Apple CallKit Catching On

As I have noted a number of times on No Jitter, Apple's CallKit is one of the biggest boosts for mobile UC we have seen in years -- so important, in fact, that it will feature prominently in the "Optimizing Apple in Your Enterprise" session I will be co-moderating at Enterprise Connect 2017.

During the session, my co-moderator, UC analyst Brent Kelly of KelCor, and I will be discussing CallKit among a number of important topics surrounding Apple, including the status of the Apple-Cisco alliance and how to get the best support for Apple devices. In preparation for this session, we are conducting a survey of on-premises and cloud-based UC system providers to gauge how quickly they are adopting CallKit; we are also querying them regarding their support for native dialer capabilities in Android.

CallKit Basics
For those who missed the June 2016 announcement, CallKit is a set of APIs that let developers of VoIP and mobile UC apps make use of key features of Apple's native iPhone dialer. This means that UC providers will no longer have to resort to clumsy work-arounds like the current crop of mobile UC apps, which have failed miserably in the market largely because they have required the user to open another app to receive or make calls rather than just tapping to have the smartphone make the call.

With CallKit, UC vendors will now be able to develop mobile apps that will integrate almost seamlessly with the native interface in the most popular enterprise smartphone. Tapping to call will launch the call directly through the iPhone over Wi-Fi or a cellular data network .

While the responses to our CallKit survey are only starting to trickle in, we are finding that not all vendors are implementing the full set of available capabilities. The core capabilities are the ability to place a call through the native dialer and answer a call with a swipe on the lock screen. To place a UC call, the user has to hold the Call button in the contact record (either in the address book, Favorites, or Recents) and the full list of possible ways to call will pop up -- hence the earlier reference to "almost seamless."

Brent and I are testing this as we go along, so I have CallKit-enabled apps for Cisco Spark, RingCentral, and Microsoft's Skype and Skype for Business services on my phone. That means I get quite a list popping up; each number you have for the contact comes up with each of the services available.

Beyond the Basics
As we've tested the implementations, we have found wide differences in terms of functionality. On some, you get the same answer options you get on cellular network calls: Drop the first call and answer the second, or put the first call on hold and answer the second. In other cases, your only option is to drop the first call.

We also have found differences in how well the address book is integrated. In some cases the full capability operates as I described above, while in other cases we found that you could view address book entries but not dial them. In other cases, UC providers offer no integration with the address book whatsoever.

The big lesson to take away from this is that knowing an app is CallKit-enabled really doesn't tell you what level of functionality (and hence, what level of user appeal) you'll be getting. At some point we might expect that all of the CallKit implementations will come to parity, but that is clearly not the case at this stage. In the meantime, there will be some meaningful differentiations among the implementations -- and for those vendors still deluding themselves with the idea that the old-fashioned mobile UC app will somehow miraculously catch on after all this time, you're just getting farther behind.

Brent and I fully intend to have as comprehensive a feature comparison as we can muster for our "Optimizing Apple in Your Enterprise" session, so we hope you will be able to join us!

Learn more about mobility trends and technologies at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. View the Mobility track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or a free Expo Plus pass.

Follow Michael Finneran on Twitter and Google+!
@dBrnWireless
Michael Finneran on Google+