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.


Jonathan Rosenberg

Cisco Fellow and Vice President

CTO for Cisco's Collaboration Business