Apple’s iPhone has won over the US government as the smartphone of choice.  The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) ended its 8-year long contract with RIM, the Canadian telecommunications company that produces Blackberry smartphones.  In early 2012, three other government agencies—the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the General Services Administration; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives—also ditched Blackberrys for iPhones.  Apple emerges victorious in the smartphone battles on this front, but will you follow suit?  Here are the most-cited reasons for switching to an iOS device for business:

Strong Apple Ecosystem  

Business Feautures iOS 6
Wikipedia Image by Zach Vega. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Seeking Alpha points out that one of the main strengths of Apple is its strong ecosystem, analyzing that it has “the most well recognized and potentially addictive system of all the technology companies.”  Aside from being to satisfy all user needs and being easy to use, it is seamless and interdependent. Perhaps only Windows comes close in replicating the seamlessness and interdependence of the Apple ecosystem, given the new Windows 8 OS and devices. But even then, there’s the question of the public adopting Windows 8 on their smartphones, a market dominated by iOS and Android.

Apple also boasts of impressive content in its Apple app store, which Tim Cook claims is the “most vibrant app ecosystem on the planet.”  According to Cook, the Apple store has 700,000 apps in the App store, 90 percent of which are downloaded every month. The only main competitor in this arena is the Google Play Store, which also boasted of the same number of apps. So far, Blackberry and Windows apps can’t compete with the number of iOS and Android apps.

But beyond the numbers, we also have to ask how many apps are cross-platform, how many are quality and well-designed apps, and how much they make for developers. Apple’s closed system is an advantage, since software updates can be faster and more efficient, unlike in the open system Android has. Developers can test their apps on few devices instead of tons of devices with different OS versions.  Another main advantage is Apple’s robust developer support, which it has been perfecting for 20 years. Interestingly, more people are also willing to pay for Apple apps, which is probably why more developers are flocking over to the Apple ecosystem.

Apps are important for business phone users, since they give you added functionality. For instance, you can set up, manage, and access your cloud business phone system if you have RingCentral on your smartphone. Or you can access your files from anywhere and share them with colleagues if you have Dropbox. Blackberry also used to have the advantage when it came to communication functions, partly thanks to its free BBM messaging service.  But with group messaging apps available on other operating systems, BB has lost more of its glitter.

Security and Control

Device security is an important concern now more than ever as people use their smartphones to connect anywhere at any time. Research shows that 34 percent of people store sensitive data on their smartphones, 48 percent have used their devices to connect to unsecure networks, and 55 percent say that they’ve sent work-related email or documents to personal email accounts on their smartphones. Blackberry has long been favored as the go-to business phone and OS for enterprises because it provides high-level security and has even acquired a FIPS 140-2 certification even before the BB10 launch.  But because of the delay in the launch of BB10 devices , the victory has gone to iOS 6 when it comes to this aspect.  The ICE says that it also considered the Android platform “but it concluded that Apple’s tightly-controlled ecosystem would best serve its needs.”  Ars Tecnica reports that new settings in iOS 6 allow administrators with Configurator profiles to control or tweak almost every aspect of iOS 6. Here are some of the things you can do to an iOS device if you’re an administrator:

  • By configuring an HTTP global proxy, you can control user access to the Web over a cellular or local network. This means that you can filter information a user sends and receives; you get to block information coming in and also prevent access to sites that violate security and usage policies.
  • You can block users from installing authentication certifications and configuration profiles on their iOS device, lowering the possibility of users transferring sensitive company information to a third party.
  • Placing expiration dates and locking user profiles is also now possible; if the user’s iPhone is disconnected from your network, iOS 6 access will expire at a certain time.  This means that you can give employees access privileges for certain projects, then revoke this access when the project is done without changing the configuration in the device itself.
  • Other features that can be locked down are Messenger, FaceTime, Passbook app, Game Center, and other communication and entertainment features.

Guided Access

In the Accessibility options on your iOS device, you can turn Guided Access on or off. This lets users have limited access to physical buttons or onscreen user controls on your device. You can use Guided Access to:

  • Let your kids play on your device without you having to worry that work-related documents might get tampered with
  • Prevent people from leaving apps or games they’re supposed to finish (useful for business exhibits)
  • Use tablets in kiosks and allow customers to use apps in “Guest User” mode, limiting them to using only some features in the iOS device

Will you also choose an iOS 6 device for business?  Sound off in the comments.