New features in Apple's iPhone 5 have strong potential for enterprise usage but, overall, the device is a disappointment because it merely matches up to its competitors and showcases nothing revolutionary.
The new smartphone is a "strong" contender for business adoption, offering more seamless e-mail integration and the ability to organize contact folders in Microsoft Outlook, noted Jake Saunders, Asia-Pacific vice president of forecasting at ABI Research. He explained that the iPhone, for instance, allows sub-folders to be created within the user's contacts list such as a folder for "Work" to categorize business contacts and another for "Main" to group general contacts. Users can also make a specific sub-folder as the default contact category.
The ability to create sub-folders makes it easier for users to manage their contacts, Saunders said, noting that the ability the organize sub-folders within the contacts list are not available on Windows Phone or Google Android devices, although users can create and access e-mail sub-folders on these mobile OSes.
Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 early Thursday, featuring a device that is about 18 percent slimmer and 20 percent lighter than its predecessor. The smartphone will be available from Sep. 21 in the first wave of nine markets worldwide which will include Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.
Phil Hassey, owner of Australia-based CapioIT, added that FaceTime features were also improved in the new iPhone, allowing employees to conduct videoconferencing calls over a cellular connection other than Wi-Fi.
Coupled with its 4G and LTE features, Hassey said the phone will make it both more convenient and seamless for users to make video calls.
After Apple "ditched" Google's map technology to develop its own, Saunders said the former's mapping functions have also improved tremendously, with features such as turn-by-turn navigation support which may be useful for employees who travel frequently for work.
He added that while Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry device still leads the enterprise mobility space, providing encryption and security for corporate data, many of its customers today no longer require this level of integration.
"BlackBerry initially had been designed for banks and government entities, but as its adoption is spread out to a wider community of business executives, these consumers deemed these features rigid and demanded for greater personalization and customization of the operating system," explained the ABI Research analysts.
Pranabesh Nath, Asia-Pacific ICT practice research manager at Frost & Sullivan, expects the iPhone 5 to be widely adopted by employees worldwide.
Disappointing for consumers
For consumers, though, the iPhone 5 will not be evolutionary like the iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 was in terms of form factor, user experience and software, Nath said, adding that the latest release is not very different in terms of the way it looks and behaves.
The new smartphone also had been "highly hyped" with many carrying high expectations, especially since they had expected the iPhone 5 to be unveiled last year but got iPhone 4S instead, he noted.
iPhone 5's new features merely brought Apple on par with Android devices, particularly the Samsung S3, the market leader in terms of smartphone, Nath remarked.
Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum, added that with many Android and Windows Phone devices now significantly larger than the iPhone 4S, and gaining popularity, the pressure was on Apple to release a larger device but it did not.
"By only increasing the vertical height, it's created a device that's notably taller and thinner in aspect ratio than most of those Android devices, and as a result it will stand out, which may not be a good thing.
"While keeping the device small enough for some hands is important, many customers would have wanted something bigger and they'll be disappointed," Dawson said in a statement.
Consumers find iPhone 5 disappointing, inconvenient
Consumers in Asia had mixed reactions.
Shawn Lee, an engineer, said the iPhone 5 was supposed to be "huge" but turned out to be a "disappointment".
"Even though many things were leaked about the phone, I usually expect the CEO to announce 'one more new thing' on top of the leaked information, but this time there was nothing," Lee told ZDNet Asia. "The leaked information was it."
Others expressed worry over the nano SIM card which the iPhone 5 uses and issues over convenience.
Civil servant Lin Surong, for instance, noted if the Apple smartphone ran out of battery and she "desperately needed" to find contacts stored on her SIM card, she would not be able to do so on another phone. "This will deter me from getting the phone," Lin said.
Peace Chiu, a broadcast reporter, added if she wanted to keep a spare phone at home which did not support the nano SIM card, this could pose potential inconvenience to her.
However, Chiu was "excited" about the improved camera quality in iPhone 5, as well as its "thinner [frame], bigger screen and faster speed".
Ang Jin Yan, a student, described the new device design as "sexy", despite the lack of additional new features.
"I'm glad it is elongated because I like my phone compact and able to fit in my hand," Ang said.