Should Companies Upgrade Employees to iPhone X for Security?

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller introduces the new iPhone X. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When Steve Jobs promised the first iPhone he promised a “revolutionary product” that would “change everything.” He asked us to imagine an iPod (remember those?), a phone and a breakthrough internet communications device, all in one package. On that day, Jobs declared that “Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

But the iPhone did so much more than that—it transcended the phone. And with the launch of the App Store in 2008, the iPhone helped lead a mobile revolution that has indisputably changed the world, even for people who prefer the Android platform or those who eschew smartphones altogether.

Fast-forward 10 years, and consider the recent Apple keynote, which introduced the iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the new Apple Watch. I’m an unapologetic tech nerd. And as a business operations and technology professional, I pay close attention to the enterprise implications of each new release.

In the keynote, Phil Schiller announced that the iPhone X will replace Touch ID with Face ID, a face-scanning technology. I noticed something that others might have missed: Schiller emphasized consumer security features. In past keynotes, Apple also gave a nod to enterprise security.

That’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of Apple’s new security features for its iPhone X. It’s more likely an acknowledgement of the growing threat businesses face from hackers and the vulnerability of sensitive data in general.

Smartphone users worry about hacking and data loss, whether they use their devices for business or personal reasons. Apple uses words like “secure enclave” and “one in 1,000,000,000” to speak to those concerns and build trust in the Apple brand to protect our private information.

Is the company leveraging fear of hacking to overcome concerns about the price of its phones? Sure—that’s the smart move. But Apple invests heavily in R&D to create a more secure device, and they understand the market: People are willing to pay more to achieve greater peace of mind.

Companies that have pondered offering smartphones to their workforce to gain more control over security may be tempted to look at the iPhone X, but I suspect the price will give them pause. They may approve the iPhone X for executives and wait for a price drop to offer it to the rest of their staff.

In terms of productivity, each iteration of the iPhone and iOS have offered productivity benefits. But speaking solely of the device, apart from the iOS upgrade, the iPhone X probably doesn’t deliver a significant productivity boost unless industry requirements align closely with its new features.

If a business relies on staff iPhones for camera functions and battery life, the iPhone X is a great leap forward. But for most companies, it’s the combination of the device and iOS upgrade that matter for things like fast access to files and applications. Speed translates into greater productivity.

Tech professionals who are making hardware decisions for their companies will have to weigh all these factors. The iOS upgrade will extend the benefits of speed to advanced iPhone models in addition to the iPhone X. But the iPhone SE won’t increase productivity; the chipset is two generations old.

So, what does the new iPhone X mean for business? Compromise and difficult conversations. Employees want the latest tech, not only for the expanded functionalities, but also because of the coolness factor. My friends in IT security don’t care about coolness—their focus is on safety.

But employees’ desire for cool technology shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand—companies that provide their staff with cutting-edge technology build loyalty. I suspect many companies will compromise and go with the iPhone 8, which has comparable features minus the Face ID.

As with any compromise, there will be trade-offs. Employees who focus on the latest and greatest tech will be disappointed if they don’t get an iPhone X. From an enterprise security standpoint, existing iPhone models meet goals with extended PINs, Touch ID, remote wiping and app sandbox capabilities.

The iPhone X means business, but it might take a while for the benefits of its new technologies to have a broad impact, given the price point. In the interim, the new iPhone lineup and iOS release will keep expanding the possibilities of mobile technology, just as Steve Jobs imagined a decade ago.

 

Geri Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Innovation at SSPR. G​eri has been working with the latest and greatest technology for years. As the SVP of Innovation, she lives in the future state. Some of her favorite things in life are a hot bowl of pho, her dog, Josie, and hitting the golf course with her wife Kathy.

Should Companies Upgrade Employees to iPhone X for Security?