G areas that should mean those devices benefit from 4G's faster download speeds.

That's the good news. The bad news is that 4G is only just starting to appear in the UK, it's currently only available from one provider – EE the new name for Everything Everywhere, which in turn was the new name for Orange/T-Mobile - and when other networks offer 4G in 2013, the current iPhone 5 may not be able to connect to them. You may also find that when you travel internationally, the 4G iPhone 5 might not be compatible with the local 4G mobile phone networks.

The reason is that there are different flavours of 4G. EE's network will use the 1800MHz frequency, which the iPhone 5 supports, but next year's UK 4G will also operate on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies, which the iPhone 5 doesn't (incidentally the new iPad, which is 4G-enabled, doesn't support any of those frequencies; it's strictly a 3G device in Britain). Some other countries' 4G networks operate on yet more frequency bands.

In the UK, then, it's fairly simple: if you want 4G, you'll need a contract with EE (and be in an area where their network has 4G coverage; initially that means the most populated bits of the UK).

For international travel, things are a bit more confusing. The UK iPhone 5 supports LTE bands 1, 3 and 5, which means you'll be able to connect to 4G networks (where available) throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Africa. US and Canadian operators use different LTE bands, so you'll be stuck with 3G when you roam in those countries.

Navigation, Maps and making your business visible

The iPhone 5's new Maps application should be superb, and for navigation it is: it's the first time the iPhone's maps application has offered turn by turn navigation, and as it's cloud-based it should always be up to date (although that also means you'll encounter problems if you can't get a phone signal; for such areas, a stand-alone navigation application is a worthwhile investment).

The new Maps app makes good use of Yelp's business reviews, but the maps are currently buggy.

Unfortunately in its race to get rid of Google Maps, Apple appears to have thrown the baby out with the bath water: the new iPhone's Maps application is plagued by inaccuracies and omissions that will take a lot of time to address.

Once the teething troubles have been fixed, Maps is going to be an important application: for example it integrates reviews from services such as Yelp, which enables users to see not just where a restaurant is but whether it's any good.

Through its Siri voice recognition system it can also provide users with information such as the location of particular businesses, what's on at the cinema, where the nearest point of interest is and so on.

Over time that means that organisations who aren't on Apple Maps may miss out on business from iPhone owners - and with 5 million iPhone 5s sold in the first weekend alone and over 400 million iOS devices sold to date, that could be a lot of business.

If your business isn't already listed on Apple Maps - and at the time of writing, there's a good chance it isn't - then adding your details is simple enough: on the iPhone, open Maps, search for your business and then tap the curled page at the bottom right of the screen.

You can now click Report A Problem, Location Is Missing and drag the on-screen pin to your premises. Once you've done that, you can enter your business details and click Send.

As with Google Maps the updates aren't instant, as your details need to be reviewed by an Apple employee; expect it to take a few weeks rather than hours or days. You can use the same procedure to report an error, for example if Apple has listed your business with the wrong name or in the wrong place.

Remember too that Apple uses Yelp for its business reviews, so it's a very good idea to register there too. You can register your business, write a description and upload photos at biz.yelp.co.uk.

Electronic tickets, loyalty cards and coupons

One of the most interesting features in the iPhone 5 is Passbook, a virtual ticketing system that's designed to replace boarding passes, concert tickets and even loyalty cards.

Passbook is relevant to business users in two ways: as customers, for example when travelling for business, and as publishers creating electronic tickets, cards or coupons.

Passbook's potential is largely untested so far - at launch there were only a half-dozen companies using it, none of them British - but if it takes off it could be very useful.

It's location-aware, which means it should simply present the right card at the right place, such as your boarding pass at the airport and your membership card at the gym, and it uses live data that can notify you of changes to your departure gate or pickup time.

For publishers, Passbook tickets can be sent via email or delivered directly from websites or apps, can be tied to specific time periods or locations, and can replace anything you might normally print on a ticket, as a barcode, or on a gift, loyalty or membership card.

It's not difficult to create Passbook items - they're effectively digitally signed documents, Apple has created and published extensive documentation explaining how to create them and sites such as Passsource.com do the whole thing for you - but as it's currently an unproven service it might be sensible to hang on and see if it takes off before using it for your customers.

Cameras, connectors and voice recognition

The iPhone 5 boasts a new processor, making it significantly faster and smoother than before, and its integrated Wi-Fi wireless networking supports dual-band 802.11n wireless for blisteringly fast data access.

It also supports the widest range of mobile networks to date: we've already mentioned 4G, but it also works on fast 3G networks using HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA technologies for maximum worldwide compatibility.

