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Is Apple playing catch up?

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We purposely sat tight last week following Apple's new phones and OS announcements. Rather than dive in and make predictions of the usefulness of the new Apple products to the enterprise, we thought we'd wait. Why? Because while we have our own view, sometimes it's interesting to see how the markets, commentators and customers react. As it turns out the past week since the launch has certainly given the market a lot to talk about.

So what's happened since the announcement? At first glance, it appeared that the consumer remains unconcerned by the iCloud security breach. Apple revealed that in the first three days iPhone 6 sales topped 10million, setting a new record. The markets have also reacted positively, following an initial dip, with trading remaining at a two year high. While industry observers have in the main been complementary, there are some who feel that Apple is playing catch up to an Android market that is innovating more quickly.

The announcements last week included the launch of two new iPhones - the 6 and 6 Plus. Bigger, sleeker, more powerful, thinner, with HD Retina display and a new camera, the new iPhones didn't disappoint fans. But within days of those record sales, users began reporting that the phones were so big that they were starting to bend when carried in a back pocket. At time of posting this blog, Apple has remained silent on the issue.

At the launch it wasn't the phone that turned heads, rather the Apple Watch that grabbed our attention. Better looking than its competitors, Apple's design team ensured that it created three versions to attract the professional, the consumer and the sports player. Apple's hardware always attracts the limelight.

Has Apple got its strategy right? Both the phones and the watch are being launched into already crowded markets. Even if they are better looking than the competitors, they're not offering much that's new. In a recent article Anthony Cuthbertson, technology reporter at the International Business Times argued, "With Apple Watch, it's just another smart watch."

Pricing also remains an issue. The £600 plus hefty price tags for the phones put them out of reach for some businesses, and more importantly does the hardware innovation (or perhaps lack of it) warrant those price tags?

At the same event Apple also announced its new iOS 8. Touted as a major upgrade and one that will drive its device strategy forward, iOS 8 has found itself in the news for a whole host of other issues.  Those who were keen to upgrade found that it takes way too long to download and takes up far too much space. But that's mainly because most people fill their mobiles with stuff they don't need - photos, videos and so on - most of which is probably backed up to iCloud anyway. The enterprise user with a good BYOD policy shouldn't suffer the same fate.

Then came the rushed launch of iOS 8.0.1. Initially issued to fix glitches with iOS 8, the new patch caused a whole host of its own. Problems with signal reception rendered the phone, well not a phone; and disabling the Touch ID fingerprint sensor left some users locked out of their phone altogether. While these issues aren't to be belittled, iOS 8 does offer some functionality that the enterprise will find useful.

Firstly, Apple announced support for VoLTE and VoWiFi. This is an HD voice call running over 4G (and 3G and 2G). It offers a much richer experience on your mobile and is also good for coverage when you don't have a network signal.  This makes it ideal for enterprises, especially those who incur high roaming charges. It has however been available on Samsung and LTE models for a while but only in the US and Singapore. Support for VoLTE and VoWiFi won't be available here in the UK for a while yet though. Back in June 4G leader EE announced that it would be trialing the technology here in the second half of 2014 so it's unlikely we'll see it much before 2015.

Apple also announced Apple Pay. While this is essentially a consumer software launch, it does start to get interesting if you're a retail business. Apple Pay lets users scan credit cards and digitally store them in the Passbook app. To pay, users simply hold their finger over the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and tap the iPhone on a payment terminal. The company has said Apple Pay will work at over 200,000 merchants… but of course it's not yet available outside of the US.

While some see Apple Pay as the force the mobile payment industry needs to encourage adoption of NFC, Apple is once again playing catch up to Google who's Google Pay technology has been around for a while. Yet where Google has failed to be the driving force in NFC, Apple may just succeed - given its history of changing consumer habits.

Last week's launch has split opinion. While on the one hand, Apple appears to have launched a number of 'me too' products, some of which weren't quite market ready, one thing is clear, it has a tendency to do products better. Its rivals may have got the underlying technology right in terms of user needs and interest but it's likely that Apple will take this and refine it, until the user experience is so good, mass adoption is inevitable.

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