Walmart said it would give free Samsung smartphones to nearly half of its U.S. employees to enable them to use a Walmart app to manage shifts, clock in and stay in constant communication.
The development will be a major setback to Apple.
The world’s largest retailer, which employs nearly 1.6 million people in the United States, said more than 740,000 workers would receive Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro smartphones, cases and protection plans. Currently, most people share company devices.
Walmart declined to share financial details, but the phone sells at $499.99 on Samsung Electronics website. It is common for big companies to strike heavily discounted deals with carriers and device makers when buying corporate phones in bulk.
The retailer, which tested the project earlier this year, said it would not be able to see personal data. It will be able to see work emails, installed work apps, web history on the phone’s work-specific browser, device specifications and clock-in locations.
People will only be able to access work apps while on their shifts, but can use the phones as personal devices, Walmart said.
The app – called [email protected] – can be used to check schedules up to two weeks in advance, ask for changes and request time off. It has a voice-activated assistant that helps locate products and is also designed to ensure workers can instantly connect with one another in stores. Using the phones is not mandatory.
“Constant communication is essential for our business. Walkie talkies were one solution, but not every associate has one,” Walmart executives Drew Holler and Kellie Romack said in a blog post.