iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Revisited: How Larger Formats and Wearables Could Transform Field Service
Author: Kerry Doyle
The current Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus offer significant new features that can help transform how technicians work in the field. Moreover, the predictive qualities of the Apple Watch provide capabilities for critical “hands-free” actions. As field service organizations assess the potential of the new form features, we explore the benefits of these key attributes, and whether adoptions have increased.
When it comes to the latest Apple iPhone, faster networking based on the IEEE 802.11 standard provides a higher wireless throughput. With LTE-enabled connectivity, the next generation speeds have increased to 150 Mbps from 100 Mbps in earlier models. For technicians, this ensures faster relays of information from the field and quick downloads from cloud-based storage services.
New hand-off capability enables seamless switching of phone connections between WiFi and Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM) in situations of low cellular coverage and WiFi availability. This is particularly useful for technicians in remote or restrictive areas. In addition, while the 16 GB device storage may be restrictive for field technicians, access to iCloud data storage and the iOS 8 dedicated file manager helps alleviate these limitations.
Moreover, it’s noticeably cheaper to upgrade the storage on the iPhone 6 compared with earlier models. This represents a significant advantage for field service companies that typically handle large amounts of data.
The “phablet” form factor (4.7-inch and 5.5 inch screens, respectively) provides more ergonomic capabilities to field technicians. For example, video streaming for collaborations, easier fingertip functionality and a more durable glass screen counter earlier limitations. Much like the features of the iPad Mini, the new iPhone form-factors provide ample room to type, increased space for text/images and other size-related advantages, useful for displaying illustrations, schematics and similar data. The increased size also translates to less pinching and swiping. In the past, the smaller format posed a drawback for field technicians.
Improved contextual and predictive typing also helps technicians to communicate more quickly. Such features can improve technician response times, whether it’s contacting headquarters or customers. The new iOS 8 also offers support for third-party keyboards as well as improved app integration for notifications and messaging.
Working in tandem with the iPhone 6, the Apple Watch adds new potential for what technicians can accomplish in the field. As mentioned earlier, the hands-free feature provides field workers with the ability to perform tasks while maintaining real-time communications via the built-in microphone and speaker.
Moreover, a technician’s phone can be stowed away while important alerts are transmitted through vibrations with texts and messages easily visible. Quick-tap buttons for “yes/no” responses enable streamlined interactions.
In the new iOS8, users can also access the personal assistant Siri at all times. Instead of holding down the ‘home’ button, technicians can simply speak their requests and the personal assistant will respond. Such a feature can help improve a range of procedures, from performing hands-free activities to communicating with main offices, enabling technicians to safely multitask.
Safety is further enhanced due to the device’s biometric capabilities. The watch offers a barometer feature that tracks elevation. Any precipitous drop in altitude could indicate a possible fall and would be automatically reported. In addition, a heart rate monitor increases the capabilities of biometric surveillance, a key tool for ensuring the well-being of remote technicians.
In addition, the increased size of the iPhone 6, used in combination with the Apple Watch, counters field service criticism that the small size of the iPhone makes it impractical for technician use.
For example, last year’s iPad Mini, close in size to the new iPhone, proved to be a viable enterprise and field service option. At this point, iPhone 6 and Apple Watch adoption trends are still anecdotal, yet they suggest serious consideration by a range of field service organizations.
However, it’s also important to note that the iPhone and Apple Watch combination may not be suitable for all lines of field work. For example, durability can still be considered a factor. There are some critics who contend that without an effective case, using this device combination in rugged environments is still unfeasible.
The potential for a fast Return On Investment (ROI) is high due to increased field worker productivity enabled by the Apple Watch features. Yet the cost of both devices together may be prohibitive and the upfront expense may represent a significant hurdle for small- to medium-sized field service organizations.
Ultimately, the capabilities of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus along with the Apple Watch are considerable, especially in relation to the iOS8 upgrade. Moreover, the use of mobility and wearables is set to change field service performance. How quickly organizations will adopt these new advantages and features can change how field service workers perform in the field.