What business users need from the iPhone 11: Did Apple deliver?

Samsung is pitching the Galaxy Note 10 as the smartphone for business and productivity. Here's what Apple needs to deliver for the iPhone 11 to be a compelling upgrade.

Apple's iOS 13: The most notable new features Here's what iPhone users can expect from Apple's iOS 13.

The iPhone 11 appears primed to fall victim to the Osborne Effect, as the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max lacked 5G mobile network compatibility when they were announced on September 10 in Cupertino. Apple has quite the load to bear in making the prospect of dropping $999 or more on the Pro lineup of iPhones a compelling proposition—for the iOS faithful, Apple's biggest competition is themselves, as the two-year smartphone upgrade cycle is effectively dead, and 30% of users simply don't care about the latest-and-greatest models.

SEE: Apple Card: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Apple's typically conservative stance made the announcement a fairly safe one, there was no equivalent to the Galaxy Fold debacle that Samsung ran into earlier this year. Safe, however, is rarely exciting. 

Before the keynote, TechRepublic highlighted five things Apple can do to to make the iPhone 11 a compelling upgrade. We've updated this article with reactions following the keynote.

1. A way to keep from losing the Apple Pencil for iPhone

If the Galaxy Note were not successful, Samsung would not have made twelve of them (yes, really). Professionals love the stylus, and some form of Apple Pencil support is anticipated for the iPhone 11. The fact that Apple Pencil exists at all should give pause to longtime residents of the reality distortion field, as Steve Jobs had a particular dislike for the things.

"Who wants a stylus. You have to get 'em and put 'em away, and you lose 'em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus." Steve Jobs

Verdict: Completely busted

Rumors of Apple Pencil for iPhone have swirled around the start of September for the past several years. Once again, users hoping for Apple to clone the Galaxy Note are left wanting, though Apple's restraint should be lauded.

2. Nobody wants to haul around a stack of different chargers

The iPad Pro has already adopted USB-C, and adoption for the universal standard is overdue across the product line. With a USB-C enabled iPhone, travelers can cut down the number of chargers they need in their bags, as a single USB-C charger can replenish the battery of a MacBook, iPad Pro, and—hopefully—iPhone.

Likewise, the potential for wireless charging for AirPods using an iPhone eliminates the need for a Lightning cable on the go.

Verdict: Meh, it's a start

Apple includes an 18W USB-C fast charger with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, but the iPhone 11 is left with the classic charger. The phone itself still uses a Lightning connector, and Apple includes a USB-C to Lighting cable in the box, though the use of Lightning prevents the iPhone 11 Pro from benefiting from the USB-C features of the iPad Pro. The 2018 iPad Pro uses an 18W USB-C charger, so it should be possible to just carry one charger to charge the two, but you'll need two cables.

3. A smarter assistant

It seems as if there is not a steady stream of attention paid to Siri, as Apple's smart assistant had the first-mover advantage in 2011, though as 2019 draws to a close, the technology feels dated compared to Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

Apple quite effectively boxed themselves in with privacy rhetoric, with the company pledging in August to not keep Siri recordings by default, though introducing something like Google's offline voice recognition could assuage security concerns. All the voice recognition capabilities in the world won't make Siri better at answering questions, though.

Verdict: School is in session, but not for Siri

There wasn't a hint of Siri after the animated sequence that started the keynote.

4. Something to reassure the security-conscious

Apple's response to Google's Project Zero disclosure of an iOS vulnerability is not being received well, as reports indicate the vulnerability was developed by Chinese state-sponsored hackers in attempts to monitor the Uighur Muslim population in China and around the world. While Google is taking their own knocks for not including details of a similar campaign against Android users, Apple's response has ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes feeling let down—and that's no state of mind in which to be buying a new iPhone.

Verdict: Not even a squeak

There's relatively few mentions of privacy or security in the keynote, and nothing to address the vulnerabilities.

5. Better AirPods, for listening and calls

I'm still mystified by the warm reception the AirPods enjoy—in the span of four years, Apple somehow became passable for earbuds: Gizmodo called Apple's wired Earpods "still garbage" in 2012, though reviews of the first-generation AirPods from CNET and others were positive. Apple doesn't have the benefit of Sony's superior (and free) LDAC codec for wireless audio, making music playback inferior to the Sony WF-1000XM3. Adding support for a modern Bluetooth audio codec to AirPods and iOS would do a great deal in pushing it forward.

Verdict: Nope

Nothing here either, not even a Huawei-style color swap under the guise of being new.

Extra: Something affordable for mass deployment

Justifying a $1,000 smartphone in addition to a notebook also likely to be in the four-figure range for corporate deployments is a higher level order of difficulty. While the potential productivity play Apple may be making with the addition of a stylus for the iPhone may be compelling to some, a reliable, well-built, low-cost iPhone would be a compelling alternative to bargain basement Android smartphones with inconsistent security updates. Something along the lines of a refreshed iPhone SE would undoubtedly receive an enthusiastic reception.

Verdict: Approaching sanity, but still a bit of sticker shock

The $699 price tag for the iPhone 11 looks reasonable, though Apple's modus operandi is to offer the last-generation product at a discount. That remains the case here, though at ZDNet, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is suggesting that potential buyers can get the best and pay less on Android.

Was there anything in the iPhone 11 keynote for business?

The short answer: not really. There's a lot of interesting technology in the new camera, some of which—optical image stabilization and night mode, for example—has been available on Android devices for years. There's no conceivable business use case for Slofies, while the wide-angle camera technology is compelling, but not useful for business. 

There's some power improvements, with the iPhone 11 Pro touted as having four more hours of battery life than the iPhone XS, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max gaining an extra 5 hours compared to the iPhone XS Max.

That's basically it, as the iPhone 11 goes.

For more on the iPhone launch, check out "Apple iPhone 11 event: How to watch and what to expect" and "Apple store veteran: We're like car salesmen or Best Buy employees now" on ZDNet.

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Image: Apple