The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are “the biggest advancements in iPhone history," Apple CEO Tim Cook told Apple fans around the world yesterday. But is a bigger iPhone a good idea for business users?
The answer depends on whether the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will make it easier to do your work. Let’s take a look at five ways the two phones, with a 4.7- and 5.5-inch screen respectively, can improve your productivity.
Upsides: Why we love the iPhone for business
1. Communicate faster
Smartphones with larger screens (“phablets”) are not only better for watching YouTube videos and photos. Business users can see more information in a single glance.
Apple has redesigned its native applications into two columns to take advantage of the extra screen real estate. The iPhone 6 Plus demonstration showed the Message app displaying the content of a message in the right column and the list of other messages in the left. That means you can jump in and out of text messages and emails without having to open and close each one to view the remaining list.
When you’re rushing between meetings it will make it easier to read the important messages from colleagues and leave the social texts for later. This is especially true of the iPhone’s Message app which lacks a Next button.
The iPhone 6 Plus further reduces the time to reply by squeezing in profile photos of each messager, providing context for the conversation.
It’s also worth pointing out the QuickType keyboard that suggests the next words for faster and more accurate messaging. The ability to see more on a smartphone is driving the boom in phablets, Canalys analyst Tim Coulling told the Guardian in May. "Bigger screens are becoming essential for browsing. Email gets easier on a big screen too."
2. Work faster in the cloud
The screens on the iPhone 6 models are not just bigger – they have more pixels. The iPhone 6 Plus has a whopping 2 million pixels, double the iPhone 6.
Why are pixels so important? Most businesses are not fussed about prettier photos or videos. The real difference is that a higher resolution screen makes it easier to show more of a website without scrolling. This is great news for businesses who use browser-based applications to run their accounting, sales and marketing. Yes, many of them have mobile apps, but these are usually cut-down versions that lack key features.
The ability to fire up Safari and view the full web app will be a key attraction for the iPhone 6 Plus. We will probably see developers shift to responsive designs that make use of the phablet format.
Just on the applications front – the new A8 processor makes the iPhone 6 25 percent faster than the previous generation. Quicker apps equals greater productivity. Add to that the longer battery life, particularly in the iPhone 6 Plus which has 80 hours of audio playback, 12 hours browsing and 16 days of standby time.
3. Easier to call
One neat feature that was kept under wraps until today is Wi-Fi Calling. If you are working in an office with terrible mobile reception, you can make and receive calls over the Wi-Fi network. If you move out of the office while on a call, the iPhone 6 will hand over seamlessly to the telco network. It no longer matters if you’re sitting deep inside a brick building, your phone will still work.
Another neat comms feature is voLTE which lets a user take calls over the high-bandwidth cellular network. Conversations are crisper and easier to understand; and, thanks to simultaneous voice and data transmission over LTE, you can also look up something on your phone without losing the call. Wi-Fi connections will also work up to three times faster on an iPhone 6 thanks to a little reengineering.
4. Single digit sign-on
Apple announced today that the fingerprint authentication system on the iPhone 5S, Touch ID, is being used to launch third-party apps. (The one in the demo was online accounting program Mint.) This is great news for businesses that use a lot of mobile applications on their smartphones. Entering passwords on the iPhone virtual keyboard is always a fiddly affair. It’s even more complex if you have to try to copy your login details from a password manager on the phone itself. If Touch ID becomes a single sign-on platform for iOS apps, happy days.
5. Faster and safer expenses
The launch of mobile payments platform Apple Pay is great news for businesses. The iPhone 6 can scan your credit cards and then use them to pay for items at participating retailers. Millions of affluent iPhone owners will ensure that retailers roll out compliant point-of-sale systems pronto. The obvious advantage is security – the iPhone 6 doesn’t actually record the credit card number itself (it creates a unique number combined with the phone’s device ID) so if you lose the phone you don’t have to cancel your credit cards.
Think of all the sales executives who run a corporate tab by handing their credit cards to the bar staff. With Apple Pay, no retailer will ever see your credit card number or even your name. There’s no information for anyone to lose or card to skim. Given that we’re moving away from signatures to PINs, many employees will be happy to pay with Touch ID. After a long customer lunch you may not remember your PIN but you’ll always have your finger. Apple Pay opens the door to automated expense filing for employees.
Although the demonstration didn’t show it, Apple Pay will probably send receipts to the email address attached to the iPhone 6. A simple rule in your email application could forward the receipt to an online accounting program or receipt scanning service such as Shoeboxed, Receipt Bank, Expensify or Concur. No more paper receipts stuffed in wallets until the end of the month. And the business owner can see outstanding liabilities from expense reimbursements in real-time.
Downsides: Apple still needs to address weaknesses in its mobile strategy
1. No suites
A big miss for business users is the lack of integration with the two main cloud productivity suites, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps. Although they are owned by major competitors, it’s a shame Apple hasn’t done more to integrate its latest handsets with the dominant tools for business users.
2. Awkward sound
And as Samsung points out in its attack videos, the speakers are still on the bottom of the iPhone 6 rather on the front screen. This can be a little annoying on speaker mode in a noisy conference call.
3. Big ain't always beautiful
Not everyone will love having a bigger phone. Heavy callers could resent prying a 5.5-inch block of metal and glass from their pants pocket while sitting at a desk. That said, I’ve heard that wide phones are more manageable if they maintain the same width. Remarkably, the profiles of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus are smaller than the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S.
The iPhone has put up a good fight against Android in the corporate world. The bigger screen and security features make it more useful than earlier versions. Steve Jobs may be gone but it’s safe to say that Apple isn’t going anywhere.
Sholto Macpherson is a member of Constellation Orbits, Constellation Research's contributing author and thought leadership network. Macpherson is a business technology journalist and expert on cloud software and services for SMEs. Since June 2011 he has published http://DigitalFirst.com, which explores how SMEs can use the latest cloud technologies and the impact of digital disruption on the accounting industry.