The Business Case for the iPhone 3G
A few months ago, IncTechnology assessed the worth of the Apple iPhone for business purposes, but the newer iPhone 3G -- which launched with much fanfare on July 11 -- introduced more than 100 new features not found in its predecessor. This includes '3G' wireless connectivity, therefore users no longer need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot to access applications or download files at high-speeds.
But do these additions and improvements make it easier to justify buying an iPhone for work? Here's what the experts say:
Faster, more secure e-mail
Those who need access to secure corporate e-mail while on the go were happy to hear Apple's Steve Jobs announce Microsoft Exchange server support for the iPhone and 3G connectivity, allowing users to access data at higher speeds when not in a wireless hotspot. While this is true, it seems the smartphone is still missing some security features which might not sit well with your IT department.
'Apple delivered on Exchange functionality, yes, but the iPhone is still missing one security policy available in Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices,' cautions Ken Delaney, vice president of mobile computing at the Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner research and consulting group. 'While the new iPhone supports the ability to remote ‘wipe' a device if lost or stolen but doesn't force the use a complex password, which some potential customers might take issue with.'
The addition of GPS support in the iPhone is handy for when traveling to a client's office or finding a nearby restaurant based on your location.
'If you're a mobile professional who travels three or four days a week, an iPhone might make sense for email, browsing and multimedia -- and now, GPS for local search and directions,' says Nathan Dyer, senior analyst for enterprise mobility at the Boston, Mass.-based Yankee Group.
'GPS capabilities might not be provisioned by IT but can be very useful to those who spend a lot of time on the road,' Dyer adds.
The 'soft' on-screen keyboard might still be an issue for those used to button-based QWERTY keyboards found on most BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices, but in the end it boils down to personal preference, says Dyer.
'Yes, the [iPhone] keyboard takes time to get used to, but if you talk to users they'll generally adapt their typing style to the touch keyboard,' explains Dyer. 'It's not for everyone -- some will struggle while others will adapt after a grinding out the steep learning curve.'
Delaney says to buy a device that matches your needs, and says to think of it this way: A BlackBerry Pearl with its compressed SureType keyboard and small screen would be ideal for voice first, e-mail second, and browsing third. A BlackBerry Curve's QWERTY keyboard, on the other hand, means the user priorities would be e-mail first, voice second, and browsing third. An iPhone's huge screen and button-less keyboard suggests browsing first, e-mail second, and voice third.
'The iPhone's onscreen keyboard makes it difficult to type without making mistakes -- it's not a fault, per se -- but just be aware there are tradeoffs with the smartphone you choose' says Delaney.
Mobile Me is a new pay-for-use service designed to keep your computer (Windows or Mac) and iPhone or iPod touch all in sync when it comes to e-mail, contacts, and calendar entries.
Dyer says Mobile Me seems to be geared more to consumers than the small or mid-sized business crowd, but he can see this 'as a useful application for those who juggle their professional life, from 9 to 5, and personal life, from 6 to whenever, help make life easier with wireless synchronization of contacts and appointments.'
Cost still an issue
Delaney says even with these new business-like features -- including 3G speeds, support for Microsoft Exchange, GPS, Mobile Me and the App Store -- many will find the high price for the iPhone a tough sell at the office.
'Considering you can get a BlackBerry for about $79 these days, it's hard to justify an iPhone for business,' says Delaney. 'As a result, some bosses are saying ‘if you want to use an iPhone for work, go ahead, but you'll have to buy it yourself.''