Throngs of consumers cheered Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 5 today, tech analysts predict the iPhone 5 will be the hottest selling gadget in history, and J.P. Morgan chief economist Michael Feroli said the iPhone 5 could boost the entire U.S economy in a measurable way.
But will the iPhone 5 matter with CIOs?
When the iPhone 5 finally lands on store shelves September 21, CIOs can expect calls from employees telling them their corporate-owned iPhones suddenly slipped from their hands and smashed to pieces on the concrete. They’ll need another iPhone, perhaps the newly available iPhone 5?
“Let’s just say there was a coincidence on major phones shipping and either damaged or lost equipment,” VMware CIO Mark Egan told me earlier this year. (VMware recently went all-in with a bring-your-own-device mandate that supports iPhones.)
Truth is, iPhones and iPads have driven deeply into the enterprise with each new version. For instance, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and found that one in five who bought the third-generation iPad released earlier this year planned to use the device for business.
There’s no question the iPhone 5 will follow this lead and pour into the enterprise.
“The iPhone 5 is going to trigger another wave of devices,” says SAP AG CIO Oliver Bussmann, whose company has 13,000 iPhones for employees. “Last year, in the first months after the iPhone 4S launch, we had at least 1,600 [new] devices. We expect similar demand with the iPhone 5 in the months of October and November.”
So what, exactly, does the iPhone 5 bring to the enterprise table?
For starters, the iPhone 5’s 4-inch screen and faster processor won’t be used just for better gaming and video watching—executives will be able to more easily and quickly consume corporate data. Let’s face it, business analytics can be tough to view on a tiny screen. Now it’s up to business iOS apps developers to tune their apps to take advantage of the bigger screen.
“More real estate to look at a company dashboard, a customer profile, all those things, will be helpful,” says Forrester analyst Frank Gillett.
The iPhone 5 boasts LTE support and better Wi-Fi. While faster data speed is good for everyone, it plays an important role in some business situations, such as streaming media and displaying chunks of business data. For CIOs with media-rich mobile apps, iPhone LTE support has been a long time coming.
Unlike the glass backing on the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5 boasts an aluminum backing. Why is this good news for CIOs? The iPhone is fast-becoming a mission critical tool in the enterprise, and a broken iPhone can be devastating to worker productivity. The iPhone 4’s glass backing was notorious for cracking, says Kyle Wiens of iFixit, a website serving up free repair manuals.
“The iPhone 5 should be more durable,” he says.
Another iPhone 5 business benefit isn’t a new feature at all. Road warriors know that access to power outlets to charge up the iPhone can be hard to come by. Battery life is business life, and there was a growing concern that the iPhone 5 would have a poor battery life. After all, the iPhone 5 has to power a bigger screen, faster chip and support LTE.
But the iPhone 5 has been engineered to exceed the battery life of the iPhone 4S, at least according to Apple. It supports eight hours of 3G talk time, eight hours of 3G browsing, and eight hours of LTE browsing.
Also catching the CIO’s eye will be the discounted price of the previous iPhone, in this case, the iPhone 4S, that follows on the heels of every next-generation unveiling. The iPhone 4S costs $99 for 16GB, while the iPhone 4 is free, with 2-year contracts.
“For standard apps, the iPhone 4S is a pretty good device,” Bussmann says.
It’s a good bet that the iPhone 5 will be a hit in the enterprise, and so CIOs have their work cut out for them. Even though SAP AG already has iPhone-support infrastructure in place, Bussmann says he’ll be busy enabling the iPhone 5 to be a corporate device within six weeks.
Keith Shaw and Ken Mingis discuss the features of Apple’s iPhone 5 smartphone, and whether the larger screen, 4G
LTE network and other features will excite the legions of Apple fans.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.