Supervising iOS devices can be a very quick and seamless process and is a very good way to ensure all iOS devices out of the box can be configured in the same way with a greater level of control.
First of all a supervised iOS device is an Apple tablet or phone which has been elevated to allow a greater level of control from a mobile manager. This was introduced from iOS 5 and onward, and the original goal of this configuration was to have all devices institutionally owned make use of this feature. It is a feature that can only be activated when setting up a mobile for the first time or after being wiped and can be done in 2 ways. One is through an Apple Device Enrollment Program and the other is using an Apple MAC and downloading the tool 'Apple Configurator’.
Before I go into how this is completed using an Apple Configurator, I would like to just touch upon some frequently asked questions on this topic.
1) If a user already has the device and is using it can I still supervise it?
Answer: Yes, all iOS devices version 5 and upwards can be supervised. The issue is if the user is using it, please be aware you still need to wipe the device. You cannot supervise it without wiping the device fully and allowing the phone to be set up using the Apple configurator from the very beginning.
2) If I do wipe the device can I back my data up and restore it after supervision to the same device?
Answer: The answer is no, but there is a work around. Simply put, if you back your data up and supervise a mobile, once you apply your backup back to the phone it will actually un-supervise the device. The cause is that the backup would have been taken from an unsupervised iPhone or iPad, and therefore will restore back to its original setting (unsupervised). The good news is there is a work around. You will need 2 devices for this to work.
Simply put, supervise the 2nd device, and restore the backup to the 2nd device after it is supervised. After the restore is completed immediately re supervise the device. Once this is completed you can then take a backup of this device and restore this to the original device (again this has to be supervised first). Finally, once the restore is completed, you can re-supervise the device and give the original device back.
3) If my devices have come from a supplier can I get them in the DEP (device enrolment platform) after I have been using the device?
Answer: Yes you can, suppliers will have a period where you can actually give them the IMEI and serial numbers of devices and they will put them into this platform. Please note not all suppliers are part of the DEP program so please ask before you think about signing up to it.
Part 2 Supervising iOS devices using Apple Configurator 2
Please note, these are instructions on how it is achieved with a configuration I use, and may be different for each install of Apple configurator
Step 1. Accessing the Apple App store and find Apple Configurator 2.0 please download.
Step 2. Open the Application and plug your iPhone(s) or iPad(s) into the system.
Step 3. Please ensure that the device is switched on, has been wiped and at the initial 'Hello' screen before you configure it.
Step 4. Please ensure the device has an active SIM card in it, otherwise the activation phase will fail.
Step 5. Highlight the device(s) in Apple Configurator and click 'Prepare'
Step 6: Select Prepare with 'Manual Configuration' and just tick the 'Supervise Device' checkbox. Others are optional. Please then click 'Next'
Step 7: We will not be enrolling this device so click 'Manual Enrolment'
Step 9: Please select the organisation you have already configured or configure one manually at this step. Once completed please press 'Next'
Step 8: Select the settings you want to configure as you go through the start-up process of the iOS device. You have the option to disable around 95% of the start-up process so that you can access iOS in a few seconds.
Step 9: The system will now supervise the device. If it is not already been wiped it will warn you that it will wipe the device. This will require you to tell the system to 'erase' the device before continuing If it has, it will take 2 steps. Once this is completed you will see the phone switch on and on momentarily and the device is now supervised.
You can verify supervision just by clicking the 'Supervised' tab at the top of Apple Configurator. If the phone or tablet appears in here, the supervision has successfully applied. 2 common reasons for why this process fails is because;
1. The device does not have a SIM card in it and cannot activate the device. If this is the case, you can add one and tell the system to try again.
2. The device is locked via activation lock due to having an Apple account tied to it. If activation lock is applied on the device you cannot wipe the device and supervise it.
Please also note, if you now wipe this device, it will become unsupervised. This will not happen with devices gone through the DEP system.
Written by Craig Davies