Can the iPhone Revolutionize Business?
According to an October 2009 report from JD Power and Associates, consumers ranked the Apple iPhone as number one for use in business. Out of 1000 possible points Apple received first place with 803 points. Blackberry came in second with 724 points. The study allowed users to rank their devices based on ease of operation, operating system, features, battery life and device design. These statistics should be of notice to those in the direct sales industry because it indicates a change in the way business is conducted.
Networking is one of the standard principles in the direct sales industry. Developing relationships and sustaining those relationships builds success in an individual’s personal and professional life. Smartphones, and specifically the iPhone, help individuals stay connected to the world around them. Users have the ability to stay in touch with people who are close and far away through social networking sites. A smartphone can remind an individual to call someone on their birthday through the phone’s calendar feature, or using the internet, customers can read a tweet about the company’s new product line as soon as it is posted. Additionally smartphone users can easily and rapidly remind everyone in their downline of an upcoming web conference or a new party package. Smartphones are changing the way business is done, and the revolution is beginning with the iPhone.
To fully understand the power of the iPhone, we need to explore the history of “smartphones.”
History of Smartphones
The definition of smartphones has changed with the complexity of the phones. Most people seem to agree that a smartphone can be defined as a phone with a defined operating system.
IBM Simon The first smartphone was designed by IBM. Named Simon, it was shown as a concept product at a computer industry trade show in 1992. It was released to the public in 1993. In addition to being a mobile phone the Simon contained an address book, a calendar, calculator, notepad, email, fax and games. It had no physical buttons; instead it had a touch-screen and used an optional stylus. Today the Simon would seem unexceptional yet at the time it was extremely advanced.
Nokia In 1996 Nokia released a palmtop computer style smartphone. This was the first smartphone to have an open operating system. The open operating system permitted applications that were not developed by Nokia to interface with the phone. Nokia released models during this time that had a color screen, camera phone and Wifi.
Palm Treo The Palm OS Treo smartphone by Handspring was released in 2001. It could utilize mobile third party applications. It also contained a small sized full keyboard and included wireless web browsing, email, calendar and a contact organizer.
Blackberry The BlackBerry was released in 2002 by RIM. It was the first smartphone that concentrated on wireless email use and by June 2007 it had achieved a customer base of 8 million users. Three-quarters of those users were located in North America.
Nokie N-Series In 2005, Nokia launched its N-Series of 3G smartphones, which Nokia started to market not as mobile phones but as multimedia computers.
Apple iPhone In June 2007, the iPhone was launched. In July 2007, they published their web development page and by October 2007, the iPhone was named invention of the year by Time Magazine. In July 2008, Apple introduced its App Store for free and fee based applications. Mobile downloads reached 1 billion in April 2009, and 2 billion in September 2009.
Noticing the popularity of the App Store, Microsoft, Palm, Blackberry and Nokia have announced their own stores.
The iPhone is seeking to overtake the business world. Initially, it was mainly used for pleasure but as it has become more integrated in individual’s lives, it is being used increasingly for business. This unique mobile smartphone allows inbuilt applications as well as customized applications. For the development of applications, Apple released an SDK (Software Development Kit). Since the release of the SDK, uploads into the Apple store have sky-rocketed. The iPhone website lists a variety of ways that it seeks to increase its share in the business market. One significant piece is the App store. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said in a statement, “The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.”
How could the iPhone impact the direct sales industry?
JD Powers 2009 Wireless Phone Satisfaction study showed that among business smartphone owners, more than one-half reported downloading third-party games for entertainment, while 46% reported downloading travel software such as maps and weather applications This indicates that business users are integrating their devices into their personal lives. In addition, nearly one-half of owners (46%) reported downloading business utility applications to increase productivity.
Crowd Science conducted a study published in June 2009. It states that over 70% of owners of smartphones used them for both business and pleasure. One out of every three smartphone users owns an iPhone. The study also conveyed that a whopping 82% of current iPhone users would purchase it again. This information would lead one to believe that if iPhone can keep their satisfaction levels high and maintain their momentum, their likelihood of succeeding into the business realm is very high.
Smartphones have been used by many representatives to keep track of contacts and stay in touch with their downline. It is an easy way to make a quick encouraging phone call or to keep up with emails. The iPhone and its easy access to the web has the possibility of revolutionizing the way representatives conduct their business. Many smartphones currently have the ability to access the web but none have the ease of use or the speed of the iPhone. Use of the iPhone can allow a richer visual presentation that is appealing to a younger generation of consumers. The availability of add-on applications at low cost increases the value one may see in the phone and the many ways that it can be used.
Independent representatives want to build their business with a small investment. Being able to use their smartphone or iPhone (something that they already possess) to build their business is a great asset to the individual and the direct sales company. According to the DSA’s 2008 National Salesforce Study, 66% of individuals surveyed spent 9 hours or less each week, developing their business. If companies are able to increase their company’s visibility in a representative’s life, it is likely the business will grow. This is easily achieved through the use of social media in connection with smartphones or the iPhone.
DSA also reports that 64.5% of sales are made by Individual/Person to Person selling. If individuals are able to increase their ability to sell at any location, rather than only in a person’s home, it is likely that the representative’s sales and ability to grow the business will increase. The iPhone in connection with a feature-rich application could make this possible in the near future. This would allow a representative to take advantage of situations as they occur, rather than having to schedule another time to demonstrate their product. This single factor could increase a representatives ability to “work the business” from their evenings and weekends to anytime, anywhere.
Smartphones and mobile applications are here to stay. As Anssi Vanjoki (Nokia VP and GM of Multimedia) said on his company’s plans to release a new phone similar to the iPhone. “If there is something good in the world then we copy with it with pride.” The iPhone has made a decisive impact on our society and will continue to do so. The direct selling company that is able to best leverage the mobile industry can be assured that their representatives will have the highest potential to be constantly connected and working the