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Apple recently released its iPhone 12 family of devices, and enterprise IT admins and executives should learn how well the latest line of iPhones work as business devices.
The recent line of the Apple iPhone includes:
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099
- iPhone 12 Pro: $999
- iPhone 12: $799
- iPhone 12 Mini: $699
All four devices come with an improved OLED super retina display, as opposed to the previous models' LCD display.
The line also includes a glass coating on the front called Ceramic Shield, which Apple claims to provide four times the drop performance compared to the previous devices. The phones in the series also include the new A14 Bionic processor, which offers up to 50% better CPU and GPU performance than competing Android phones, according to Apple. Additionally, the iPhone 12 line includes a 16-core artificial neural network engine.
These are all intriguing features, but the single biggest enhancement may be the support for 5G networking in both Sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave bands.
How does the iPhone 12 support business users?
The iPhone 12 series offers a broad range new hardware-centric features that IT professionals should look into and compare to other modern smartphones.
5G networking technology
For most business users, 5G connectivity -- along with faster Wi-Fi 6 for LAN use -- is the most valuable feature because it allows them to get their critical apps running and connected to an organization's back-end systems much faster and more reliably than on 4G LTE.
The speed of the 5G network increases throughput, but perhaps more importantly 5G reduces the device's latency by a factor of up to 10x compared to 4G LTE. This means that heavy data-centric and interactive apps, such as telehealth, AR, VR, remote video interactions and assisted intelligence can all run with minimal delay.
Of course, 5G is not yet available everywhere, but carriers are upgrading networks quickly and users should be able to find 5G connections in most major metropolitan areas by the end of 2021. However, Apple is late to market with 5G and many smartphone vendors, such as Samsung, LG and Huawei, have had 5G models out for many months. Still, 5G alone may be an attractive reason for many business users to choose the latest iPhone.
The next critical feature upgrade that could prove extremely attractive to enterprise users is the Ceramic Shield technology. Phone drops causing damage, especially to the screen, is very common with all users, so the risk applies to business users as well. This damage often requires users to get a new device, even if the screen still has some functionality, as business users can't work from a damaged device while interacting with customers. This would reflect poorly on the user's business or organization.
Indeed, breakage is so prevalent that some users have to purchase new smartphone devices or repair their screens two or more times per year. This adds cost to the business not only for the price of the device, but also for lost productivity and downtime for the user. If the Ceramic Shield technology can significantly reduce breakage, it can more than make up for the cost of the new device.
Support for AI technologies
Another potentially major step is Apple's enhanced neural network functionality. While AI and machine learning are still fairly new to the smartphone world, many corporate apps have employed them in their server and PC versions. Many of these features will make their way to the smartphone for corporate apps and move beyond the current use of the neural net capabilities for apps in areas such as gaming and photo editing. Apple is not alone with the mobile-facing AI technology either, as Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips, which most of the premium smartphones manufacturers use, have neural network subsystems as well.
Local processing power
The iPhone 12 line also includes its U1 Ultra Wideband (UWB) processor, which can accomplish complex tasks such as unlocking cars and triggering remote processes. Currently, the chip's capabilities are somewhat limited due to a lack of integration with applications. However, the UWB processor has the potential to become a major security enhancement for factors such as physical presence, automatic logins and location monitoring in hostile environments.
It's likely that the UWB capabilities will become a feature of enterprise systems in the next few years, but it may take a while for vendors to fully develop and flesh out this technology and its integrations. As Apple and other vendors deploy UWB technologies, they may not be universally compatible. This may cause a delay in UWB app development until vendors can reach some technological standard across all UWB use cases.
Where could the iPhone 12 line fall short for business users?
Battery life is a critical factor in enterprise smartphone use. In the past, Apple devices maintained a decent battery life getting the average business user through at least a day's worth of use. However, 5G tends to use power less judiciously than 4G, so there is some question if users will be satisfied with the battery life of 5G-enabled business phones.
Apple's more modest battery option -- 2800mAh -- is substantially smaller than many other 5G devices on the market. Some other devices have up to a 4000mAh battery installed, such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and the Asus Zenfone 6. Battery life is highly variable by usage factors, so it may not be a major concern for most users. However, users who rely heavily on accessing business data through a cellular network may run into issues.
Another notable shortcoming of iPhones is the price point. Apple offers high quality smartphones, but the price tag often surpasses many Android smartphones on the market. For example, Samsung offers the Galaxy 20 for about $770, Motorola offers the One Zoom smartphone for roughly $450 and LG offers several smartphones under $350, including the Q70 and the Stylo 6. Apple's target market is high-end users, so this naturally attracts business users, but organizations can find some major cost saving opportunities with alternative options.
There is a lot to like in the new Apple iPhone 12 line, and especially for Apple-centric organizations looking to upgrade user smartphones. While there is no game-breaking feature -- perhaps other than the inclusion of 5G -- numerous minor enhancements make the iPhone 12 a reasonable next step for business users.