News Ticker

The iPhone 3G as a Business Tool – Part 1

I’ve had my iPhone 3G since iPhone 3G day, 11-Jul-08, almost two months. Before then, I put my hands on the iPhone at an AT&T store, but never truly spent any time with it. The iPhone 3G was released with a number of different Enterprise ready intentions, including 3G and Exchange support, among others. Is it ready for power users and road warriors alike?

In this multi-part series, I’m going to cover a few different areas of the device and go into details where I see the iPhone needing some growth. Specifically, I’m going to cover points on

  • Operating System
  • Calendar
  • Mail
  • Tasks

iphone-thumb

 

We’ll discuss the accelerometer, the Home screen, Bluetooth and Bluetooth profiles, etc. There’s a lot of information here, so just hang out with me for a bit, and let’s explore this together. If I’ve forgotten something, however, please feel free to give me a shout!

Please note: This is NOT a review of the iPhone 3G, nor is it intended to be. It is an analysis and commentary on its readiness as a business tool by the end-user, be they power user, road warrior, or your everyday, on call, communications and web junkie.

After more than a month of dedicated use, I can say with a decent amount of certainty, in my opinion, that the iPhone isn’t quite ready for implementation in the enterprise. No, I’m NOT talking about administration and deployment issues and concerns. I’m talking about end user related issues. From my perspective, there are a few items that Apple needs to correct before I, or most power users and road warriors can make the best use of the device at the office.

I’ve passed some of this around to some of the team here at Gear Diary and to some of the other industry folks that I know. Some agreed with these points, some said that my focus was a bit off, considering that the target audience for the device is, and has been locked on one segment – consumers. However, if Apple wants to stay true to their intent of capturing a share of the enterprise market with the iPhone 3G, they should at least listen to some of these suggestions…I think, anyway.

So, without further ado, here are what I think the growth points are for the iPhone 3G:

Operating System

Security…NOT!
The iPhone world is a-buzz over the last few days due to an unsquashed regression bug that was resolved in ROM 1.1.3, but has resurfaced. According to information at Gizmodo  as well as Mac Rumors, users can get around Apple’s password screen and get access to Contacts and the phone with a double tap of the Home button.

This item alone will prevent the iPhone from being deployed in some Enterprises. Depending on the industry, some organizations won’t allow any unsecured device to carry company information; and if I can get passed even simple security without even trying hard, then the device isn’t going to get deployed in a lot of organizations right now, in my opinion.

Oh…and by the way, don’t EVEN get me started about anti-virus software and the iPhone. That’s just nasty…

Today Screen vs. Home Screen/Program Launcher
One of the biggest problems that I have with my iPhone 3G, is that getting access to my schedule requires a bit of work.

1. Turn the phone on

2. Unlock it via slider, or slider and password

3. Tap the Calendar icon to run Calendar

I have to do this each time before I can see my itinerary for the day. With both BlackBerry and WM devices, I have access to my schedule right from the main device page, after the device turns on. Apple provides a series of App Launcher pages, and that’s it.

Today Screen 1 Today Screen 2 IMG_0002
The standard WM Today Screen The Touch Diamond Today Screen My iPhone 3G Home Screen

 

No offense meant, but I’m busy. I don’t have a lot of time to tap around the screen to see when my next meeting is. Both WM screens above show the next meeting on the device’s main screen. Just because Smartphones are more common place, doesn’t mean that they are tolerated more than before – quite the opposite in fact. I’ve had managers accuse me of playing or of inappropriate multi-tasking when I receive more than 1 e-mail (I don’t always look when I get an e-mail alert, especially if I’m in small meetings). Any way, in situations like this, I really just want to turn the device, on, check to see what my next appointment is, check to see what kind of messages I’ve received, etc. Tapping through to all of the other applets is not acceptable at that point. I don’t need to look like I’m playing with my gadget.

I mentioned this to some of my other mobile device enthusiasts, and they reminded me that the iPhone was first a consumer device, and they’re right. However, with the release of the iPhone 3G, Apple is chasing after the business market. Many business users like the idea of one converged device for all their needs, as I do. The operating system needs to allow for interface modifications so that I can easily get to my schedule, e-mail previews/listings, to-dos, etc. Using something like HTC Home for that or Throttle Launcher would be a good idea. Both of these allow for a program launcher…

Move Bluetooth On/Off out of General Settings
In order to get to the Bluetooth on/off switch, you have to

  1. 1. Find and Tap Settings,
  2. 2. Tap General Settings,
  3. 3. Tap Bluetooth, and then
  4. 4. Tap the On/Off Button.

 

That’s about 2-3 taps too many. Apple needs to find a way to optimize this so that I can very quickly and easily turn BT on and off. One – two taps after turning the device on (maybe a 2x or 3x home button push..?) would be best. In fact, I really like that 3x home button push idea…but only because the iPhone doesn’t have any hardware buttons besides the Home button.

Aside from that, leaving BT on all the time is one idea, but with the device’s battery life problems, it just makes working with the device all that more difficult. The fact that the device is perpetually in discovery mode is also a huge security issue. I know many businesses that won’t be happy with that, especially if the device is connected to your corporate VPN while BT is on; and the device is discoverable.

