While still reeling from the death of Steve Jobs, Apple is now facing a whole set of new challenges, not the least of which is how to stay on top in the mobile phone industry.
LTE — Fantastic Boost for Business, But Costly
Apple waited until a year after most other mobile device makers had begun to establish themselves in the 4G market before launching its first LTE device. By now the mobile industry has basically decided upon LTE as the future of mobile broadband, and Apple has leapt onboard, but may be too late.
LTE is a significant boost for mobile professionals. The data transfer speeds are much better than those offered by 3G standards. So professionals constantly on the go will be able to access Internet, Cloud, and remote network resources at speeds comparable to or better than their Wi-Fi network at home. That’s a huge boost in mobile productivity, particularly if carriers offer tethering of other devices like We-Fi iPads, MacBooks, and PC notebooks at no additional cost.
That big boost, however, can lead to big bills. While most carriers offer LTE plans comparable in price to their 3G data plans, LTE’s performance makes it easy to break data caps on those plans a lot faster. It also discourages the use of public Wi-Fi networks, particularly in areas where Wi-Fi coverage is sporadic or slow.
Those expenses pose challenges to businesses. What businesses need is a way to manage corporate-owned iPhones so that they permit LTE use when necessary but curtail it when there are other alternatives? The current mobile device management (MDM) capabilities in iOS don’t offer a real solution. IT can disable voice and data roaming as well as disable some services while roaming like automatic sync with iCloud.
That still doesn’t allow companies to limit LTE use when users are not roaming.
MDM can configure multiple Wi-Fi networks and force a device to join those networks automatically when available, but that only works for setting up known networks.
This is a problem that Apple and other mobile phone makers need to work on along with the service providers.
Mobile Commerce Blurs Line Between Personal and Professional
There’s been lots of talk concerning how and when Apple might enter the mobile payments market with an iPhone-based iWallet. Passbook in iOS 6 is certainly a step in this direction. The answer to whether Apple will use NFC as its mobile payment technology like Google does isn’t known yet. Apple could use scannable onscreen codes, location-based payments in the model of Square and Taabbedout, or even create a payment system geared around existing technologies like Bluetooth.
Apple is infamous for cutting support for older devices in new OS and app releases — both in the desktop and mobile spaces. iOS 6 dropped support for the original iPad and iOS 5 dropped support for the iPhone 3G. Even the deices that iOS 6 support won’t get all of the iOS 6 features. The iPhone 4 won’t get FaceTime over 3G or turn-by-turn navigation, for example.
These are just a few of the challenges ahead for Apple if it is to continue its stay at the top of the business chain. There are many others as well, but Apple is known for being innovative and for hiring experts willing to experiment and expand their areas of knowledge. If the company keeps following this policy and exercises the same determination and initiative that it has exhibited in the past, there’s no reason why the company can’t meet these challenges and be even more successful than it already is.