A few days ago, I got an iPhone from work. I have played with it a bit, and have to say that I’m impressed for the most part. However, there are still quite a few issues that I would love to see solved. Following is a list of the pros and cons of this gadget, as I see it.
The iPhone works almost flawlessly with Microsoft Exchange server (in fact, it works better than the old Samsung smart phone running Windows Mobile that I had at my previous job). It syncs in real time with your Exchange server. It also allows you to easily sync with Gmail, Yahoo! mail, mobileMe, AOL and more. You can set up multiple e-mail accounts with ease. There is no need for a separate go-between account as there is (or at least, was in the past) on a Blackberry.
I currently only have the iPhone set up to sync with my Exchange account, but I have tested it with my Yahoo! mail account, as well. It does a great job of syncing your calendar items, e-mail messages (received, sent, drafts and more), contacts, etc. from the mail server.
The touch screen is actually really nice on the iPhone. With my fat, stubby, clumsy fingers, I expected to have all sorts of issues with the screen. Happily, I very rarely have any problems typing or touching what I want on the phone. The only time I really experience any major issues is when I’m holding the phone at an odd angle. The touch screen keyboard is really nice when you’re using an app that allows you to rotate it to landscape.
The iPhone App Store is fantastic. There are so many useful apps available for the iPhone that it’s almost overwhelming. A great number of them are free, which makes it even better. So far, I’ve only added free apps to my iPhone, so I can only comment on them. However, with the apps I have installed, I can easily update and track my WordPress blogs, my Twitter account, my Facebook account, my Yahoo account and more. I can use the Google app to search the Web either by typing or speaking a search term/phrase. I can listen to Pandora radio, various college radio stations, NPR, iHeart radio and more. I can view and download e-books using Stanza or Kindle; I can watch free clips using Babelgum or YouTube; I can check the weather using WeatherBug or the out-of-the-box weather app that comes with the iPhone. I can identify a lot of songs I hear on the radio or TV using Shazam, search for nearby restaurants, hotels, etc. with Where or iWant, identify nearby WiFi hotspots with Free WiFi Locator. I can keep up with my favorite sports using Fox Sports or CBS Sports. I can even figure out which direction I’m going with Compass Free, make sure my desk is sitting on a level surface with Free Level, figure out where I parked my car with Take Me To My Car and more. I can even search TV listings and set my DVR using the DirecTV app.
All of that doesn’t even begin to take into account the various games I installed on my iPhone for free. These apps are fantastic! If that’s not enough, I can even visit the App Store and grab new apps without even getting near a computer; as all of that can be done directly through the phone.
Unfortunately, you can only set one e-mail signature that gets used for all of your e-mail accounts (which is why I currently have my Yahoo! mail account disabled on the phone). Once you set an e-mail signature, it automatically gets appended to every e-mail you send, no matter which account you use.
I located an app today that apparently lets you set up to four different e-mail signatures, and assign them with various accounts. I will probably download it and try it out later.
Copy and Paste
This is currently one of the two biggest drawbacks of the iPhone for me. There is no way to copy and paste text on the iPhone (or even highlight text for that matter). Since I will potentially be using the iPhone to update our Web site when I’m not near a computer, this is a major issue. Imagine that someone requests I add a new paragraph to the site. Am I really expected to re-key that entire paragraph using the iPhone’s keyboard, when I could simply copy and paste it on any other platform?
While the iPhone does a nice job of displaying e-mail attachments in Word, Excel, PDF formats and more, there is no way to edit those documents. It would be nice if I could download these documents to my iPhone, open them in an external app, edit them and then do something else (like upload them through a Web interface or attach them to another e-mail message). There are apps available to create new documents and even to edit various documents (though none of them appear to support the standard MS Office formats – most likely due to Microsoft’s unwillingness to play nicely with others), and none of them seem to support actually saving e-mail attachments and editing them.
I won’t spend much time on this, as that will probably be the focus of an entirely separate blog post, but the fact that the iPhone is dependent on the iTunes software (which, by the way, is not available on Linux) really stinks.
All-in-all, I’m really happy with the iPhone, and very impressed with the way it’s been designed. However, it still has a long way to go before it will be the be-all end-all of mobile communication.