Most of the news that Apple is making the iPhone Enterprise ‘ready’ isn’t new. It’s been well documented. So I’ve spent the last two beta’s trying to use an iPhone as a BlackBerry replacement.
Granted the software is still beta, and I’ll try not to beat it up based upon that, but I will expose some of the issues that may or may not be a problem for switching from a CrackBerry to iPhone.
First some clear facts:
- Edge simply blows. It’s too slow for this. Things are good when on Wifi, but edge… Not good. (3G should fix this right?)
- The Microsoft Active Sync stuff leaves a little to be desired. If your organization really leverages the security and lock down aspects of Black Berry Enterprise server you may have a hard time convincing them to let you do this. (I’ve played with ActiveSync in the past with WinMobile phones and it’s been better than it currently is on the iPhone. Again, it’s still Beta so we’ll see).
- I have not tried to nuke the phone remotely from the Exchange console. I will try that later this week.
First things first, it works, or will work at some level. If you’ve totally been brainwashed into the BlackBerry messaging management then you probably aren’t going to like the way Apple, the iPhone, and ActiveSync work. Simply provide your account details, and viola, your contacts, cal and mail are synchronized as it should be.
Blackberry sort of consolidates all your inbox messages if you so choose (and I do). Meaning messages that are filtered and put into other folders by default are still in my messages application on the BlackBerry if I choose to sync those underlying folders. With ActiveSync you only get notified of new items in the inbox. This could be bad if you organize your inbox as I do.
If I wanted to know about new MGMT_Meeting emails which are filtered into that folder, I won’t know unless I look there. That folder isn’t initially sync’d until you open it.
Mail works and is beautifully rendered as you’d expect.
It doesn’t appear to support landscape mode which kind of sucks for some emails.
Beta Warning: So far email notification has been spotty at best. There are times I’ll open mail and the last updated time will be hours behind the actual time. The mail app hangs a lot. Generally 2-5x a day I’ll need to hard boot the phone. It handles some attachments well; Excel, Word, even Cisco Voice mail messages are playable, others, not so much. I have a couple attachments that will hang the phone in a really bad way, one is a pretty simple PDF.
Contacts work just as you’d expect them too. Create contacts in Outlook and they magically appear on the iPhone with full details including the photo.
This is the most stable part of all of it at this time. I have no complaints or issues to point out here.
This is where things get quite fugly. First, you end up with a second Calendar. One which can still by synchronized with iCal, and another that goes with ActiveSync. While you can turn off the iCal synchronization within iTunes I haven’t found a way to delete it from the phone. As a result you end up with two calendars without visual clue as to which one is which. You can pick which one is the default, but again, it’s not immediately clear which one is which.
- There is no week view.
- Meeting invites work provided you’re the one invited. Standard Exchange/Outlook responses are: Accept, Decline, Tentative. Apple however chose; Accept, Decline, Maybe…
- There’s no facility to invite someone when creating a meeting or scheduled item (I hope this gets fixed).
Last but not least is the keyboard. Nope, it’s not tactile, no you really can’t two-thumb type worth a damn (at least I can’t yet) and the predictive text will bite you when you least expect it but it’s pretty good otherwise. I suspect that a good portion of Blackberry users primarily ‘read’ and don’t respond to anything in detail. If you’re that type you will be just fine. It takes some getting used too and touch is a big thing. It took me quite a while to adjust to the Blackberry’s lack of touch screen when coming from a Palm even though it had a keyboard, I still used the touch screen a lot. After using the iPhone I again found myself wanting to touch the icons on the Blackberry. If there is an adaptation of Graffiti for the iPhone that would rock as well.
So all in all this looks very promising. The data speed has to improve, reliability has to improve. The email management will force me into a different email organization paradigm but I could probably work that out. It is a straight forward shift from the Blackberry to iPhone? No. But I think this will make a lot of people happy in the long run. As of now the Beta stuff is getting better, Beta 3 was more like Alpha 1 to me. It was completely unusable. Beta 4 is much better but still not usable enough. I still have to carry the Blackberry.
More later as things progress.