The release of iOS 6 just weeks away. The new release includes a range of new features. Some seem tailor-made for business use like the new VIP contacts feature in Mail. Others are clearly designed for a mass-market consumer audience. Even those consumer-oriented additions have a lot of potential for use in the office, however.
Lets start the discussion with a list of the new features that Apple clearly designed with business users in mind.
VIP Mail Filtering And Notifications – For many professionals, a deluge of email is a fact of life. While many email systems support server-side mail rules that can help filter email before it hits your iPhone, iPad, or office PC, you may still see a flood of messages that you need to sort through. That flood can make it hard to spot important messages that demand a quick response.
VIP filtering lets you create a list of important individuals like you boss, employees that report to you, and high-profile clients that will always be easily visible. More importantly, you can set VIP messages to trigger special notification settings (details in Notification Center and/or lock screen, sounds, icon badges, and alerts/banners). And designating a person as a VIP is easy (it’s very similar setting favorite contacts in the Phone app).
Mail Account Notifications – In addition to setting special notifications for VIP contacts, you can also set Notification Center to treat each of your email accounts differently. That means you can have new messages delivered to your work account play a sound while emails received from a personal account won’t. You can even extend this concept by creating multiple email addresses with different uses and use server-side filtering to forward emails to specific accounts. That delivers a range of custom message management and notification options.
Multiple Mail Signatures – It’s hard to believe it took Apple five years to get around to allowing users to set account-specific signatures for outgoing emails. While this falls into the better late than never category, it’s still a great addition for professionals who need to indicate company affiliation and contact information for outgoing work emails but don’t want to do so for personal messages. If you work more than one job or take on freelance projects during your off-hours, this can be even more helpful in that it tailors signatures for different professional uses.
Easier Access to Drafts in Mail – One of my personal pet peeves about Mail in iOS has been that it can be easy to forget you’ve saved a message as a draft but didn’t send it. That’s a symptom of a bigger challenge – that Mail doesn’t make it easy to navigate to the Drafts folders, which are only accessible from within the mailbox where messages were initially written. Apple’s fixed that with a nifty shortcut – tap and hold the new message button and you’ll see a list of all drafts messages from all your accounts.
Decline Calls With A Response Message – Getting beyond Mail, Apple has significantly improved the Phone app for business users with two new features. First is the ability to decline a call and send a message to the caller. That’s a great feature for meetings and other situations where you can’t answer a call, but need to respond with details about why you can’t answer, when you’ll call back, or even just to acknowledge you saw the call.
Setting Call Reminders – A similar feature lets you set a reminder to call back and/or check your voicemail. That’s great if you’ve sent the caller a message saying when you’ll call back since you can set that reminder based on a date and/or time. You can also set a reminder based on a location – like when you get back to your office or when you’re on your way home.
Unified iMessage And FaceTime – iMessage and FaceTime are very versatile in terms of how people can contact you. Both technologies let coworkers, clients, friends, and family members contact you using your iPhone’s phone number, your Apple ID email address, or the addresses of any additional email accounts that you may have. If users send messages to your phone number, those messages don’t show up on other devices. That’s a big pain and, when using either technology for work, it can mean big trouble if your miss a critical message. Thankfully, iOS 6 fixes this issue and unifies all your contact options across your iOS devices and Mac(s) running Mountain Lion.
Automatically Disable Notifications When Using a Projector – This is a really great feature that’s also built into Mountain Lion. When an iOS device or Mac is connected to an external display like a projector, Notification Center automatically disables any incoming notifications. That’s great because it prevents distraction and it’s a big plus if your use your devices for both work and personal tasks as it prevents a personal notification from popping up for everyone to see.
Consumer Features That Business Users Will Love
Now that we’ve taken a look at some features that aren’t designed specifically for business, but which offer great business as well as consumer functionality.
Privacy Settings – Following the Path debacle earlier this year, Apple got serious about protecting users from apps that might upload personal and business data. Apps that access a range of information now need to ask your permission first. That range of information includes location data, contacts, calendar events and data, reminders, photos, Bluetooth device sharing, and your Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also use a new Privacy option in the Settings app to see which apps have access to each of those information sources, which have accessed your data in the last 24 hours, and you can disable an app from accessing each type of data.
Do Not Disturb – The Do Note Disturb feature in iOS 6 is great for anyone that uses an iPhone or iPad as an alarm clock or sleeps with one on their nightstand. Simply enter a Do Not Disturb time frame in the Notifications section in Settings and you won’t have notifications waking you up at night. You can also turn Do Not Disturb on manually at any time. That means while you’re in a meeting or in need of some distraction-free work time, you can receive messages and notifications without being interrupted.
Do Not Disturb blocks notifications from the stock Apple apps including Phone and Messages as well as third-party apps, but the feature isn’t absolute like using Airplane mode. You have the option to let calls from specific contacts or contact groups override Do Not Disturb and ring through. Urgent calls from any number can also get through if the caller calls back a second time within three minutes of the initial call.
Safari’s Offline Reading List – Anyone who’s ever used Instapaper knows that the Reading List feature in Safari isn’t exactly a new concept. That said, that iOS 6 enables Reading List to cache pages for offline reading is a new addition for times when Internet access isn’t available like while you’re on a plane that doesn’t offer in-flight Wi-Fi.
iCloud Tabs Sync – The ability to sync open Safari windows/tabs across your Mac(s) and iOS devices isn’t a new concept either – Chrome offers the same functionality through your Google account. If Safari is your web-browser of choice, however, this is a new capability. Regardless of whether you access tab syncing using iCloud in iOS 6 or Chrome for iOS, the feature is great for working on the go because it allows you to very seamlessly transition from one device to another.
More Siri – Siri is set to get a range of new capabilities in iOS 6 that includes several features that can be good additions for business users like better international support, the ability to launch apps, hands-free tweeting and Facebook posting, turn-by-turn navigation, and integration with various new car models that Apple refers to as eyes-free operation.
New Maps App – Apple’s Maps app is completely new, having relegated Google Maps to the dustbin of iOS history. While the stunning 3D flyovers are dramatic, the real-time traffic alerts and estimated arrival time features are more down to earth and are perfect for business users.
Location-based Alerts Via Find My Friends – Find My Friends is a pretty powerful app for keeping track of your family and friends. iOS 6 introduces the ability to set location-based alerts for contacts that share their location with you. That’s a great feature for parents since it adds the peace of mind of knowing that your kids have gotten to school or home safely.
Find My Friends can also have some business applications. For companies that offer deliveries, messenger services, or on-site work, Find My Friends with location alerts makes it easy to ensure that things are moving smoothly or to know if a project or delivery is running late. The service can also be helpful if your company is presenting at a trade show or conference to ensure everyone is on-site.
Passbook – Passbook may seem like it’s all about loyalty programs, gift cards, and movie tickets, but the truth is there are many loyalty programs specific to business users like frequent flier miles and hotel reward programs. Similarly, there are tickets and registration systems that can streamline and organize travel and event plans – not the least of which are airline boarding passes. Passbook also has big potential for any customer-facing company that wants to offer a loyalty program or electronic ticket system.
All in all, it’s easy to see that iOS 6 has a lot to offer businesses as well as consumers.