Making The Grade is a new weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
I’ve been deploying and managing iPads since the fall of 2010, so I’ve truly been managing them from the beginning. Even before the iPad, we had deployed 80 or so iPod touches around our school. Things have changed a lot since then. Back in the early days, we were syncing apps via iTunes. If you think iTunes is slow now, try updating iOS on 15 iPod touches at one time!
Fast forward to 2018, and iOS deployment is a solved problem. Thanks to tools like JAMF and Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, I can deploy hundreds of iPads with much the same effort I can ten. For me, unboxing them takes as long as it does to get them configured. For all the great ways Apple has improved this process, however, there are still two things they have yet to address:
iCloud Storage Upgrades for Managed Apple IDs
Managed Apple IDs are individual Apple accounts that schools deploy through Apple School Manager. They look like a standard Apple ID/iCloud account, but they are different. On Managed Apple IDs, the following services are disabled:
- App Store purchasing
- iTunes Store purchasing
- HomeKit connected devices
- Apple Pay
- Find My iPhone
- Find My Mac
- Find My Friends
- iCloud Mail
- iCloud Keychain
- FaceTime (this is off by default, but can be turned on)
- iMessage (this is off by default, but can be turned on)
Managed Apple IDs are also not as private as regular accounts. The IT administrator can change your password or delete your account. They are useful because schools can roll them out to teachers and students to use with their Apple devices.
One key feature of these Apple IDs lack is iCloud storage upgrades. There is no way for the school or the end-user to buy additional storage. The accounts are limited to 5 GB each. The low storage total means that students can’t rely on iCloud Photo Library for media syncing (iPhone video to iPad for editing) without continually having to delete content. This limit will hinder a student’s ability to store large Keynote documents in iCloud Drive. If teachers have a managed Apple ID from the school, they will face the same limitations. Again, there is no way around this. These accounts simply do not support upgrades.
What I’d like to see if for the school to be able to give quotas to accounts. The storage tiers could certainly be different, but I can see a school buying 10–20TB and then allowing each user to have a certain quota. Teachers might get a certain amount, and students slightly less.
In-App Purchases for Volume Purchasing
The trend of apps becoming free with in-app purchases has been well documented. Apple has been investing in this area as well. They now allow developers to give promo codes for IAP, and offer introductory pricing for subscriptions. Personally, I love when apps are free with IAP. I can try the app out before spending $4.99.
As an IT Director who manages a fleet of iPads, I hate the free with IAP trend, though. We buy all of our apps through Apple’s Volume Purchase store. The VPP store allows us to buy apps in bulk (a lot of apps give 50% off for 20+ copies) and then licenses are transferred automatically to our Mobile Device Management system (MDM). Through my MDM, I can wirelessly push the app to any set of iPads in my control. The app is installed (or can be removed) automatically without me having to touch each device.
The big problem with the current purchasing model is that there is no way for schools to buy IAP through the VPP store. Some apps have worked around this by having a “school edition” that is a single purchase with no unlocks. The problem is not that all of the great education apps do this. For the ones that don’t, there is no option for deployment outside of what the free version allows.
As with any software, upgrades are always on the horizon. I hope Apple addresses both of these shortcomings with iOS deployment and management in the future.