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How Apple comes to work: Gradually, then suddenly

Matt Rosoff | Sept. 11, 2014
Today's Apple announcements -- two big new iPhones that will ship on September 19, an NFC-based payment system that will launch in October, and the first glimpse of the design and UI for an Apple smart watch that will ship next year -- are all riffs on well-worn ideas.

Today's Apple — two big new iPhones that will ship on September 19, an NFC-based payment system that will launch in October, and the first glimpse of the design and UI for an Apple smart watch that will ship next — are all riffs on well-worn ideas.

The iPhones will probably have the least impact on the workplace, yet will probably be the most important products for Apple itself, given that the iPhone is now the company's biggest source of revenue.

The iPhone 6 is still a one-handed device, although the 4.7-inch screen gives apps a little extra real estate. The iPhone 6 Plus works better with two hands, and best in landscape mode — think of it more as a mini tablet. It should provide a nice sop to iPhone loyalists who don't particularly want to leave Apple's ecosystem of apps and content, but who look at the gigantic Android screens from Samsung with envy. Both should be spectacular sellers, with fantastic margins on the highest priced phones — the iPhone 6 Plus with 128GB of memory goes for a whopping $499 subsidized by contract — and the still-darn-good iPhone 5c is now free (subsidized), which will help on the low end. 

Both of these phones will start showing up in the workplace almost as soon as they're released, but companies don't need to do anything special to be prepared. Existing apps will work just fine with them, although developers may wish to take advantage of the extra real estate. Apple's already done this with its Mail app, which will show mailboxes in the left column when the iPhone 6 Plus is in landscape mode.

But basically, iOS 8 has a lot of neat tools for business professionals and IT managers, so as long as you're ready for iOS 8, you're ready for these phones.

The payment system, Apple Pay, is straight out of the Apple playbook, in which the company takes an existing technology, builds a set of more coherent user experiences around it, rebrands it, and claims it as new. (iBeacons anyone?)

In this case, near-field communications (NFC) has been shipping in other phones since 2010, and Google rolled out an NFC payment system called Google Wallet in 2011. Even Microsoft, criticized for lagging in mobile, has had NFC support since Windows Phone 8.1 came out earlier this year. 

But Apple is combining NFC with the Touch ID feature introduced on the iPhone 5 to create a slick experience for new iPhone buyers. When you're ready to buy, you place your finger on the fingerprint scanner, hold the phone up to the payment terminal, and...boom. The product is yours. The clerk never sees your credit card number. In fact, the merchant never sees your credit card number — your phone transmits a one-time payment code for each transaction. (Apple also does not see any information about the transaction, which happens strictly between your bank and the merchant.)

 

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