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iPhone 3G: Still Not A BlackBerry Killer

Ars Technica has a wonderful and comprehensive review of the iPhone 3G, with many tasty details and measurements and geeky photo close-ups of the object of adoration. Some of the most interesting points come at the end, when the Ars team evaluates the device for the enterprise and finds that it still comes up short, despite the new Exchange support.
Ars Technica has a wonderful and comprehensive review of the iPhone 3G, with many tasty details and measurements and geeky photo close-ups of the object of adoration. Some of the most interesting points come at the end, when the Ars team evaluates the device for the enterprise and finds that it still comes up short, despite the new Exchange support.Ars writes:


The original iPhone was not made to be an enterprise device, and the new iPhone isn't either. Although some baby steps have been made, BlackBerry users will find themselves frustrated with the lack of complete Exchange support and may even end up returning their devices, or at least carrying an iPhone alongside a BlackBerry. We already know several who have done this, and it will happen to many more.

Apple supports Exchange in the iPhone 2.0 software that powers the iPhone, and plans to include Exchange in the next version of OS X, called "Snow Leopard." Ars pronounces Exchange support a "mixed bag." E-mail performance "was on a par with the BlackBerry," and apparently faster than the BlackBerry Pearl. Reconciliation is superior on the iPhone, and it keeps messages 100% in sync.

However, the mail UI for moving between accounts and mailboxes requires a frustrating number of taps, and moving messages is difficult, Ars writes.

Worse, there's no search. "That's right: after a year of complaints from consumers and getting slammed by the business sector for this, Apple answers this issue with ... nothing," Ars says.

The iPhone lacks a built-in task manager (although there are plenty of third-party applications for task management), Calendar users don't have a week view, and there's no way to create and remove calendar, create invitations, or manage invitations.

Apple's rebranded .Mac service, now called MobileMe, is as unreliable so far as .Mac used to be. Moreover, even when it's working it fails to live up to its promise -- the push updating actually works only every 15 minutes.

Ars does a pretty good analysis of the iPhone's battery life. As for me, I found the original iPhone couldn't go a full day of heavy use unless I gave it a quick top-up or two. The iPhone 3G battery drains even faster than the original. Business smartphone users often carry a spare, charged battery or two with them and swap during the day, and you can't do that with the iPhone; it doesn't have a user-replaceable battery. You can buy third-party external batteries for the iPhone -- called "battery extenders" -- and I think those will prove essential for people using the iPhone for business.

Ars left something out, possibly because it's sometimes easy to overlook the obvious: The iPhone lacks a hardware keyboard. Many users of competing smartphones insist that a hardware keyboard is essential to enterprise smartphone users.

Other little gems scattered through the review:

App Store: Ars dings Apple, correctly, I think, for failing to build a way into the Apple Store for developers to distribute demo versions of their apps. Developers also can't distribute closed beta versions to a few hundred or few thousand trusted users.

GPS: GPS eats battery life, so users should use a car charger for long grips, Ars says. They note the lack of turn-by-turn directions currently available on the iPhone.

My 2 cents: GPS in the iPhone is just a toy, and will continue that way until we get spoken, dynamically updated turn-by-turn directions like you see in car GPS systems. Ars relays a report from Reuters in early June that TomTom is "just about ready" to ship turn-by-turn directions software. That's not what they told me July 2; a company spokesperson said then that TomTom got its software running well on the iPhone, but wouldn't even confirm that they planned to ship the product -- ever.

White vs. black. Ars says black is more popular, but white hides fingerprints and imperfections better. That seems to be the consensus on the Internet: White hides fingerprints and imperfections better. BUT THAT'S JUST WRONG! BLACK HIDES FINGERPRINTS AND IMPERFECTIONS BETTER! ONE DAY SCIENCE WILL VINDICATE ME IN MY BELIEFS, AND I WILL LAUGH, I TELL YOU!!! OH, HOW I WILL LAUGH ON THAT DAY!!!!

Headphones: The 3G headphones are about the same as the original iPhone's, but an inch longer. Woo-hoo!

External speaker: Louder and overall much improved over the original iPhone.

Warmer display colors: Apple tuned the display colors to be warmer and less harsh. Some users are complaining about a yellow tint to the display as a result.

Sound quality. Ars says the sound quality for the 3G is about the same as the original, both for phone calls and iPod functions. I think phone call quality is a little better. I think sound quality using the iPod app is about the same, but I think I've been able to turn up the volume a little louder than the original. I could be kidding myself about this, though.

Network speed. Ars finds 3G speed to be 2 to 3 times faster than EDGE. That matches what other reviewers are saying, too.

Ars also takes the iPhone apart and examines its innards.

Like I said, it's a wonderful review with many photos, and I've only scratched the surface here. I urge you to go read it.

Disclaimer: I've been spending a lot of time in this post criticizing the iPhone 3G, but I'm quite happy with mine. The original iPhone was a great phone, the 3G is a little better. However, no device is right for everyone, and here I'm describing some of the shortcomings that might make the iPhone 3G wrong for some people.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing