The iPhone 5 at work -- How companies should prepare

If your company is a BYOD shop, you'll likely see lots of iPhone 5s soon

Now that Apple has officially unveiled the iPhone 5, the big question for business users and IT professionals is how it -- and to a broader degree, iOS 6 -- will affect them and their companies.

Let's start with the iPhone 5 itself, which became available for pre-order yesterday. (Shipping times quickly rose to two weeks, indicating that sales are already quite brisk.)

Most of the details about the new iPhone were pretty much known long before Apple CEO Tim Cook and oher execs took the stage at the Yerba Buena Center on Wednesday. Some of the features have a direct bearing on the iPhone as a business tool: LTE capabilities with support for countries beyond North America; a larger (or more accurately, longer) screen and form factor; a new Apple-dubbed 'Lightning' port that replaces the traditional iPod dock connector; a faster A6 processor; and improved battery life.

LTE support

The arrival of LTE wireless capabilities is a big plus for business users. In most areas where LTE is available, that means they won't need to worry about finding public Wi-Fi hotspots when outside the office. It's a big advantage, but something of a double-edged sword: The faster speeds may make users less inclined to use public Wi-Fi and could lead them to use more data simply because they can access more information and resources faster than before. Both can translate to larger mobile costs.

To handle these mobile data challenges, there are a range of telecom expense management options available for business. They provide real-time analysis of mobile use and expenses, and help companies revise mobile plans and contracts to be more cost effective. Some companies, like Tangoe, can even help companies negotiate better deals with their carrier(s).

It's worth noting that while LTE and its potential expense may be new to the iPhone, they're not really new in enterprise mobility. But given the iPhone's continued popularity, businesses with a lot of iPhone-equipped workers should prepare for the iPhone 5's LTE support.

Among other possibilities, businesses should:

  • Revise policies related to mobile data use on company-owned smartphones to encourage users to rely on Wi-Fi, potentially with some penalties or incentives to ensure users don't go beyond data limits.
  • Use mobile management to try to limit LTE use, although unless Apple expands the iOS mobile management functionality in iOS 6 (more on that in a bit), there aren't that many options for curtailing data use. That said, some mobile management solutions can track data use and alert an administrator and/or user when excesses occur.
  • Consider investing in telecom expense management tools or services. A baseline look at your options now can help streamline them before numerous iPhone 5s enter your company and can be followed-up with periodic adjustments as needed in the coming months.
  • Consider working with your accounting department to streamline the processing of mobile accounts so you can spot trends quickly, perhaps reviewing them before reconciling/paying them.
  • Set a limit on data service expenses or adjust existing an existing limit -- especially if your company uses a BYOD program where the cost of service is shared between the employee and employer.
  • Work with departments where employees will be upgrading the iPhone 5 to determine which carriers deliver the best coverage and performance. Even if your company is a BYOD-only shop, you can provide this information to users choosing to upgrade on their own.

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.

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