Bluetooth Keyboard Profile
…and while we’re talking about Bluetooth, it would really be nice to be able to use this device with an external keyboard. All it needs is a keyboard profile for what ever BT/wireless keyboard is out there, including Apple’s wireless keyboard, and we’re set. Working on Office documents with only the thumb board is gonna really stink; and be difficult over time, especially if we’re talking about a large document.

Hello..? Landscape..!
It’s not always easy to figure out which applications are accelerometer friendly, and which aren’t. Safari obviously is; but interestingly enough, Calendar, Mail and Contacts aren’t. Not every app supports multi-touch zoom, either. Having both accelerometer and zoom support in Month View for Calendar, for example, might just give you enough room to see what you need to see… However, regardless of how an app MAY look in landscape orientation, Apple should give developers universal access to the accelerometer and let the user decide how he wants to use any given app.

Mail and SMS are good examples here. Not every piece of HTML mail zooms to a level where I can read the text without using some kind of multi-touch action to make the text larger. Then I have to scroll back and forth. If Mail were accelerometer aware, I might be able to see (and read!) an entire message without any horizontal scrolling. Landscape support in Mail would also give the user access to the landscape thumb board (which you can see when in Safari, and entering text into a field in landscape mode), which is easier to type with, as the keys are wider and spaced out a bit more.

While this doesn’t have to happen just to support the enterprise (I can’t tell you how many TXT messages my daughter sends on her Blackjack 1 every month, at least not off the top of my head), it would make a huge amount of sense to implement this level of ability into the core OS so all apps could move back and forth between portrait and landscape.

Lock Screen Customization
If I HAVE to have a lock screen (with the iPhone, the device locks when you turn it off, period), I want to be able to customize the Lock screen to satisfy some business needs (to show me important information about upcoming appointments/meetings or to display the last system even (text/e-mail received, alarm(s), etc)); and I’d like to do more than simply change the background, too. From an IT Admin perspective, that may be a, "If found, please return to…" kinda screen, or something that displays some kind of IT policy. The basics are already in place, including the Pass code Lock screen.

Install/Uninstall Apps
I am not one to advocate complete IT control of my computing experience at work. I don’t like being tied down and prohibited from using or installing tools that I need/want on my own. Having to get Internet access approved and then limited drives me nuts, and I’m not fond of organizations that impose limits on me like that. However, that’s because I’m a power user, and (without sounding too arrogant, because that’s not my intention) I often find I know much, much more than the IT department about the Smartphones I am currently using, and how it integrates and interacts with other enterprise components. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand or know why IT managers do it, it just means that I don’t like it when they do it to me. There’s a big piece missing from iTunes right now (or at least I haven’t seen it, or heard anything on it from any of my industry contacts) – the ability to limit the installation of applications or application types from within iTunes.

Many IT shops simply block the installation or use of iTunes at the policy level. You won’t be able to download or install the app in cases like that, meaning no syncing your iPod with your work computer. This also means that you won’t be able to sync your iPhone with that computer, either. Many IT managers will also want to limit exactly what content you put on your iPhone – what music, podcasts, and most importantly, applications, you are able to download and install. The idea here is to protect the corporate data and network it rides on.

As such, we need some sort of tool that allows IT managers to block the purchase, downloading, and installation of specific apps from the iTunes App Store. Again, while I don’t like this kind of draconian control placed on me, without it, I don’t know that IT managers will be comfortable in supporting the iPhone, regardless of model, in the Enterprise.

Corporate iPhone Development
Am I the only one that’s still running down this road? I thought I had heard something about this when the 3G/App Store was originally announced/rumored. What about the Corporate App Store, or the ability to install custom apps that YOUR company has written on the iPhone? Be it the corporate sales catalog, sales force automation, or some other database or tool. If I can get Super Monkey Ball on my iPhone, why can’t my company also provide me with specialized tools to help me do my job?

The iPhone 3G supports this theoretically, but again, I’ve not seen anything officially on this yet. And you can’t tell me that someone at Apple didn’t think about this and at least pitch it to Steve. The SDK can’t JUST exist for software development companies. What about companies that want to create specific portals and apps that use those portals on the company intranet? Since the iPhone 2.x software supports VPN, this is, like, the next logical step…

Office Document Editing
(In conjunction with the external keyboard gig above…)With the awesome screen and accelerometer the 3G has, this seems like it would be a no brainer, as well. I’d like to be able to take my Word and Excel documents with me and edit them with my iPhone when I’m out and about. While I don’t have to have an external keyboard for this all the time, this is still something that’s missing on the iPhone.

I’m also still curious how Apple is going to address native file synchronization on the iPhone. I’m going to want to create, edit, save, attach to e-mail, detach from e-mail, modify and resend, etc. at least Word and Excel documents at some point. Right now, I don’t really have the ability to do this…

Come back next week, and we’ll continue on discussing the Calendar issues I see with the device. In the mean time, please join us in the discussion area and let us know what you think so far.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: