Cisco Blogs

A Deeper Dive on Apple and Cisco

September 13, 2016 - 20 Comments

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had the modern smartphone – pioneered by the Apple iPhone of course – for only 9 years. Just nine years! Does anyone remember how they lived before smartphones?

Personally, I cannot live without my iPhone. I depend on it for maps and navigation. I don’t even know how I got around before smartphones. I depend on it for travel – check in, boarding passes, and flight status changes. I depend on it for news. And of course, I depend on it for work. Cisco Spark, email, and calendar are tools I need access to all the time. I would be ineffective without them.

I also depend on my iPhone for business calls. Like most folks, the smartphone has become my primary calling device. But here’s where things are interesting. With almost every other service I use, “there’s an app for that.” However, this hasn’t exactly been true for business calling. Most people just use the native dialer in their iPhones for business calling, despite the fact that Cisco – and other providers of IP communications infrastructure – have mobile apps available that connect to their infrastructure.

These mobile apps in many ways offer a superior experience for business calling. VoIP enables the usage of wideband speech codecs like Opus for a much clearer call. Video calling is possible and works great in Jabber and Cisco Spark. With Cisco Spark, you can easily move a call to another device, like a telepresence endpoint or a desk phone. These are all great experiences that you just don’t get when using the native phone app.

For the IT folks, mobile apps provide cheaper calling by using campus WiFi, and allow for lower cost international calling because they use the enterprise UC infrastructure. They’re also better for compliance and security.

Yet, despite all of these benefits, people still use the native dialer instead of VoIP apps. Why? Because the native phone app is universal – allowing them to call and be called by anyone, not just work contacts. And, it’s a core part of the phone itself. The native phone app is what gets invoked when you call someone from your recent calls list or the address book. It’s what rings on the lock-screen when you receive an incoming call. Simply put – the native phone app is how the iPhone phones.

All this changes today.

With the release of iOS 10, the partnership between Cisco and Apple comes to fruition. iOS 10 includes CallKit, a new API which allows apps like Cisco Spark to be built to take full advantage of the features in iOS 10. Ultimately, the goal of this integration is to allow users to keep using the iPhone the way they are used to using it – via the native phone app – but instead, the actual calls are handled by Cisco Spark. This delivers the best of both worlds. It brings the ease of use and continuity of habit of the native phone experience, yet, at the same time, enables the superior capabilities of VoIP apps running on the iPhone.

What exactly does this do for end users?

  • Before iOS 10… if you were already on a cellular call when a second incoming cellular call arrived, you’d have a choice about which call to take. However, if you were on a VoIP call when that cellular call arrived, the VoIP call would drop.With iOS 10, VoIP calls behave like a native call and you will get the same call-waiting experience as with a cellular call.


  • Before iOS 10… if you received an incoming cellular call while the phone was locked, you get a familiar swipe-to-answer screen to answer the call. But, if that incoming call was a VoIP call, you’d get a system notification and you’d need to unlock your phone to launch the VoIP app to answer – often too late.With iOS 10, incoming VoIP calls behave like a native call and you get the same incoming call experience as a cellular call.


  • Before iOS 10… if you missed a cellular call, you could visit the recents list to call back with a single tap. But, if you missed an incoming VoIP call, you’d have to separately find and launch the VoIP app and call from there.With iOS 10, the recents list includes VoIP calls just like cellular calls, allowing you to call the person over VoIP just like call backs for cellular calls.

Do you see the theme here? iOS 10 does a magic trick yet unseen on any smartphone – it unifies VoIP calling and cellular calling so that the native phone app handles both. Now you get the same experience with all of your calls, while still preserving the unique benefits the VoIP app provides.

We’re super excited about iOS 10 making its way into the hands of end users, and along with it, an updated Cisco Spark app which will be among the first apps to take advantage of this new innovation.

As if I needed another reason to be completely dependent on my iPhone :-).  Now I can proudly say that Cisco Spark is also how the iPhone phones.

Learn more about the latest from Apple and Cisco, including more posts with detail on Apple iOS 10.

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  1. Does iOS and Spark facilitate in a seemless handover from a 4G (mobile) connection to a WLAN connection? So without a drop in connectivity or impact on apps/calls that are active at the moment of handover?

  2. What happens when you don’t answer? Does carrier vmail pick up or voip?

  3. THat is exactly what this does. You can answer a call directly from the lockscreen.

  4. Great Innovation and Insightful post.

  5. Certainly we are not. Support for callkit is coming to jabber soon. We started with Spark.

  6. It’s too bad that Cisco is pretty much forceing us to ditch Jabber and move to Spark.

    We have made investments in Jabber and now we are being forced on a paid subscription service for a product that does pretty much the same thing.

  7. Great work Jonathan and team. This nicely solves a pain point with VoIP on iPhone. Congratulations

  8. It’s a shame that CallKit is incomplete in many ways.

    1. Why is it only possible to get the native in-call screen when the phone was locked? If it is as unlocked when a VoIP call comes in the app needs an implementation itself and the user dies not get the known user experience.

    2. Why is there no possibility to use the native dialer in a VoIP app? Every app needs to implement its own dialer and the user experience will differ from the native phone app.

    3. Why isn’t it possible to let the user choose which app to use for an outgoing call when using the tel:// scheme?

    There are some mire flaws but those are the most annoying ones.

    • These are some great comments on missing features. There is always more to do, and this release represents the first phase of our partnership.

      Why have apps render their own in-call UI? There is a tension here between consistency of experience (which is what you are advocating) and ability to innovate. Apps like Cisco Spark offer features that we need to expose in mid-call UI (things like video escalation or screen share) which dont make sense for the native dialer. The current implementation strikes a balance between these by enabling innovation in-app while having a common look and feel for the incoming call case.

      • I’d like to see the feature of answering the call directly when the screen is locked. Imagine one has to scramble to unlock the screen, to find the Jabber app and press answer when there is an important incoming call. Huge drop back for this app, I only use it when I absolutely have to.

  9. Great but the majority of sold smartphones are far from iPhones. Actually quite a small percentage.

  10. How about UCM based services?

    • This works with UCM when the enterprise IT department has configured Call Service Connect hybrid capabilities to connect the Spark cloud to UCM.

  11. Well, this sounds great. I work in a call center that uses Cisco IP phones, and I have an iPhone that was upgraded to IOS 10 yesterday. So, I’m very interested in using the new tech to see it in action, but I’m left with a few questions…

    Is it a given that my Cisco phone is using spark?
    If so, what do I have to do to connect my iPhone to that system? Or is that something that a manager of the spark system would have to do?

    • Integration with your deskphone requires a few things. You need to download and install cisco spark on your iphone. Your IT administrator also needs to purchase a paid entitlement and then configure their call control infrastructure to connect to the spark cloud.

  12. Hi, I wanted to check is the user will be able to merge the VoIP call and Cellular call in to a single conference call?

  13. Great post Jonathan!