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Top 6 iOS 6 features IT should keep an eye on

There are tons of iOS 6 features for business users to look forward to, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be so exciting for IT. These features have data security, network access and cost implications.

New Apple iOS 6 features may please consumers, but they’re not necessarily tailored to fit in the enterprise.

Apple iOS 6, announced in June and due in the coming months, includes updates to FaceTime, email and Maps, plus new Lost and Kiosk modes that allow user to do more than ever -- with various implications for IT pros tasked with securing iOS devices and their data. Here’s a sneak peak at what’s coming to the iPhones and iPads in your organization.

Networking enhancements

Apple is adding a global HTTP proxy to its iOS 6 features. The previous implementation was on a per-connection basis, but now it applies to all Web networking. This feature could help admins provide better protection for data and devices on public networks. It could also help IT control the Web traffic reaching roaming devices. For those IT pros with concerns about the limited Web controls on mobile devices so far, the global HTTP proxy could be a great feature. Apple will also include Internet Protocol version 6 support, which is good for any network trying to support new access technologies that rely on this newer networking standard.

Lost mode

When employees lose their phones, it can be a problem for admins concerned about data security and network access. Apple’s iPhone supports remote wipe, and the Find My iPhone app allows IT or users to track the location of the lost device from another Apple device. One of the new iOS 6 features that will add to these capabilities is Lost mode, which lets the user send a phone number to his or her lost iPhone, so whoever finds it can tap the screen and call the user directly. For IT’s purposes, Lost mode might not be a great feature, especially if users store sensitive data on their iPhones. Encourage users to use a secure app to protect corporate data if they want to use Lost mode.

3G FaceTime

When Apple first released FaceTime, its proprietary video-chatting software, it was a Wi-Fi only app. But in iOS 6, iPad and iPhone owners will be able to use FaceTime over 3G connections. Initially, wireless carriers were concerned about FaceTime’s network load, but since users can video chat over 3G with other services, such as Skype, it only makes sense for FaceTime to be available over 3G as well. The potential downside in the enterprise is increased data costs, because video uses a considerable amount of data. Any department trying to hold its employees to smaller data plans may grapple with the realization that a couple hundred megabytes per month won’t cut it for iPhones and iPads. Plan to go big on data plans.

Password-protected Office docs

For users who send password-protected Microsoft Office documents via email or use services such as Dropbox, one of the new iOS 6 features will add support for Microsoft’s encryption formats. Instead of being forced to open documents on a desktop, iOS 6 users will be able to open those protected Office files.

More on iOS 6 features

Apple iOS 6 will better protect users’ data

Apple iOS 6 revealed, coming in fall

Facebook iOS 6 integration coming

How to restrict iCloud access in the enterprise

Kiosk mode

When Apple Stores deployed iPads last year to show off every product’s features, the iPads included Kiosk mode, which will be publicly available in iOS 6. While in Kiosk mode, users cannot exit the running demo application, which could open up a whole new realm of custom business apps. Just think of all those big touch screens in restaurants, airports and bus terminals that cost thousands of dollars. In theory, businesses could replace those touch screens with iPads, which have much better touch support than most other devices. Kiosk mode also answers the managerial question, “How do I lock this down?” Well, here you go, boss.

No fragmentation

Apple’s iOS 6 will be available for iPhones all the way back to the 3GS, plus the iPad 2 and new iPad, so IT can expect most users to update their devices as soon as iOS 6 is released. For iPhones older than the 3GS, expect to take those back for recycling soon.

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