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

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iBeacons: iOS 7 supports the placement of low-cost Bluetooth Low Energy emitter devices in workplaces and elsewhere that can connect via Bluetooth 4.0 to iOS 7 devices. That means an MDM console can have more precise location information for users, but also contextual information to help determine if a device is being used in an insecure manner.

A user with an iPhone passing a Bluetooth emitter in an unauthorized area could set off an alarm, for instance, but the technology could also trigger doors to open or lights to turn on when a user comes within about 25 feet of the sensors.

Wi-Fi Hot Spot 2.0: Support for this feature should improve the efficiency of the transition from cellular to Wi-Fi, which has previously burned battery life.

AirDrop: This form of peer-to-peer file sharing uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for quick data sharing between two iPhone users. In comparison, newer Android devices and other smartphones rely on near field communication (NFC) technology for file sharing. Gartner generally opposes P2P file sharing as inherently insecure for business uses. "We believe that most enterprises will want to disable this feature," said Dulaney.

Gold said that despite many security features in AirDrop, enterprises should still worry about loss of data via Wi-Fi connections. In a particularly risky scenario, a stranger on the other side of a wall and out of view of AirDrop users could monitor their Wi-Fi traffic.

In contrast, when AirDrop was introduced in June, Solstice Mobile, a development shop based in Chicago, said it was experimenting with ways to help business users streamline data sharing with the new function.

Of note, Dulaney said Apple's AirDrop technology indicates that Apple won't be putting NFC in future iPhones, since Apple prefers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to the near-contact transmission process of NFC. Adoption of NFC by Apple has been considered important for the advancement of NFC mobile payments systems, especially in the U.S., so Apple's decision to once again forgo NFC in iPhones means the emergence of mobile payment systems will be pushed "further into the future," Dulaney said.

Enhanced SMS: Apple will permit longer text (SMS) messages to be sent from iOS 7 devices in a process that converts text messages into MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) format. Even with this enhanced capability, Dulaney noted that enterprises still won't be able to track any type of SMS traffic on the phone -- and federal law requires tracking of the SMS traffic of stockbrokers and other financial professionals.

Activation lock: With this new feature, a lost or stolen iPhone can't be reactivated without the owner's iCloud username and password. Dulaney said the feature should reduce theft, but warned that jailbreaking any iPhone would likely nullify the activation lock capability.

Mass device enrollment: Dulaney said iOS 7 is expected to permit enterprises to set up and "enroll" multiple enterprise-owned devices at one time, cutting down the time-consuming process of enrolling each device one at a time. The details of the process weren't clear, and Apple didn't respond when asked to comment about it.

Mixed reviews

While Gartner sees many improvements in iOS 7 that could benefit enterprises, Gold said MDM software is what will make devices running iOS 7 enterprise-friendly. With any MDM system, basic smartphone management is still tied to Microsoft's ActiveSync, supported by virtually all MDM vendors, Dulaney noted.

Much of Gartner analyst Dulaney's assessment of iOS 7's enterprise features applies to corporations that own and manage the smartphones their employees use, but he concluded that there is also some advantage for BYOD shops.

To Gold, however, even with the many positive features in iOS 7, BlackBerry Enterprise Server offers a "greater breadth and depth of management" for BlackBerry devices than iOS 7 with MDM consoles will provide for iPhones. BlackBerry Enterprise Server for platforms other than BlackBerry is less comprehensive, he added.

"My advice to any enterprise supporting BYOD would be to only deploy [iOS 7 devices] if you have an MDM and mobile application management strategy to beef up basic management functions in iOS 7," Gold said. "Otherwise, you don't really know what you've got."

This article, "What iPhone 5s and 5c and iOS7 Offer the Enterprise," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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