Apple and Verizon put 5G iPhones closer to the (enterprise) heart

With ‘5G Fleet Swap’ and Verizon Business, Apple is pushing the 5G iPhone 12 hard into the U.S. enterprise market

Apple, Verizon Business, iPhone, iPhone 12, iOS, iOS 14, 5G, enterprise
Michael Simon/IDG

With a new "5G Fleet Swap" scheme in association with Verizon Business, Apple is pushing the iPhone 12 hard for the U.S. enterprise market, as both partners rapidly build mind-share as enterprises worldwide explore the transformative potential of 5G networks.

iPhones at the center of future business?

Regular readers recognize modern enterprise tech isn’t truly about personal computers in the conventional sense, but relies on a mesh of different smart, connected systems and devices. Most of the big players in global enterprise mobility – Verizon Business, BT and Orange Business Services are deeply aware of the connection between digital transformation and network access, which is why all are working furiously to build additional intelligence into their networks.

That’s what technologies such as network slicing and SD-WAN are all about, enabling networks to intelligently maintain business-critical SLAs across 5G, among other tasks.

I spoke with Vijay Paulrajan, executive director, devices at the Verizon Business Group, who stressed the importance of 5G, saying:

"Verizon 5G is the foundational infrastructure for 21st century innovation, and the powerful iPhone 12 lineup delivers an advanced 5G experience across the full breadth of Verizon's 5G network. Combining the two to support enterprise can have a huge impact on industries from manufacturing and healthcare, to retail and even the future of the workplace."

At the moment, however, the consumer play for 5G remains a little unproven, given the lack of access and services designed to exploit the standard (development of which Apple’s entrance into the sector will accelerate). So, for the present, 5G is all about the enterprise.

5G in the enterprise is evolving fast

There are plenty of cutting-edge technologies to illustrate the transformative potential of enterprise 5G, including:

  • IBM offers iPhone 12 users the Maximo Visual Inspection app, which lets manufacturers monitor production line defects in real time using on-device machine learning, machine vision and Core ML.
  • JigSpace provides documents, instructions and manuals supported by AR to help with training and equipment maintenance.
  • In health, the OsiriX HD iOS app provides clinicians with high-resolution radiology images comprising gigabytes of data from hospital imaging servers in seconds over 5G.
  • In the Port of Antwerp, a private 5G network supports innovative smart cargo technologies, such as AR-based equipment maintenance and telepresence robots.
  • In France, electronics firm LACROIX uses 5G to support various cutting-edge technologies, such as predictive maintenance.
  • Closer to home in the U.S., Verizon Business is deploying indoor 5G Ultra Wideband with General Motors in its cutting-edge “Factory Zero” smart auto manufacturing plant.

There are plenty more examples, notwithstanding that business users also need mobile broadband for more traditional tasks, such as lag-free remote access to the many cloud services they have been rapidly deploying to support the COVID-19 new normal of remote work. (This is generating challenges in multi-cloud management, but that’s another story.)

All this evolution requires saleability and more, as Verizon explains:

“With Verizon’s mmWave bandwidth and reliability, private 5G should eventually offer the scalability to manage massive numbers of devices along with advanced capabilities such as Edge AI, computer vision and other emerging technologies.”

The 5G network is fundamental to all these emerging innovations.

This is where Apple comes in. Consider all the employee choice/Apple in the enterprise/BYOD reporting of recent years, which shows that when given a choice, employees will generally choose an Apple product – and Apple wants to keep it that way. It intends to do so in the future, which is why it is already investing in 6G development.

Apple’s 5G land grab for enterprise business

This need to play for the burgeoning and innovative 5G in the enterprise market is what has bought Apple and Verizon Business close together in the form of a new deal called 5G Fleet Swap.

5G Fleet Swap is a scheme that lets business users exchange their entire mobile fleet (from any carrier) for any model(s) of iPhone 12 they choose. The option has little or no initial cost, requires a small monthly outlay, and is likely to give T-Mobile a headache, unless Apple is cooking up a similar deal there.

Announcing the deal, Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin said 5G will: “Set the future trajectory for business as technology continues to evolve.”

Apple Vice President for Markets, Apps and Services Susan Prescott stressed the importance of indoor 5G, saying: “It’s now easier than ever for businesses to build transformational mobile apps.”

Erwin also said:

“No matter where you are on your digital transformation journey, the ability to put the power of 5G Ultra Wideband in all of your employees’ hands right now with a powerful iPhone 12 model, the best smartphone for business, is not just an investment for growth, it’s what will set a business’s future trajectory as technology continues to advance.”

The future hasn’t been written yet, but the trend toward AI, ML, remote, choice and more autonomous working practices will continue to accelerate change.

This matters now and post-pandemic, said Paulrajan.

“Events over the last several months have rapidly accelerated digital transformation for enterprise businesses. They are reimagining everything from employee safety and training, rethinking security, and innovating within their industry. There’s never been a more critical time."

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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