IT Departments shouldn’t support the iPhone, says Forrester Report

iPhone by Apple The revolutionary Apple iphone, launched this year in June has certainly become a hit with consumers. It has quickly become one of the most popular smart phones to have. Like the BlackBerry, which is a popular smart phone especially for business users, the iPhone too seems like a lucrative one. Business users who have purchased the iPhone for their personal use have since been asking their corporate IT departments to support it.

Whether the iPhone is a powerful and valuable business tool remains to be seen. A new report from Forrester Research has suggested that the iPhone may never get a chance to success in business.

Here are the top 10 reasons presented by Forrester why IT departments should refuse to support the iPhone:

  • The iPhone Doesn’t Allow Data 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.
  • The iPhone Does Not Natively Support “Push” Corporate E-mail or Wireless Calendar Syncing
    Push e-mail that is delivered to handhelds upon receipt in a user’s mailbox is an essential feature for a business device because of the productivity such a feature enables, Forrester said. If users need to physically retrieve messages — instead of 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 said, 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.

  • The iPhone Does Not Run Third-Party Applications Without Voiding Its Warranty Though Apple has promised a software development kit for the iPhone so that external developers and businesses can create their own applications for the device, the iPhone does not currently support such apps — 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.
  • The iPhone Cannot be Locked or Wiped Remotely
    Forrester said the single most important feature of mobile device management 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.
  • The iPhone Lacks a Physical Keyboard
    The iPhone’s touch-screen interface and virtual keyboard may be cool, but they’re 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.
  • The iPhone Functions Only in Very Specific Geographic Locations, and It’s Locked Into Carriers
    The iPhone is currently available only through exclusive carriers in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany, and it’s locked to those specific carriers. That means business users who travel internationally can’t use iPhones in any other countries, even if those countries offer networks that are technologically compatible.
  • The iPhone is (Very) Expensive
    The iPhone sells for double what the average BlackBerry or Treo costs. At $399, plus voice and data charges, Apple’s smart phone 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.
  • 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. According to Forrester, the iPhone’s weaknesses include:

  • It can be difficult to activate quickly.
  • Battery life is weak/short.
  • Sound quality is less than impressive.
  • 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 said 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.
  • 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, Forrester said. 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 said it won’t likely be making its way into many businesses anytime soon.