Skip the navigation

What the iPhone 5s and 5c and iOS7 offer the enterprise

Checkbox for IT: iPhone 5s fingerprint sensor, low-cost iPhone 5c and iOS 7 add-ons

September 11, 2013 04:55 PM ET

Computerworld - Much of what Apple offers enterprise workers and their IT departments in the new iPhone 5s and 5c comes by virtue of its new mobile operating system, iOS 7, which was first announced in June.

iPhone 5c
The low price of the iPhone 5c would make it attractive to younger employees of large companies with BYOD policies.

According to analysts, the biggest benefits of iOS 7's enterprise features will come through connections to mobile device management MDM software deployed by corporate IT shops.

Still, Apple has unveiled new hardware that could benefit -- or pose new challenges to -- businesses. For example, a cheaper, more colorful iPhone 5c, starting at $99 with a service plan, could be attractive to younger workers who would buy the phone on their own and expect to have the workplace Wi-Fi at their disposal.

There are also novel hardware features, including the iPhone 5s's fingerprint sensor, Touch ID, that could simplify the phone unlocking process for all kinds of business users -- even those who use their own smartphones at the office in BYOD (bring-your-own-device) environments.

Both the iPhone 5s and the 5c phones will be available on Sept. 20. Apple will make the iOS 7 software available for free for iPhone 4 and later devices on Sept. 18.

Here's a look at different views on how the new iPhone models and iOS 7 could affect enterprises.

Apple's Touch ID in the iPhone 5s

If Touch ID works as promised in the iPhone 5s, a user would simply touch the home button to activate the system and avoid the need to tap in a password.

"The fingerprint reader means that the user doesn't have to constantly type in passcodes, so I wouldn't belittle it" as a security feature, said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney.

Apple said that only half of its iPhone users rely on a password to unlock a phone, so a lot more authentication security could be derived from having Touch ID capabilities. A lost or stolen phone locked with the Touch ID would have a better chance at protecting the data inside.

However, fingerprint sensors are already widespread in laptops but are rarely used, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. "The fingerprint sensor could be useful for two-factor authentication, but laptops have had them for years and they are not widely being used," Gold said. "It's hard to make sure fingerprint sensors are working properly. So, I see the fingerprint sensor as more of a consumer than an enterprise feature."

Experts credited Apple for locking the user's encrypted fingerprint data in a secure section of the A7 processor. That way, the fingerprint data won't reach Apple servers and won't be backed up to the Apple iCloud sync service or anywhere else.

The $99 iPhone 5c and the workplace

The iPhone 5c could have an enterprise impact by luring BYOD users to buy an iPhone for the first time, possibly as a second phone to complement a BlackBerry or other device mandated by IT, some analysts said.

At a low price of $99 and available in five bright colors, the iPhone 5c will clearly appeal to younger people, especially those who never owned an iPhone, analysts said.

IT shops may once again have to re-examine policies regarding use of personal phones to access workplace Wi-Fi. They will also have to consider the appropriateness of employees using such devices to run enterprise-class email and apps. The iPhone 5c won't have the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor seen in the iPhone 5s, but it will run full-fledged iOS 7.

"The lower price of the iPhone 5c could potentially make it easier for Apple to increase uptake in the enterprise," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner. "I say this because most enterprises are still relying on BYOD or allowing employees to pick an iPhone from a list of devices, but then asking them to pay the difference between what an average enterprise device would cost and the cost of the iPhone."



Our Commenting Policies