The arrival of Apple's iPhone 5 is a source of much joy for many consumers who long to get their hands on the latest gadget from Cupertino. But right now it might be causing some some headaches for businesses dealing with some half-baked software and potential jumps in their data bills.
But the problems with Apple's Maps app go deeper than just a bit of inconvenience for end users who want to find the nearest grocery store. It's also a kick in the bottom line for the grocery store owners - and other businesses - who may not be listed on Apple's source of business information, Yelp. Any business listed on Google Maps and not accurately listed on Apple's Maps app stands to lose quite a bit of foot traffic to their establishment.
And there are a lot of potential walk-ins affected. According to The New York Times, "even though Android phones far outnumber iPhones… iPhone users account for almost half of mobile traffic to Google Maps."
It's not just retail businesses missing, either. The site GottaBeMobile ran a search for emergency rooms in San Francisco and found it very lacking.
"Searching for an emergency room with an iPhone 5 brings up private medical offices, pharmacies and just about anything else medical related that’s not a hospital or emergency room. Need a concierge house doc? Sure, he’s mapped, but [San Francisco] General Hospital is missing in action. That pediatrics emergency room? It’s there, but it isn’t marked properly," the site reported.
A similar search for hospitals in my city revealed a starting discrepancy. One of the two facilities was correctly listed, but the other is sited at its old location, which closed in 2009 when the hospital relocated to a new facility. The new facility is completely invisible, both in search results and on the standard map labels itself. (Curiously, Yelp itself has the proper location listed correctly.)
Getting A Pass
Passbook is another new iOS 6 feature that's promises a channel for businesses to reach users, and the initial reviews on it aren't too glowing, either.
The problem seems to be two-fold right now. Applications have to be upgraded to support Passbook, and many business app developers are still in the process of upgrading their products to accommodate this support. Starbucks, it has been reported, is one of the businesses preparing to add Passbook support to its app.
The other side of the equation is end-user education. There are anecdotal reports of the Passbook being difficult to figure out and then, in some cases, not working correctly.
Unlike the Maps issue, though, this is something that businesses should be able to control. First, there's improving or creating a Passbook-supported app. After that, getting customers trained on how to use the app to connect with Passbook should be factored in to the use equation. This is less than ideal, and some analysts are calling Apple to task for not making sure the process was easier to manage. But this is incremental business we're talking about now, not losing existing customers or marketing channels.
LTE Sticker Shock
The addition of 4G LTE capabilities on the new iPhone will bring end-users the ability to download a lot of content in a short amount of time. And that could mean some significiantly bigger data bills at the end of the month. For businesses footing the mobile bills for their employees, the impact on the bottom line could be dramatic - especially as carriers continue to phase out unlimited data plans.
In the short-term, it's very likely that businesses will see bigger charges on many employee's accounts, as they go a little crazy with all that cool data that's to be had so quickly. It may not be too much of a surprise: any IT department that was already managing LTE-capable Android phones will no doubt have effective policies in place for dealing with data hogs.
The good news is, this increase in cost may only be a temporary phenomenon. By next year, all of the major carriers in the US will have LTE capability, which could start a price war among carriers seeking to differentiate. And the iPhone 5's presence on LTE should give the carriers a swift kick to continue to expand their LTE coverage.
Darkest Before The Dawn
All of these business issues with the iPhone 5 share a common theme: they are all troublesome in the short-term, but in the longer view they may turn out to be of real benefit to businesses.
A more accurate Maps app (as it gets filled in with better data), a more complete Passbook that lets businesses do mobile transactions and cheaper LTE service will ultimately be very good things for businesses seeking to reach customers and keeping their employees connected.
Apple is making some risky bets here, but if they can survive the short-term hiccups, companies stand to do very well with the iPhone 5.