One of my readers asked the following question when thinking about a Nokia phone versus an iPhone.
The OS is ugly – I agree. The question is (and I know your love of Blackberry) one of purpose. In your opinion, is the iPhone a business class phone? Is beauty the be-all end all of mobile computing?
One way to get to this answer, is to ask a more extreme version of it:
If I were running IT for the whitehouse, would I equip the incoming staff with iPhones?
The phone that I know most about, one the definitely is a business-class phone, is the Blackberry. So let’s compare it to that.
The Blackberry encrypts email, but all email goes through RIM’s servers and network, making it a potential target.
The iPhone can be made to encrypt email by using HTTPS (I think) and running in ActiveSync mode, the device communicates with your email servers directly, distributing the security issue a bit.
The battery on the iPhone is simply inadequate for a power user who will be away from AC for over 12 hours. It is a serious issue, and you can’t swap out the battery making it even more cumbersome to solve the problem.
I carry a power adapter when I travel, and I carry it even on trips to NYC for the day.
The ATT GSM network coverage is inferior to Verizon’s CDMA coverage in the US. Whether this is a problem depends on where you typically go. For me, it is usually not a problem, although I have noted many more dropped calls (could be a HW issue) and dead spots compared to the Verizon Blackberry. I can make a call in Princeton, NJ on my Verizon Blackberry and hold that call all the way to NYC (more than 50 miles). On the iPhone, I often start the conversation with a warning that we may get disconnected.
CDMA has other benefits as well. A CDMA phone has a range of up to 40 miles in rural areas with good line of sight to the tower (properties of the spread spectrum technology used). I used a Verizon blackberry in Grand Canyon on the roof of the RV. There was no GSM coverage at all. I believe that there are no cell towers inside the park, so both had to reach outside the park.
On the blackberry, people receive every message and never receive a duplicated message. On my desktop, I get an indication of which message I responded to, which is actually quite useful.
On the iPhone, in poor network conditions, I hear from recipients that they sometimes get multiple copies of an email message that I send.
I can search my Blackberry email. While this does not sound like a major deal, it is an important feature for a power user trying to remember the details of an email before a meeting.
While originally I found the iPhone keyboard to be a huge liability, at this point I can type well enough that I only reach for my Blackberry for the longest messages.
Thinking about mission critical applications, the Blackberry with a full keyboard has the benefit that I look at the screen as I type. On an iPhone, I look at the on screen keyboard. As a result, and partially because of the autocorrection built into the iPhone, I am more likely to lay a word down that is different from the word I intended. If life were hanging in the balance, this imprecision may not be acceptable.
In sum, If I were equipping mission critical staff with portable devices that had to work in a disaster where minutes matter to the lives of others, i would use Verizon Blackberrys. The benefits of the iPhone are mostly in providing a more entertaining and well rounded computing experience, things that while nice, are not mission critical for most people in their jobs. A Verizon Blackberry running against Microsoft Exchange using the Enterprise redirector is a workhorse that is nearly perfect for the task at hand.
That said, in my life, I prefer the iPhone, and I do run a business. All the issues above nag at me a bit, but my overall level of satisfaction is higher with the iPhone. I do travel with the backup Verizon phone, but I should say that I have traveled with 2 cell phones for many years, simply to have redundancy and because the voice experience is better on a Motorola Razr than on any smartphone. voice is more important to me when I travel.
I spend most of my time in my hometown, and there my iPhone works well enough. If there is a major invasion of a foreign country, I learn about it on CNN, not from my boss. And if a call occasionally goes to voice mail because of bad network coverage, no big deal. I also use the iPhone on wifi to browse the web and read blogs using Google Reader much more often than I used my Verizon Blackberry (which btw, does not have wifi because Verizon is the devil).