Despite an array of new features, Apple’s new iPhones have met with a cool reception from members of TechRepublic’s CIO Jury, although some tech chiefs see elements contained within the handsets as preparing for major innovation down the line.

Last week Apple unveiled two new handsets – a colourful iPhone 5c and the flagship iPhone 5s featuring a new 64-bit A7 chip, fingerprint reader, improved battery and camera plus per-app virtual private networking and enterprise single sign-on.

Apple’s marketing for the handset reached new levels of hyperbole, labelling the iPhone 5s as “the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world”.

But despite the claims, CIOs polled by TechRepublic have been unmoved by the levels of innovation in the devices. When asked: “Has Apple included enough features in its new iPhones to keep it ahead of the competition in the enterprise market?” the TechRepublic CIO Jury voted no by 10 to two. The CIO Jury is TechRepublic’s fast-response poll of tech leaders worldwide, gathering their opinions on the big stories in the business and technology world.

The launch of Apple’s latest handsets comes at time when the smartphone market is going through huge upheavals. Android-powered handsets – mostly in the form of Samsung – are increasingly interesting to business customers. Meanwhile Windows Phone also continues to grow and could find fresh impetus now that Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s handset business. As such, the pressure is on for Apple to deliver innovation in a handset that hasn’t changed significantly since it was launched.

Reji Mathew, IT director at Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, said Apple needs to step up its game to address the needs of the corporate user: “I am sure the consumer market is great for revenue generation, but the corporate users now are feeling left behind.” Meanwhile Keith Murley, manager of information systems at Schimenti Construction, said: “Samsung has continued improving its platform and feature set, which is narrowing the innovation gap between Android and iOS devices.”

Duncan James, infrastructure manager at Clarion Solicitors, said: “The fingerprint sensor makes me particularly uneasy. The technology has yet to be proven in a smartphone format. My experience of sensors in laptops is that they get dirty and unreliable very quickly over a few months of daily use.” 

He added: “Apple has a model it is sticking too, but this is the first time that loyal customers and businesses might just look elsewhere. Expenditure at this price must have valid justification. As the weeks go by, more and more of our business apps are appearing in the Windows Phone store – it could be time to start hanging up the iPhone.”

While there have been a number of rumours about an iWatch and different form factors for the iPhone, these did not appear at last week’s launch, and Kevin Leypoldt, IS director at Structural Integrity Associates, questioned Apple’s level of innovation but added: “What I find most interesting is there just seems to be some very easy ways for them to innovate such as a larger iPhone or a smartwatch.”

John F Rogers, IT manager at Nor-Cal Products, said Apple is “behind the curve” but added: “They have momentum on their side and a loyal fan base that would buy the phone whether it was improved or not.”

But other CIOs were more positive about the level of innovation in the iPhone 5c and the potential of its technology. Thomas Galbraith, director of IT at the US District Court, Southern District of Illinois, said due to the maturing of the smartphone industry and technology, innovation is not going to be so visible or blatant as it was in the past – but rather more subtle and strategic. 

“The new innovations are going to come in a more strategic and subversive manner such that most outside observers will not necessarily recognise the innovation until it completely immerses them”, he said.

He said the iPhone 5s fingerprint scanner is an example of this: “While this may seem like a gee-whiz feature with no compelling attraction from a mass-market standpoint, the broader strategy and future behind this feature comes from the groundwork it lays for the mobile payments industry.”

Mobile payments have been slow to take off but he added: “Consider the fact that Apple has 600 million people on account with credit card/purchasing abilities – more than PayPal – already stored in their iTunes account. Those individuals can now process transactions against that existing account simply by using a single finger. I am simplifying the details a bit, but you can get the idea and I’m sure Apple already has.”

Galbraith also pointed to the M7 co-processor that aggregates and manages all the motion data such as gyroscope, accelerometer and compass. “There are already great things that this can offer on the phone itself, but now consider how this capability on the phone can dovetail into enhancing what the rumoured iWatch will ultimately be capable of. [That’s] just a couple examples of significant innovations that, although they do not jump out at us like previous releases did, will become glaringly obvious when we all wake up one day and they fully surround us in ways we never anticipated.”

And Kelly Bodway VP of IT at Universal Lighting Technologies, said: “The 64-bit foundation that they have released is the base from which they can continue to innovate and excite. Apple has demonstrated that they have a plan and, despite what the market may want, Apple has defined the market for several years and they have done it through planning and methodical implementations.”

John Gracyalny, VP IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, noted: “iPhone security is still the best and that gives it the edge in banking.”

This week’s CIO Jury was:

  • Jerry Justice, IT director, SS&G Financial Services
  • Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
  • Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Tim Stiles, CIO, Bremerton Housing Authority
  • Thomas Galbraith, director of IT at the US District Court, Southern District of Illinois
  • John Gracyalny, VP IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
  • Kevin Leypoldt IS director, Structural Integrity Associates
  • Dale Huhtala, executive director for enterprise technology infrastructure services, Service Alberta
  • John F. Rogers, IT manager, Nor-Cal Products
  • Duncan James, infrastructure manager, Clarion Solicitors
  • Reji Mathew, IT director, Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network
  • Neil Harvey, IT director, Sindlesham Court

Want to be part of TechRepublic’s CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact. Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.