With millions of iPhone 4s sold since Apple's newest smartphone was launched June 24, there's little question that this stylish device is in demand.
Even with its documented reception problems and other issues, iPhone 4 (from $199; apple.com) continues to sell out at Apple and AT&T stores -- ensuring it'll be one of the biggest consumer electronic gadgets this year.
But is Apple's latest -- which combines a mobile phone with a wide-screen iPod with touch controls and Internet connectivity -- ideal for your small business needs? Do the new features legitimize the smartphone as a worthy tool for your company? What about the antennae and reception issues?
The skinny on the iPhone 4
At just 9.3 mm thick -- about 24 percent thinner than the current line of iPhones -- Apple claims this makes the iPhone 4 the thinnest smartphone on the market. The front and back of the iPhone 4 houses reinforced glass, with a stainless steel wrap around the edges.
Along with a better-quality camera that can shoot high-definition video (and a Flash for shooting images in dark environments), the iPhone 4 also sports a front-facing camera for real-time video chats, which opens the door for video conferencing from the road for business people.
The "Retina Display" screen boasts an incredibly high-resolution of 326 dots per inch (dpi), which is four times sharper than past iPhones.
Other features include a better processor, longer-lasting battery, faster Wi-Fi, and integrated gyroscope (along with the accelerometer. The smartphone also runs on the new iOS4 operating system that adds features such as multi-tasking, consolidated e-mail inboxes, and the ability to group apps into categories.
The small business potential
In a recently published report dubbed the "ITIC 2010 Apple Consumer and Enterprise Survey," 600 respondents from around the world were asked to rate the performance and reliability of Apple products.
"What we found was iPhone users, in particular, were very satisfied with their smartphone," says Laura DiDio, a principal at Information Technology Intelligence Corp., a research and consulting firm based in the suburban Boston area. "Thirty percent of respondents said their iPhone was 'excellent,' a comparable 32 percent said their experience was 'very good,' and 13 percent said 'good' -- so if you add it all up you've got about 75 percent who give thumbs up to the iPhone, which is very high."
By comparison, only 3 percent rated their iPhone experience as "poor" or "unsatisfactory."
Perhaps it's no surprise then, DiDio found 58 percent of respondents -- or almost 6 out of 10 -- said they might switch to the iPhone for business. About 35 percent said it was a "possibility" and 16 percent said it was "very likely."
Worth the upgrade?
"The new features of the iPhone 4 are hard to resist," says DiDio, "such as the better camera, HD recording, and multitasking -- all of which could be ideal for insurance adjustors, law enforcement, construction foremen, and so on."
"While more evolutionary than revolutionary, many of these new features are appealing to many types of businesses," confirms DiDio.
Tim Bajarin, principal strategist at the Campbell, Calif.-based Creative Strategies research firm, says the iPhone 4 is a good pick for ,small and mid-sized businesses. "If a small business already has an iPhone 2G or 3G, and you're eligible for the upgrade without penalty, it makes sense to go with the iPhone 4 because of its many new features, tighter security and an enhanced interface," says Bajarin.
Bajarin says about 40 percent of all iPhones are now sold to businesses.
"The retina display is also significantly better than [the screen] on the past iPhone," adds Bajarin. "Right there alone, you've got better clarity in reading documents, e-mails, viewing photos and video, and so on."
When asked if the FaceTime video chat feature would appeal to businesses, Bajarin says he thinks it will be adopted quicker by consumers -- at least initially. "Businesses have not been big to adopt one-to-one video calling, but we'll see where this goes for group video conferencing."
On its initial problems
A few iPhone 4 issues have arisen since its late June launch, particularly when it comes to the placement of the antennae. Lefties, for example, might block the antennae, and thus reduce cellular reception, if they hold the smartphone in a specific way.
"Pioneers are always the first to get arrows in the back," says DiDio. "They're the guinea pigs, but early adopters who want to be the first to try something new has to be prepared for pitfalls and consequences."
"That said, you'd expect more from Apple, where the bar is significantly higher," adds DiDio. "When the phone is used for business, we're not as forgiving for things like reception issues and dead zones -- do you want dropped calls when you're talking with your customers, colleagues, or suppliers?"
Problems aside, both DiDio and Bajarin agree the phone's pros far outweigh its cons. "I'd even say it's too late for BlackBerry to catch up to iPhone with its current operating system," adds Bajarin.