Fellow blogger Don Tennant's recent piece titled "Full Disclosure: Regrets or Not, I'm Still Using My iPhone" caught my attention, and caused me to pause and consider how I use my iPhone. You see, while I never did regret buying my iPhone, you won't find me using it as my main work phone either.
Let me explain a little about the phones that I use. My current "work" phone is a BlackBerry Bold, with a 32GB iPhone 3GS serving as a secondary mobile device. Actually, the use of "secondary" is somewhat of a misnomer -- I use my iPhone as an entertainment device for music, e-books, movies, and of course, the tons of applications for checking my favorite news and social-networking sites. Both smartphones share the same mobile number and service plan -- I get two SIM cards from the mobile phone operator for a small monthly fee.
If I'm leaving the house with only one phone, the one going into my pocket will be my BlackBerry. If heading to a particularly boring conference, or if any part of the day involves a commute on public transportation, the iPhone typically will come along.
So why do I refuse to use the iPhone as my work phone? Check out my reasons below and decide if they are applicable to your SMB.
E-Mail Is Not as Robust
Apple licensed Microsoft's Exchange Sync technology for the iPhone so it can receive push e-mail from Exchange mailboxes. Of course, it is also possible to access e-mail via IMAP with Gmail, as well as from pseudo-push services such as with MobileMe. The reality of architecture limitations, however, means that none of the services is anywhere as robust as the BlackBerry. Because the BlackBerry uses a NOC (network operating center) to push data packets over, enabling e-mail doesn't result in diminished battery life, as is the case with just about every other push mail platform.
Lack of Dedicated Keyboard
Where the lack of a physical keyboard can easily be a matter of preference, the advantage of being able to access shortcut keys and dedicated buttons is real. In addition, there is something intuitive about having a physical keyboard for typing. When messages need to be sent out quickly, an actual keyboard can be a godsend. I've gone as far as buying a multi-IM application and the proprietary messaging WhatsApp chat software, but I still find myself groping for my BlackBerry to fire off quick messages rather than to endure the touchscreen keyboard of the iPhone.
Lack of Multitasking
To increase the usability of the iPhone, Apple in its infinite wisdom opted not to allow non-core applications to run simultaneously. While I appreciate and understand the logic here, this design decision penalizes users who are heavily into multitasking.
Take the various RSS and news applets that I have installed. To be useful, these applications have to download the relevant data from the Internet at startup. But because switching to other running programs is not an option, a long wait might be inevitable, given how inconsistent data rates can be over a mobile network. As such, relying on the iPhone for business applications might mean having to wait for the software to finish downloading or uploading, which might represent an unacceptable delay.
The above reasons why I don't use the iPhone as my work phone are mine alone; your mileage will definitely vary. Certainly, I would be very interested to hear from folks who have made the iPhone their primary work phone. Have you experienced any of the frustrations I've highlighted above?