It’s an old story now, but still worth remembering: When the iPhone debuted way back in 2007, it wasn’t much thought of as a device for business users. It had email, yes, but not many of the security features favored by IT departments—and besides, the BlackBerry dominated the business market anyway.
These days, there’s an iPhone and an iPad in nearly every boardroom. Why? Because the bosses liked them and brought them to work despite the complaints from those IT departments.
But Apple was not blind to the BYOD. Every new update to iOS brings a host of new features designed to mollify the folks down in IT. The release of iOS 8 is no different. It has a host of new features aimed at making iOS devices more secure, more manageable, and more productive.
The key to all that: Apple wants the iPhone to work for both IT departments and workers—to give the former a sense of security that company-owned devices can be managed and protected, while still letting users have the same ease and enjoyment (and even privacy, in spots) in their iPhone use that regular consumers enjoy.
As Dave Rahardja, a software development engineer at Apple, said at WWDC 2014, the business features of iOS 8 “restrict data flow so that your enterprise data doesn't flow into your user's data space and vice versa.”
Here’s a quick overview of some of the new business-focused features you’ll find on your iPhone and iPad as you upgrade them to the new iOS.
This is perhaps the most important concern for IT departments. A lot of proprietary information flows through a worker’s computer—and, yes, through his or her iPhone—during the course of a business day. IT folks don’t want competitors stealing the company’s secrets just because the iPhone security was a bit lax.
Expanded data protection: In previous versions of iOS, users could already encrypt their mail and some third-party apps with the use of a passcode. With iOS 8, the list expands to the Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Notes, and Messages apps: Following each reboot, information from each will remain encrypted with passcode until the device is unlocked.
Individual message security: Now users with advanced security access can encrypt individual email messages for added secrecy: Turn on the feature, and a “locked” sign will appear next to the email recipient’s name in the message you’re sending.
There’s nothing an IT department loves more than to be able to control a worker’s iPhone from the comfort of the home office. iOS 8 gives the IT folks a better chance to do just that. A new mobile-device-management interface makes it easier to add a device to a businesses’ internal network, and offers transparency to the phone users. iOS 8 also lets IT departments see the last time a device was back up to iCloud—and thus to know whether or not certain operations are safe to perform.
Among iOS 8's other new data-management tools, it enables IT departments to control:
- Which apps can open documents downloaded from enterprise domains on Safari.
- Which apps can open documents from the iCloud Drive.
- The name of the device.
- The ability of users to add restrictions.
- The ability of users to erase a device.
Additionally, iBooks, ePub, and PDF documents can be pushed straight to a user’s device so he or she always has precisely the materials needed. Similarly, when the PDF of that quarterly report is no longer needed on a user's device, a remote IT professional can pluck it off and return it to a secure location inside the company firewall.
Finally, iOS 8 will in fact let worker bees get more done.
Mail: Now users can designate individual mail threads as VIP, to keep track of important conversations. (A custom mailbox groups VIP threads together.) And Exchange users can set automatic reply messages to be sent to emails—such as when you’re away from work, for example.
Calendars: The latest version of iOS makes it easier to schedule meetings with other iPhone users: the app lets users see colleagues’ availability so that the right time can easily be found. Apple says it’s also easier to create custom repeating events, and the Calendars even lets users email other meeting attendees directly from the app to let them know when they're running late.
Document access: We already told you that IT departments could decide which apps can open enterprise documents. This process is made smoother from the user’s perspective, too, allowing them to start up the app and open an enterprise document in it.
File transfers: AirDrop support between iOS and OS X lets users transfer files to and from Macs, even when there’s no Internet connection available.