Supervised vs. Unsupervised iPhones and iPads: What’s the Difference?

A worker uses a supervised iPhone and iPad at work, raising questions about iOS supervised mode, understanding iOS supervised vs. unsupervised mode, and how to supervise an iPad.

If you work in a business that uses iPhones or iPads, you’ve probably heard of the iOS supervised mode feature, or possibly even used a supervised iPhone yourself. Unfortunately, many don’t understand the difference between iOS supervised vs. unsupervised, and don’t know the first thing about how to supervise an iPad.

This quick guide will help you understand why to supervise iPhones or iPads, or leave them unsupervised. You’ll also learn how to supervise your devices.

iOS Supervised Mode: What’s the Point?

As the name implies, supervision allows IT admins to exert a high degree of control over the way employees use devices. For example, admins can restrict supervised iPhones from visiting the App Store, sending or receiving files via AirDrop, and much more.

Supervised mode also allows admins to track the location of an employee’s iPhone, but only when an employee reports the device has gone missing. This is in contrast to Android Enterprise, which can track location during normal business operations.

It’s also important to note that supervising iPads and iPhones requires that you have an MDM (mobile device management) solution in place. Depending on the MDM solution, you may be able to supervise Apple devices from the same platform you use to supervise laptops and other workplace devices.

If you do not supervise devices, IT admins will have much less control over them. At that point, admins can still implement Managed Apple IDs. These can still provide some restrictions on the way devices access and transmit work-related content.

When Should Devices Be Supervised or Unsupervised?

When deciding whether to make devices that run iOS supervised vs unsupervised, there are a few things to consider.

If your company provides devices to employees, you should supervise them. In this context, it is fair to restrict the way employees use devices. Since these devices are work tools, workers should not have personal data on them to begin with.

Even if employees use company-owned phones outside of work hours, the devices should be supervised. In the event the employee leaves the company, it is difficult to remove that employee’s Apple ID from an unsupervised company-owned device, meaning it will likely need to be written off as a loss. 

On the other hand, you should not supervise devices if employees are using devices they own. This would create a difficult dynamic and potentially invade users’ privacy. 

It’s important to recognize that employees may resist supervision. They may feel that their device use is not the company’s business, even when using company-purchased devices. For this reason, the process of Introducing supervised devices should be a collaborative one. As long as employees know what to expect, there should be few issues with compliance.

How to Get Started

It is worth noting that there are several ways to enroll iPads to prepare them for supervision. It is easiest to initiate this process if you purchase devices through a certified Apple reseller, but it’s fairly straightforward in any case. For more information, consult our companion article about iPhone and iPad bulk enrollment.

You will also need to choose an MDM solution with which to implement supervision. While each MDM has its own strengths and weaknesses, you may consider SureMDM, a well-rounded MDM solution. With support for iPhones, iPads, macOS devices, Android phones, Windows computers, and more, SureMdM can handle all of your office needs.

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