ANALYSIS: Disguised as a phone, Apple introduced a versatile pocket-sized computer that could be used by anyone and was a valuable new tool for business
Over time, industry specific and custom mobile apps became the rule rather than the exception. In addition, web-based applications changed so that they would support mobile devices, whether they were iPhones or Android devices. Mobile and remote work became as productive as on-site work is supposed to be.
Those changes transformed business in ways few expected at the time. Companies could have a mobile workforce, which in turn put company representatives closer to the customers. But the mobile workforce also meant that managers no longer had visual proof that their employees were actually working at any given time.
New management styles came along which helped many managers to adapt to a remote workforce. When the Great Recession struck a couple of years later, this also enabled the remote workforce could become the freelance workforce, again transforming businesses.
While the iPhone certainly didn’t cause the recession and it didn’t cause the shift in employment that followed, it did make it easier to adapt to the prevailing conditions.
An increasingly mobile work force meant that companies didn’t have to pay for office space or benefits for employees they no longer had. This improved the overall productivity of companies, but it effectively lowered workers wages.
Now, ten years later, we see a work landscape that’s dramatically changed with much of that change due to the iPhone and the devices it spawned directly or indirectly. Whole corporations that never could have existed without smartphones, including ride-sharing company Uber, have sprung into existence.
Something called the Gig Economy, which enables people to find at least temporary jobs as they come into existence and get new jobs when business conditions change, depends heavily on the smartphone.
And when is the last time you saw a free highway map in a gas station? The iPhone and its brethren brought about the wide availability of personal mapping and GPS location services. This has changed the way we travel, but it’s also changed the way companies keep tabs on their employees. Now you can see when your sales staff is on a call or on the golf course.
But realizing that no good deed goes unpunished, the iPhone and other smartphones have also brought about their share of mishaps and worse. Distracted driving and other distracted activities have created a whole new class of fatal accidents. Productivity drops as employees spend their time shopping or on social media during work hours. And of course, there’s always room inside that smartphone to squirrel away one more trade secret.
On the whole, smartphones as defined by the iPhone have done a lot to improve the business productivity and efficiency. But the blessings are mixed.
Originally published on eWeek