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Nearly all unified communications vendors offer an iOS mobile application for iPhone and iPad. But Nemertes Research has found that use of such UC mobile apps is low. Why? Largely because UC mobile apps lack integration with Apple's native apps and operating system, creating a poor user experience.
For example, users could not answer a UC call without unlocking the phone, they cannot make a UC call from Apple's contacts app and UC calls drop when a cellular call arrives.
Given this poor experience, most people have relied on their native dialer and contacts apps, which means calls aren't routed through the enterprise UC platform, aren't logged in call data records and can't be associated with enterprise customer relationship management applications.
But, earlier this year, Apple made its CallKit APIs available within iOS 10. As a result, IT leaders could potentially improve UC mobile apps on iOS devices.
UC vendors step up Apple integration
CallKit allows iPhone and iPad users to place UC calls via Siri or via a call button in their contacts app, as well as answer incoming UC calls without unlocking the phone and see UC call history in their recent-calls list. If users are on a UC call and a cellular call arrives, they can switch between calls or decide not to answer the cellular call. Users can also designate UC contacts as favorites to enable quick dial.
Cisco was the first UC provider to offer CallKit integration. Its Spark app, demonstrated at its Cisco Live customer event in July, added Spark calling information to iPhone contacts and enabled iPhone users to place calls via Spark using Siri, or by tapping on Spark numbers within contacts. Cisco does not yet provide CallKit support for its Jabber UC client.
Following in Cisco's footsteps, Microsoft announced CallKit support for its Skype for Business iOS app at its September customer conference. Vonage, too, announced CallKit support for its UC-as-a-service offering. Other UC vendors will probably follow suit by delivering CallKit support in the next several months.
But CallKit doesn't solve all the challenges of UC mobile apps.
Still lacking full UC integration
Users still can't route certain calls through their enterprise UC platform, such as calls made via the native dialer or calls to numbers not in the corporate directory. To do that, companies would need to invest in something like Tango Networks' Kinetic Communications Platform or Verizon's recently announced One Talk, an integrated cellular and wireline service.
CallKit also doesn't support integration with Apple's native messaging app, which means accessing corporate instant messaging still requires launching a dedicated app.
Still, with more than 50% of companies either deploying or planning to deploy UC mobile apps by 2017, Apple's CallKit is a step toward providing a better user experience for iPhone owners, even if it doesn't yet offer full UC integration.
Enterprises should investigate plans for CallKit support from their UC providers and plan for availability in their next upgrade cycle.
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