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Should You Upgrade to the iPhone 5?

The iPhone 5 is coming, is your business ready? Here's a look at some of the expected features, and how they can impact your business.

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In the world of tech, Internet rumors often turn into cold hard facts—sometimes overnight. With Apple, a company that never pre-announces products, gossip about the iPhone 5 coming this month (or next) have persisted for some time.

Most experts agree: all signs point to an imminent release. The companies that make iPhone accessories have hinted at a new device, and the timing makes sense for a pre-holiday release of the next wonderphone that will surely astound.

So what is a business to do? According to Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, the answer is the same as always: Be prepared. Your business should be nimble enough to handle the upgrade smoothly, and that usually means assessing the need of employees (e.g., do they need a touchscreen phone or one intended for messaging?), and re-visiting contract arrangements with wireless providers.

Another important step: IT should be ready to handle any new security and management challenges with the device, which often means using a tool like MobileIron that can track new devices deployed in your organization.

Dulaney also had one more piece of advice: don’t buy an iPhone 4. The current version will be discounted or discontinued when the new model comes out.

iPhone 5 Features
Of course, deciding whether to upgrade is the hardest step of all. That’s where rumors can help you evaluate the forthcoming device, instead of making an impulse decision for employees once the iPhone does start shipping.

Rob Walch hosts a popular podcast called Today in iOS, so he has heard most of the rumors. He explained some of the new advancements.

The first one has to do with the camera. The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera, and it’s not bad. There aren’t as many features for adjusting white balance and other settings like you’ll find on an Android phone. Walch says the iPhone 5 will likely sport an 8-megapixel camera. He says iOS 5, the operating system that will run on the iPhone 5, has new features for a camera, including quick access buttons.

Another important spec: The iPhone 5 will likely use the same A5 processor in the iPad 2. That means it will run faster for just about every function, and it’s even possible that Apple will include some of the ground-breaking apps that now work on the iPad 2, including GarageBand and a movie-editing tool. Walch says the iPhone 5 will probably have 1GB of RAM instead of the 512MB on the iPhone 4. With more RAM, the iPhone 5 will handle more robust apps and run faster.

Walch says other features will include support for both GSM and CDMA networks, which means U.S. users could bring the iPhone overseas and still expect it to work. And, there might be an HDMI port that lets you connect up to an HDTV.

Small Business Prep
Crystal Kendrick, the president of the marketing firm, The Voice of Your Customer, says her company is considering an iPhone 5 upgrade. They are slowly transitioning to an Apple platform anyway, moving to Mac laptops and desktops and purchasing the iPad 2 for employees.

“The most compelling iPhone 5 features are the upgraded camera, faster processing system, and hot spot options [for sharing a 3G connection], and compatibility with our office products,” she says. “Having a single manufacturer reduces the cost of training, repairs, upgrades, accessories and communications plans.”

One way that Kendrick is preparing her company for the iPhone 5 is to eliminate existing Wi-Fi networks as a cost saving measure and because they will be superfluous when they start using the built-in iPhone hotspot features.

She says another important business strategy for her company is relying on “grandfather” clauses where she can keep using existing contracts for voice and data on phones, even after they upgrade to a new model.

Philip Chang, a partner at the PR firm Carbon in Chicago, had an interesting point to make about why his company plans to jump on the iPhone 5 bandwagon. The main draw has to do with the apps. Businesses are constantly evolving in how they communicate with new apps like LiquidSpace and GroupMe, which often appear first on the iPhone. Chang says, the iPhone 5 will just encourage new app development, and not being able to use these apps will cause problems in communicate between his team and with their customers.

“Nothing else on the market enables its users to share and create content as effectively or easily as the iPhone,” he says. “It gets the most attention from developers when it comes to rolling out a new communications tool.”

Chang is also interested in the faster processing, and the better camera capability (especially for recording high-def video clips).

Upgrade Plan
As Dulaney noted, businesses of any size need to have a plan in place for phone upgrades—the strategy of random upgrades for select employees usually does not work. It’s better to decide now who will get the upgrade, how much that will cost, how the company will support the devices, and to be ready for security issues.

Walch even goes a step further. Even though Apple has not released any details, the rumor mill is churning at full speed. He says it is best to work out the actual approvals for the new device, using iPhone 4 pricing of about $300 per phone. That way, your company can be ready to make the purchase at launch instead of waiting for the approvals—and possibly not being able to get one until 2012.

There’s always a sense of excitement with a new product launch. With Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO, all eyes will be on the new device to see if it lives up to expectations. The experts suggest being ready for something special.

Last updated: Sep 13, 2011

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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