The Apple iPhone took the consumer mobile space by storm when it was released last June and quickly became one of the most popular smartphones available. Since then, business users who've purchased the device for their personal use have been requesting that their corporate IT departments support it.
Whether the iPhone proves to be a valuable business tool or a non-issue for CIOs remains to be seen, but a new report from Forrester Research suggests that the iPhone may never get a chance to succeed in business. Forrester says IT departments should refuse to support the devices--at least for now--for the following 10 reasons.
1) The iPhone Doesn't Allow Data on the Device to be Encrypted
There's currently no way for enterprises to secure sensitive data on iPhones through file or disk encryption, according to Forrester. There's also no way for IT to enforce password policies since the decision to use a password (and when to change it) is up to the user.
2) The iPhone Does Not Natively Support "Push" Corporate E-mail or Wireless Calendar Syncing
Push e-mail (e-mail that is delivered to handhelds immediately upon receipt in a user's mailbox) is an essential feature for a business device because of the productivity such a feature enables, according to Forrester. If users need to physically retrieve messages--as opposed to having those messages pushed directly to them--they won't get them as quickly as possible and they'll waste time in the process. The iPhone can sync with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes over IMAP and SMTP, Forrester says, but IT infrastructure must be tweaked accordingly or a separate gateway product must be purchased and even then mail is delivered only every 15 minutes.
Apple's device also doesn't wirelessly sync with PCs, which means users must have access to the company's proprietary USB sync cable to retrieve calendar updates or contact changes, according to Forrester. If a meeting plan or location has been changed at the last minute, an iPhone user on the go could easily not get the notification in time.
3) The iPhone Does Not Run Third-Party Applications Without Voiding Its Warranty
Though Apple has promised a software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone so that external developers and businesses can create their own applications to run on the device, the iPhone does not currently support such applications--unless certain device components are hacked, which voids the phone's warranty. Companies that deploy, for example, sales force automation apps on mobile devices won't be able to port those applications to the iPhone until this issue is resolved.
4) The iPhone Cannot be Locked or Wiped Remotely
Forrester says the single most important feature of mobile device management offerings is remote lock and data wipe functionality, both of which the iPhone lacks. Apple doesn't currently offer any mobile device management software that's anything like the many offerings available for BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile or Symbian devices. Forrester doesn't anticipate any vendors offering such a product before mid-to-late 2008.
5) The iPhone Lacks a Physical Keyboard
The iPhone's touch screen interface and virtual keyboard may be cool, but it is not ideal for power users who e-mail and text message very frequently. The problem with the touch screen is that it doesn't provide tactile feedback, which makes it difficult to type without paying attention to every single key you hit. The faster you can type, the faster your messages get sent out and the more work you can do in a shorter amount of time. That's not necessarily the case with the iPhone.
6) The iPhone Only Functions in Very Specific Geographic Locations and It's Locked Into Carriers
The iPhone is currently only available through exclusive carriers in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and it's locked to those specific carriers. That means that business users who travel internationally can't use iPhones in any other countries, even if those countries offer networks that are technologically compatible.
7) The iPhone is (Very) Expensive
The iPhone sells for double what the average BlackBerry or Treo costs. At $400, plus voice and data charges, Apple's smartphone is one of the priciest such devices on the market, even after a $200 price cut last fall. Corporations seeking mobile devices often consider price a selling point, especially since many device makers or carriers offer business discounts and service plans. Apple and AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier, don't offer any such discounts for business use.
8) The iPhone Is a First-Generation Device
No mobile device is perfect when it's initially released. In order for handset makers to refine their products, they often rely on their masses of users to highlight their weaknesses. Some of the iPhone's weaknesses are, according to Forrester:
-- it can be difficult to activate quickly
-- battery life is weak/short
-- sound quality is less than impressive
-- it's currently only a 2.5 generation device, which means that data transfer speeds aren't as fast as they could be
The next iteration of the iPhone will likely address these issues. In fact, AT&T's CEO recently said a 3G iPhone is due in 2008.
9) Apple Doesn't Offer Replacement Batteries for the iPhone
Apple doesn't currently offer battery replacements for the iPhone, so users cannot carry backups to ensure that they never lose power. Forrester says that third-party vendors will likely begin to offer replacements in the near future, but because the device needs to be disassembled in order to remove a battery and insert another, the replacement process may not be simple enough for less tech-savvy users.
10) There's No Proof That iPhones Are Suitable Business Devices
The only large enterprise that is known to fully support iPhones is--surprise, surprise--Apple, according to Forrester. And it hasn't published any case studies or other support materials. Enterprises often make mobile device purchasing decisions based on the experience of their peers or industry analysts' recommendations, but with such information lacking about the iPhone, Forrester says it won't likely be making its way into many businesses anytime soon.
Additional information on Forrester's The iPhone is Not Meant for Enterprises report is available on the company's website.
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.