As the iPhone Turns 10, It’s Time to Celebrate BYOD Evolution

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By Albert McKeon, on

Later this year, the iPhone will turn 10 — a big birthday for a device that upended telecommunications, lifestyle habits, entertainment delivery, shopping behaviors and many other aspects of culture and commerce.

The iPhone may now seem commonplace, but it also sparked the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) evolution. Employees in just about every profession started taking their smartphones to work; at first, it was a way to stay in touch with loved ones and play their own music. But workers soon ended up using their devices to improve job productivity.

Although the term BYOD took hold only about seven years ago, the concept started to form when the original iPhone captured the imagination of consumers, who just had to show off their new devices at work. The iPhone’s 10th anniversary is the perfect occasion to look back on BYOD’s evolution and remember why, as Juniper reported, as many as 1 billion personal devices might be in the workplace by next year.

A Review of the BYOD Evolution

Even though many rank-and-file workers had access to their employers’ networks from their home computers a decade ago, most of them likely still saw a clear dividing line between work and personal hours. That line began to disappear with the advent of the iPhone and other smartphones that followed.

With each iPhone iteration, the number of features and the device’s speed increased, while the price dropped a bit. Smartphone sales soared as Apple and its competitors gave consumers choices — and a 24/7 window to do work-related tasks.

In 2012, smartphone owners for the first time outnumbered basic cellphone owners, Pew Research found. Apple had moved onto its third-generation iPad by then, hastening tablet use in the workplace and cementing BYOD as a workplace staple as ubiquitous and necessary as office chairs.

Work Tech’s Swiss Army Knife

Because a decade can seem like an eternity, it’s easy to forget how BYOD makes work more efficient and less costly. Many employees no longer have to lug around employer-issued laptops outside the office. From anywhere and at any time, workers can use their small devices to access documents in the cloud, promote their company’s brands on social media (few did that on MySpace in 2007) and use the web for work-related research.

BYOD also brought a tidal wave of mobile-centric work applications designed to increase productivity. Mobile apps can act as office assistants, scan documents, serve as collaboration platforms, prepare invoices and host video conferences between remote colleagues and clients. Before BYOD, many of these functions were available only on costly vendor software; some weren’t available at all.

There’s also a cost benefit to BYOD. Depending on how much an employer subsidizes an employee’s device costs, BYOD usually cuts company expenses.

BYOD Doesn’t Bring Its Own Security

If anyone hesitates to celebrate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, however, it’s the pros in the IT department, who don’t receive continuously evolving support to vet each and every device and app that employees introduce to the company network. A study by CloudLock found that there were 11 times more third-party application installations on corporate networks in 2016 than there were in 2014, and 27 percent of the apps are considered risky.

A decade ago, an IT employee focused on cybercriminals tearing down the company firewall from the outside. But today, IT security can’t keep pace with employees bringing risk under their company’s roof with a proliferation of mobile apps and operating systems. BYOD has also made the theft of company data an easier undertaking. Dishonest employees no longer have to sneak sensitive documents out of the office; they can steal and digitally cover their tracks from a remote location.

Here’s to Many More

Despite the security challenges, BYOD has stuck around because the benefits are so compelling. Employees who rank their companies as mobile-first pioneers are 16 percent more productive and 18 percent more creative, Network World reported. With support like that, it’s no wonder that Gartner predicted that by this year, half of companies would make BYOD mandatory.

That realization might not happen in the next 12 months, but there’s no denying that, like the iPhone, BYOD will be celebrating many more birthdays.

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About The Author

Albert McKeon

Freelance Writer

Albert McKeon covers technology, health, business, politics and entertainment. He previously worked as a newspaper reporter for 16 years on the staffs of The Telegraph (N.H.) and Boston Herald, winning the New England Press Association’s Journalist of the Year award and other honors. He now writes as a freelancer for several magazines and news outlets, and creates content for organizations such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston College.

Articles by Albert McKeon
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