Enterprises Choosing the iPhone, but That's Only Half the Story

By | Nov 29, 2012

New research shines a light on how businesses are handling the transition to a more mobile workforce. Records of smartphone sales for business purposes, even those purchased by employees, provide insight into how the next few years of business mobility will look and help businesses pick apart the differences between the iPhone and Andoid devices.

Smartphones in the Workplace

The BlackBerry smartphone has long been the leader when it comes to business mobility. The brand was especially loved by IT departments, which took advantage of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to control what was happening on their mobile networks.

Although things have been changing for Blackberry over the past few years, change is about to get official. According to this CIO article, IDC is stating that Android and iPhone devices will replace BlackBerrys as the top smartphones used by workers in 2012.

That shift has been a long time coming, and is unlikely to be delayed, even if the upcoming BB10 devices are well-received. IDC's comparison of Android and iPhone sales is far more interesting.

When management is doing the purchasing, businesses choose the iPhone by a two-to-one margin over Android devices. However, when employees purchase their own devices for business purposes, they choose Android by a slightly larger margin.

The iPhone wins with management not only because of its general popularity, but also because of its security features and controlled ecosystem, which combine to create a stable infrastructure. Businesses may also be a little turned off by Android's more open system.

For consumers, the same openness is likely to gain Android smartphones followers, although the wider selection and potentially low prices certainly has something to do with it.

IDC does note that despite its downward sales trend, the BlackBerry smartphone will continue to sell around the world, leaving open the possibility of a comeback - but only if their next device is something special. The company also describes Windows Phone as a "dark horse," but doubts there will be any significant business adoption.

Planning Ahead

For IT managers, the choice between smartphone types may seem simple; but things are rarely simple. The growth of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement means that more and more employees are expected to use their personal devices for business purposes, leaving IT managers with significantly less control over which devices they have to support.

Some businesses, even those who support a form of BYOD, may still restrict their employees to iOS devices. The benefits of having a single OS to support and for which to build applications are significant. However, part of the allure of BYOD, the aspect that creates much of the productivity gains for the program, is that employees are free to choose from a wide variety of devices to find one that fits them well.

Price is also a issue. New iPhones cost much more than many lower-end Android models. As this ComputerWorld article points out, Apple is aware of the situation and is likely to produce a reduced-cost version of their smartphone in the coming years, but even that will still not come close to the rock-bottom prices on some Android models.

For midsize businesses with small IT staffs and smaller IT budgets, creating a single mobile ecosystem through device homogenization may seem like a good idea, especially if the employees have to foot the bill for the device itself. However, for midsize businesses to maximize the gains from BYOD, they need to support both major mobile operating systems.

The sales numbers for iOS and Android devices aren't likely to change anytime soon, so businesses need to prepare to handle both types, instead of waiting and hoping that one proves superior. With mobile technology rapidly changing how business is done, now is not the time to sit and wait. Companies that embrace everything that is mobility will find themselves in a much better place, compared to their competitors, just a few years down the road.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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