iPhone Offers a Mixed

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2007-07-05 Print this article Print

Experience"> Phone As Apples initial foray into the cell phone market, I was pleasantly surprised by the iPhones overall voice traffic performance. While missing a few key features that will be necessary in some metro areas, overall the phone worked seamlessly and without a hitch in my tests. The phone contains a fairly standard contact database, which allowed me to store names, multiple phone numbers, addresses, e-mail, relevant dates and other information for each user, and allowed me to customize particular contacts with specific rings and photographs.
The contact database is easily navigated via the touch screen, combined with a small index that lists down the right side of the screen. From the main iPhone menu, I found that I could access the phone and contact database, scroll to find a user, and place a call with five clicks total. Simplifying the process even further, the iPhone offered up a favorites menu for people I frequently call, and a call log (missed calls or all calls) for recent activity.
Manual dialing is performed via the touch screen dial pad, which makes it practically impossible to dial a call simply by touch without looking. Since voice dialing is not supported, using the iPhone in a car where there are hands-free operation laws will be a dicey affair. The iPhone comes with a pair of earbuds that include a microphone, and the iPhone also supports Bluetooth 2.0 for wireless connectivity to a headset. In my tests, call quality was quite acceptable, as both the iPhone caller and the party on the other end reported no distortion, drops or problems. Despite the iPhones data capabilities, there are no voice over IP features in the iPhone as of yet, so it cannot fully leverage a companys existing VOIP implementation. However, I have heard that some VOIP providers are working on a Web application designed for the iPhone (www.jajah.com). Productivity The iPhone offers only a few capabilities to keep workers productive in the field, including a browser, e-mail application, calendar and notes application. However, each of the applications has its own set of drawbacks that hinder its utility for mobile workers. Further complicating matters for mobile workers, Apple has made the iPhone a closed device, which means that individual users or the IT departments that support them will not be able to add their own applications to the device. This privilege is Apples alone, and any future application additions will come solely through Apples periodically released updates for the device. In fact, Apple has recommended that anyone wishing to develop for the iPhone should do it via a Web 2.0 application, rather than by designing an application to run directly on the iPhones OSX operating system. Click here to read why the iPhone may become an iNightmare. The Safari browser is much more capable than the usual smart phone browser, fully displaying Web sites rather than offering stripped-down text-only versions. Although some sites appear very small because they are fully rendered, the zoom function makes it a snap to navigate and interact with all but the most crowded Web pages. However, the iPhone will be unable to render some Web sites. While the iPhone does support JavaScript, neither Flash nor Java is supported, so users will not be able to view sites that rely on those elements. With Safari, I could keep several windows open at the same time to browse multiple sites. By depressing the icon in the lower right part of the screen, I could create new windows or navigate between different active sessions. I did experience some Safari crashes during my tests. Generally, when Safari crashed, I could simply return to the start screen, from which I could start another browsing session. However, on one occasion, the iPhone locked up completely, requiring me to restart the device by depressing the sleep and action buttons simultaneously. During the next sync after the lockup, the iPhone asked me to submit to Apple the incident report that was automatically generated in the background, presumably to help troubleshoot early-generation bugs. The iPhones e-mail application works out of the box with many common Web mail services, including Yahoo Mail, .mac, AOL and Gmail. Other e-mail servers are supported only via POP3 or IMAP, leaving many Exchange implementations out in the cold. Since Outlook Web Access is one of those cramped Web sites that remains hard to navigate in the iPhones Safari (even with screen resizing), Exchange e-mail proves difficult to use on the iPhone. I was also disappointed that the e-mail application did not support e-mail domains hosted via Gmail and Google Apps. The Gmail account wizard automatically attaches gmail.com to the address, which prevented me from reconfiguring the service for a hosted domain. The only choices I had were to enable POP3 on my Google Apps account or fall back to accessing the Web mail via Safari. As for document handling, I found that I could view PDFs, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets obtained via Safari or e-mail, but I could not edit the documents at all. With the Excel documents, the iPhone could display both simple and complex (with formulae) documents, although larger files could take several minutes to fully render. The iPhone could not display PowerPoint presentations. Unlike the iPod, the iPhone cannot even be used for data transport, as I could not mount the device as a USB drive. This limitation was compounded by the fact that the iPhone does not contain a file browsing application, so even if I could store documents locally, I could not access them from the iPhone anyway. Next Page: Two data connections.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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