“An iPod, a phone, and an Internet Communicator,” said then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs when introducing the iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007. But thanks to apps, it’s turned into so much more than that, replacing numerous items of office equipment.
The phone system
Remember telephone systems? Smartphones replace them, though if you really want to recreate the office telephony experience — particularly when dealing with a geographically remote and distributed team — you’ll turn to a VoIP softphone, such those from 3CX, Zoiper, or Acrobits. These let you handle internal and external calls far more effectively, using defined business contact details rather than personal numbers.
The photocopier, fax and scanner
There was a time when hanging around the photocopier performed a similar function to the watercooler, a nicotine-free space in which bored, disengaged office-based workers could grab a five-minute break to liven the monotony of the working day. These days you’ll find photocopiers inside your iPhone; just open the Notes app, tap the Camera icon, and scan whatever it is you need to archive, print, or share.
With a calculator app inside every iPhone capable of performing both basic and scientific calculations, no one really needs a desktop calculator these days. Just remember to backswipe in the numbers field to delete an error as you input a sum.
The corporate credit card
The company credit card now lives inside your Wallet. As do your travel tickets and a growing number of items of personal ID. One more thing, of course, is that as the process is already digital, making it easy to track expenses using apps such as Expensify, Concur, or other alternatives.
The office and car keys
The office thermostat affair
The iPhone doesn’t quite replace the (home or shared) office thermostat, but HomeKit-enabled heating and lighting systems mean you (or the boss) now control office heating from your smartphone. Gone are those times puzzled groups feebly attempt to figure out how those heating controls work.
This kind of automation also applies to lighting and, increasingly, the smart machines in use across the factory floor.
Once upon a time, we carried our most important paperwork with us. Not anymore. We carry digital versions of everything on iCloud, Box, Dropbox, or another document management service. These are easy to share with others, while Microsoft and other productivity apps now let remote teams collaborate on document creation in real or asynchronous time.
More and more transactions take place electronically, and a large and growing number of banks now allow you to deposit checks into your account by taking a scan of the paperwork with your iPhone.
Not quite yet, perhaps, but cash registers and point-of-sales systems are rapidly being supplemented by contactless payment terminals. Almost one-in-three Americans no longer make a cash purchase in any week, according to Pew Research, while a rapidly growing number of consumers use contactless payment systems — principally in their smartphones.
COVID-19 has accelerated the move to replace cash.
The meeting room
If there’s a gift from COVID-19, it is surely that we now know office attendance doesn’t need to be mandatory and you don’t need to be in the same room as others to get things done. Video collaboration tools help people talk virtually face-to-face and while most enterprises are coalescing around hybrid in-person/remote meetings, does your business really need a dedicated meeting space. Or should it look for a good local colocation provider to hire such premises from?
The bulletin board and shift diary
Apple’s Calendar app provides basic functionality. Apps such as When I Work or even Trello and Slack let businesses create and publish schedules for all to see, including hands-off oversight of any shift swaps employees may subsequently arrange.
Where’s the ethernet port?
Want to get online? So long as your iPhone has a connection and you have enough data available to you on your contract you can get online from anywhere using your iPhone as a hotspot. (Settings>Personal Hotspot).
The introduction of 5G support in iPhone 12 means if you happen to be in a 5G-supporting area, you may sometimes experience faster internet access via your smartphone than you get in a busy office.
Where’s the manual?
The manual is in your iPhone. So long as you can find or receive it in PDF format, you can store it quietly in your Books library. That’s useful for everyone, particularly field service engineers who can carry numerous volumes detailing the quirks of all their supported systems inside their device. Or aircraft pilots, who swiftly raced to replace heavy, bulky flight maps with apps on iPads.
See also: The filing cabinet: It’s all there, so long as you have the access codes.
Maps inside smartphones are useful, but the addition of Guides makes them even more useful for those few business travellers who need to visit an office somewhere they’ve never been before. Guides offers up information about the local area, while Siri can help business travellers get around. StreetView means a new hire can get accustomed with what they’re about to see. Of course, video collaboration apps are already seeing use by switched-on HR departments to help provision and acclimatize new hires.
All these tools and functions are now wrapped up inside a device even Steve Jobs thought did just three things.