There are other welcome improvements too. The iconic white earbuds have been redesigned for better sound quality and comfort - a change that was well overdue, and that should make hands-free calling more pleasant - and the camera has been upgraded with much better low light performance, faster shooting, improved noise reduction and image stabilisation and a new panorama mode that enables you to sweep the camera around to make a single, ultra wide image.

It's a great way to show off new products, premises or locations, but the resulting files can be enormous (up to 28 megapixels), so if you're roaming abroad you might want to wait until you get home before emailing them to anyone.

The new Lightning connector is simple and small, but older accessories will require an adaptor

Apple has also changed the charging connector, which doesn't sound like a big deal but could cost you money: instead of the years-old Dock connector, the iPhone 5 has Apple's new Lightning connector.

It's much smaller and less fiddly than the Dock, but it also means existing Dock-based accessories such as alarm clocks and car kits can't connect to the new iPhone. Adapters and USB to Lightning cables are available, but they're not cheap: expect to pay Apple £25 for an adapter that converts a Dock connector into a Lightning one.

The voice-controlled Siri can schedule meetings, send messages and give you driving directions.

The Siri software has been improved too, and as with the iPhone 4S it enables you to carry out common tasks using only your voice: you can ask it to schedule a meeting, to search the internet, to send someone an email or text, to tell you where the nearest cash machine is or to set a reminder or alarm.

Apple is currently working with car companies on an "eyes free" mode, where you'll be able to use Siri in the car without being distracted by your iPhone's screen. The voice recognition system in the iPhone also enables you to dictate emails and documents, a boon if you weren't blessed with flying thumbs for on-screen typing.

Managing employees' iPhones

In many organisations iPhones have replaced the BlackBerry as the business phone of choice, and to keep those customers happy Apple has beefed up its features for businesses that want to manage what employees can do with their devices. If you have a Mac computer, the free Apple Configurator app makes managing iPhones more useful than ever.

The Apple Configurator makes it easy for smaller organisations to manage employees' iPhones.

Apple Configurator is ideal for relatively small organisations who need to control multiple iPhones but who don't necessarily have dedicated IT departments to take care of such tasks.

The app enables you to put devices into Supervised Mode, which in turn enables you to load them with pre-defined packages of applications, data and system settings.

Such packages can have a time limit, so for example you could give a temporary employee access to important company applications, systems or data for the duration of a particular project or contract, with that access automatically revoked once the project or contract is over.

Apple Configurator can set everything from the simple to the serious, from specifying the images that appear on employee's lock screens and wallpaper to backing up users' data, blocking social networks or routing all their internet traffic through your own servers to prevent them from accessing or uploading anything they shouldn't.

You can disable access to specific applications and hardware features, for example by limiting use of the camera, blocking iMessage or Game Center or preventing iPhones from being synchronised with non-approved computers, and you can also use the program to automatically update iPhones when a new version of the iOS 6 operating system is released.

Putting devices into Supervised Mode requires a USB connection the first time you do it, but once you've done that the software and settings updates can be pushed over the mobile phone network or via Wi-Fi.

More screen more apps

The iPhone 5 and business apps

For businesses, iPhone apps tend to come in two flavours: stand-alone apps that do something useful by themselves, and apps that connect to bigger systems.

In the former category you'll find Apple's own Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation program as well as countless Microsoft Office compatible applications, business card scanners and productivity applications, while in the latter category you'll find remote access apps such as LogMeIn, which enables you to remotely control a Mac or PC from your iPhone; Salesforce Mobile, which provides remote access to Salesforce data; and Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile, which does the same for Oracle systems.

Apple's slogan is "there's an app for that", and there usually is: you'll find everything from tattoo designs to customer relationship management apps in the App Store, often at very low prices.

The gap between Apple's selection of apps and Google's isn't as large as it once was - where Apple boasts more than 700,000 apps, Google says its Google Play store has 675,000 - but while both stores have their fair share of pointless applications, Apple vets apps and Google doesn't.

The result, inevitably, is that Google's platform suffers from malware (malicious software): security firm McAfee says that malware writers are transferring their attention from PCs to phones, and that Android is their main target. Meanwhile iPhone apps remain malware-free.

As with previous iPhones, the one big minus about the iPhone 5 is its price: the cheapest iPhone is still a pricey proposition, with Vodafone charging £45.00 plus VAT per month for a free 16GB one on its Red Business plan, while the Samsung Galaxy S3, the iPhone 5's biggest rival, is £27.50 per month (again, plus VAT). The iPhone 5 may be the most business-friendly iPhone yet, but your finance director might still need some persuading.

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