How many people got a new phone for Christmas? Let’s be honest—in the mobile world, the holidays are a huge disrupter. Devices are given as gifts and then become a support headache for EUC pros. (Remember what happened in 2010 when the iPhone and iPad could support ActiveSync?) Whether it’s a BYOD or “choose your own device” environment, the chance that a new device will be forced upon the support folks is a pretty solid bet.
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I spent a month using the iPhone X as my work device for testing and potential certification for enterprise use. News reports aside, the iPhone X shows great potential, but given some of its frustrating nuances, it’s hard to justify its use in the enterprise just yet.
Here are some of the issues that I and many others found. (We’ll get to the wider context at the end.)
Cell reception, dropped calls and Bluetooth woes
At first, I thought it just was my phone, or maybe iOS. However, in reading troubleshooting forums from the major carriers, many a customer are finding that the cellular reception in the iPhone X doesn’t measure up to other iPhones. For me, even with the advanced WiFi calling enabled, my call can go from clear to jumbled and back again, while I haven’t moved. This makes conference calls extremely frustrating.
As for dropped calls, I found that if someone called me I could talk for about three to five minutes and then the call would disconnect; but if I called them, I had no issues. It didn’t matter whether I was on cellular or WiFi, the behavior was the same.
I also had Bluetooth issues in my car. Sometimes it would be fine when answering calls, but then it would just switch to the handset and not play through Bluetooth. I would then have to pick up the phone or fumble around to fix the Bluetooth, neither of which are great for hands-free driving.
Enterprise issues and general app incompatibility
Facial recognition is the much-desired feature of the iPhone X, and I found Face ID very easy to set up. While many flaunted the twin hack or family member access (in reality, poor lighting during initial setup can be a factor), this was not an issue for me. I even had my daughter and son try to get in.
That aside, as an enterprise customer who enjoys the speed of using fingerprint over a password, facial recognition is enticing. Unfortunately, the lack of integrated support in some enterprise apps from popular EMM providers was a little disheartening. In addition, I found that Face ID didn’t always unlock the system keychain, making some apps unusable.
For example, I was on a call in my car with Bluetooth connected. (I was parked—safety first!) I had to pull up my calendar, which seemed to open fine, but then when I tried to add an appointment, the new entry functionality was unavailable. Not to be deterred, I tried a couple of other apps to see if my calendar app was just acting up. I tried my Wells Fargo App, and it wouldn’t launch Face ID. Then I went to a benign app, the calculator—surely it would open and function? The answer was no. It launched and would not accept any inputs.
The problem was that the keychain didn’t unlock, and I was basically using my phone in a locked status. I had to lock the and unlock it three or four times before it figured it out. Imagine a CEO or other executive in this situation—your support team would soon get a call.
As a part of our testing, our support organization noticed that many EMM restrictions and other functionality didn’t always work. We had to scramble to put other controls in place that, quite frankly, didn’t please our iPhone X users. (Let us not discuss the early lack of integration with Office 365!)
The other thing that became evident is the lack of commercial app compatibility for the iPhone X. This caused everything from social media app feed issues, text rendering problems on web pages and in emails, video playback problems, and app crashes. App compatibility has slowly gotten better, but it is still an issue in many popular apps.
Rapid OS release to support iPhone X
In the enterprise, we try to be early adopters and stay on top of iOS releases, but in the end, there is always some undocumented feature in the GM version. This was evident in the iOS releases that seemed to come every week in October and November. Most of them were to fix issues related to the new hardware in the iPhone X. To stay on top of these releases, it has always been a recommendation to be part of the AppleSeed program for enterprises, but these don’t always tell the whole story.
Needless to say, we found our organizations telling users to refrain from upgrading. But then on the heels of that, there were several security vulnerabilities that affected iOS, and we had to change course and scramble to get everyone updated. All of this caused massive confusion and frustration
The consensus on the iPhone X is that Apple appears to be breaking away from their old iPhone line to create a completely new concept. Think of the iPhone X as a 1.0 product. Apple is trying to ease us into a different way of working and interacting with a device, and they need feedback on what works and what doesn’t. This is similar to what Microsoft did with Windows 8 / 8.1 and touch screen laptops and desktops, only to come out with an OS that was favorable by all on the consumer and enterprise side with Windows 10.
As for the iPhone X, it has a lot of promise, but it needs a little time to work through the bugs. The next model should bring us the quality and ease of use we have become accustomed to. In the meantime, the iPhone 8 is the solid bet for consumers or the enterprise. I tested it as well, and found none of the problems faced by the iPhone X—it is the same work horse we have grown to love.