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How Apple is updating mobile device management


As expected, Apple at WWDC announced a series of significant changes to how Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs are managed in business and education environments. These changes largely break into two groups: those that affect overall device management and those that apply to declarative management (a new type of device management Apple introduced last year in iOS 15).

It’s important to look at each group separately to best understand the changes.

How did Apple change overall device management?

Apple Configurator

Apple Configurator for iPhone got a significant expansion. It’s long been a manual method of enrolling iPhones and iPads in management rather than using automated or self-enrollment tools. The tool originally shipped as a Mac app that could configure devices, but it had one major downside: devices had to be connected via USB to the Mac running the app. This had obvious implications in terms of the time and manpower in anything other than a small environment.

Last year, Apple introduced a version of Configurator for iPhone that reversed the workflow of the original, meaning an iPhone version of the app could be used wirelessly to enroll Macs into management. It was primary used to enroll Macs that had been purchased outside of Apple’s enterprise/education channel into Apple Business Manager (Apple products purchased through the channel can be auto-enrolled with zero-touch configuration).

The iPhone incarnation is incredibly simple. During the setup process, you point an iPhone camera at an animation on the Mac’s screen (much like pairing an Apple Watch) and that triggers the enrollment process.

The big change this year is that Apple expanded the use of Apple Configurator for iPhone to support iPad and iPhone enrollment using the same process — removing the requirement that devices be attached to a Mac. This greatly reduces the time and effort needed to enroll these devices. There’s one caveat: devices that require cellular activation or have been activation locked will need that activation to be completed manually before Configurator can be used.

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