Now that Apple and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have made it official that the iPhone will now be pushed as both a consumer and business gadget I felt it is a good time to report on my experiences using the iPhone.
I picked up my iPhone the first day they were sold. In fact I was number five in line at the downtown Portland Apple Store. My iPhone was purchased for me by the firm I support as a business tool. I also purchased phones for the two senior partners and my Support Specialist so that at this point the firm has 8 users with iPhones in addition to Blackberrys, RAZRs, and basic Nokia phones. The bottom line is that I deal first hand with many of these phones plus their problems as well as issues with the providers (T-mobile and AT&T).
My iPhone has been absolutely reliable for 8 months. My previous smart phone was actually 3 different phones during the course of 13 months. I used a Palm Treo 650 for 3 months then it died. It was replaced with another brand new unit which worked fine for another 6 months until I dropped it. So I got another replacement which worked for about 2 months then it died. At this point I charged up the previous Treo, the one that was dropped and for whatever reason it was now working again. It looked like it was falling apart but it worked fine for the next few months until I purchased the iPhone. My iPhone has now been dropped 3 times, twice on asphalt and once on carpet. It has the dents and scratches to prove it. Each time a simple restart restored the iPhone to working condition. Because the iPhones case is a mix of metal, glass, and plastic I feel this is why it survived these drops while the all plastic Treo would crack and break apart.
The firm is heavily dependent on Email and viewing PDFs both of which the iPhone works well with.
Note that the Treo’s built-in Email program worked OK but not very well so I purchased ChatterEmail which worked really well. If you have a Palm Smartphone and rely on Email then spend the money to get ChatterEmail. The iPhone’s email capabilities worked perfectly right out of the box. I get three IMAP accounts on my iPhone and they all sync up well with both over wi-fi or the AT&T Edge network. My only complaint is that so far the iPhone only allows Email to be sent from a single account, I really need to be able to choose an account when sending.
Because the iPhone is such a media and graphics centric smartphone viewing PDFs on the device is fantastic. Well, as fantastic as it can get on a small screen device when compared to a computer with a nice display. Viewing PDFs on the Treo simply sucked. Moving around the document was a tricky combination of moving around with the stylus and tapping on various buttons. On the iPhone of course I use gestures directly on the display without the need for on screen buttons which in any case would take up valuable on-screen real estate.
Apple also included viewers for Microsoft Word and Excel documents so you can review those too. This is where there is a significant advantage for a Windows Mobile smartphone is that it can edit these documents and not just view them.
How does the iPhone help me in my role as a Systems Administrator? I installed a Filemaker server plug-in that allows me to administer the firm’s Filemaker server just as I do from my other computers. I can connect to the Help Desk ticketing system which is completely web based and review as well as act on tickets.
What I Don’t Like About the iPhone:
The wi-fi security capabilities were limited so I actually had to lower the enterprise class security I had set up to allow the iPhones to connect. The VPN seems to work but it doesn’t work as well as the one on the Treo or a Blackberry. It seems to disconnect at random intervals or not connect when it should be able to. Maintaining a reliable backup of my iPhone has been a chore as Apple did not execute this well. Backups are created and restored through iTunes but they are totally hidden. They also don’t include everything on the iPhone which makes them nearly useless. This has become a job for third-party software but Apple needs to address this issue.
The Treo never impressed me as a phone or an internet device but it did work really well when used to manage my schedule, notes, and email (although not with the default software as I used ChatterEmail). Using the small physical or onscreen buttons of the Palm was always frustrating. It never got any easier. I can remember when I used to write directly on the Palm screen and that worked really well. Trying to type using those ridiculously small keys always drove me mad.