Apple gets iPhone 3G right for business

An abundance of new features carries iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 into the enterprise

With the iPhone 3G's banner opening weekend and newsstands looking like a rack of brochures for the device, a review of the iPhone 3G at this point might be pro forma, except for one thing: Much of the iPhone 3G and the new iPhone 2.0 software remains an enigma to professionals and enterprises, users set apart by, among other things, their tendency to use punctuation in their e-mail. These users demand more from a handset than a cellular browser and YouTube.

With mature and well-established QWERTY devices from HTC, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, and Research in Motion known to be capable of handling the needs of serious users, the iPhone 3G needs to be weighed against alternatives using existing professional and enterprise-targeted handsets to set the bar. As you may recall, I judged the original 2007 iPhone to fall far short of professional standards. The iPhone was too expensive to be missing so much.

This time around, there are two new products under discussion. One is the iPhone 3G, Apple's pair of new 8GB and 16GB phone models (which cost US$199 and $299, respectively, for AT&T customers who agree to a two-year contract) that deliver ActiveSync, Assisted GPS (A-GPS), and 1Mbps 3G cellular data. The other product is the iPhone 2.0 software, Apple's new iPhone firmware and related apps. iTunes 7.7 or later will update existing iPhones and iPod Touches to the 2.0 for free. After that's done, you'll end up with a device that is, except for GPS and 3G, functionally identical to the iPhone 3G. The iPod Touch is also upgradable to iPhone 2.0 firmware for US$9.95.

I've taken to referring to first-gen iPhone and iPhone 3G running iPhone 2.0 software as iPhone, which now identifies a consistently implemented platform in the same manner that Mac covers all Apple client computers. Wherever I refer to iPhone 3G, you'll know that I'm making specific reference to Apple's new handset.

Second time's the charm

Apple has turned iPhone into a mobile platform that I can recommend to professional and enterprise users. I make that recommendation with fair confidence, based on my testing of the iPhone 3G against Apple's claims. Those tests continue, and will for some time. It's my opinion that final judgment about the worthiness of a mobile device can't be rendered until you've trusted your digital identity to it.

Clearly, I haven't had time to carry it that far, but the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 2.0 software meet the expectations set by Apple, and Apple's design and engineering produced a mobile device and platform that hold their own against the likes of Nokia E-Series, RIM BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile 6. In areas where Apple chose to focus its innovation, the iPhone 3G exceeds the capabilities of other devices by a margin that makes it hard to imagine competitors closing the gap.

I judge the iPhone 3G to be among the QWERTY class of messaging/PDA devices because these are professional- and enterprise-targeted handsets, and because whenever input is required, iPhone pops up as close to a full GUI keyboard as will fit on the display. iPhone is, by my lights, a QWERTY device.

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Tom Yager

InfoWorld
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