Once upon a time, there was a shinny new device called the iPhone that tried to climb up the mammoth hill that is the sole domain of the business smartphone.  “I think I can, I think I can,” said the iPhone, and it tried and it tried, but alas, it could only make it up about half way, and then it sputtered and. . . .   The end of this story cannot be written.

Obviously, you probably figured out by now that I have fallen victim to the allure driven by the site all of my business associates who were sporting shiny black and white, Zen-like devices which colorful icons.  Yes, I bought an iPhone.  And while this article may be a bit off topic for my music business oriented blog, anyone who knows me knows that I am a techie through and through and enjoy new gadgets and technologies more than most.  Many of my friends call me the guru for good reason.  So, here goes.

As a long time fan of Palm, you might wonder why I did not wait for the premier of the Palm Pre.  The simple reason is that Sprint service does not reach to my residential area.  That was also the reason that, in recent years, I migrated to Windows Mobile, which I grew to love almost as much as the Palm OS.  However, finally I was convinced to switch to the dark side and try it with Apple.

My relationship with my iPhone is what I describe as a “love hate” relationship.  Yes, there are many many things I really love about the iPhone.  I love the way it feels in your hand, almost like a smooth pebble plucked from a lake in the mountains of Japan.  As I said in the story above, very “Zen-like.”  After all, that is the Apple way isn’t it?

apple-iphone-keyboard At first I thought the soft keyboard would drive me crazy.  Surprisingly, I’m getting used to it and pretty efficient, although I still maintain that a hardware keyboard is much more efficient – something the Palm Pre does beautifully. 

For the most part, on the positive side, I really love the web browsing experience.  The websites that actually work (more on this later) come up beautifully and quickly.  And, as a tech person, I really like the fact that there are scores of programmers written countless applications for the iPhone.  For the most part, the marketing is true, “there is an app for that.”  That’s sort of where the “hate” part of the relationship begins, in that area between the “for the most part” and the remaining part of 100%!

Recently, Apple has been pushing the idea that the iPhone is the ideal phone for business.  There are several flaws with the iPhone which, until remedied, will prevent its widespread infiltration into the lockhold that BlackBerry, Palm and Windows Mobile have on that sector of the market. 

So, what I’d like to address in this article is not the scores of more obvious deficiencies that have already been pointed out in the blogs and articles – no native voice dial, lack of full support for Bluetooth, no memory expansion, no cut and paste, no MMS, etc. – but the less obvious and definitely serious deficiencies that relate more specifically to a business person’s daily use of a smartphone.

First and foremost, and this has certainly be recognized by others, is  the lack of support for Javascript and Flash plug-ins in the built-in Safari browser.  If your websites relies on either of these, and my www.musicattorney.biz does, then what the iPhone visitor will see is a blue Lego-style brick with a question mark in the middle.  See the illustration.  What the hell is javathat?  Unforgiveable.  There’s no other word for it.  And all simple because Apple doesn’t like to play nice with its competitors, particularly Adobe.

Secondly, and this has always been one of my major beefs with Apple, the proprietary, i.e. closed, operating system.  Apple’s SDK, as one developer put it, “has more restrictions than Guantanamo.”  Developers require a certain level of integration with the OS in order to develop business-class applications to work around the inherent deficiencies in the native software.  One perfect example of this is the calendar.  For some unknown reason, there is NO WEEK VIEW in the calendar.  No week view.  I don’t know about most business people, but for me, the week view is the go-to view.  Yes, I know, there is a “list” view – not the same thing.  To witness the difference for yourself, download the iPhone version of Pocket Informant and look at the week view.  Ah, problem solved you might think.  Just use the App.  Not so quick.  Pocket Informant only syncs with Google calendar.  Why, you ask?  That’s right, because Apple will not allow them to access the base-level calendar on the iPhone and therefore the information in the iPhone’s calendar CANNOT be displayed in beautiful week view of Pocket Informant.  Yes, the week view is a touchy subject for me.

phone While we’re on the subject of little annoyances, what’s up with dialing the damn iPhone?  There is no quick way to get to the dial pad.  Duh!@!!  It is, first and foremost, supposed to be a phone.  Give a quick way to access my dial pad.  When you press the pretty green telephone icon, you land on whatever button you happened to be on when you opened the program before, whether it be the voicemail or recent contacts.  You MIGHT get lucky and land on the dial pad.  But there’s a one in four shot that you have to press yet another icon to get to the dial pad to, dare I say it, actually make a phone call. 

Since we’re on the subject, looking up contacts is probably a breeze for someone with 25-50 contacts in their address book.  You swipe down the list and it flows beautifully.  I, like many other business people, have close to 2000 contacts in my database.  Not such a “weeeee” experience with the scrolling thing!  There is simply no good way, on the native applications, to search for a contact and quickly dial them.  Fortunately, in this instance, there is an app for that.

Now, getting back to the primary focus, the third annoyance that restricts the iPhone from being a major contender in the business market is the lack of multi-tasking.  That’s right, multi-tasking.  The Palm Pre recognizes and addresses this need beautifully, as does the Blackberry Storm.  With the iPhone, you must always return to the icon screen, which is, again, designed for the casual user.  The icon concept works great if you have only a few applications, but if you start to actually utilize the “there’s an app for that” concept, you quickly find that it’s difficult to find the app you’re look for.  YouIcons also will find, by the way, that you are limited to the number of applications you install on the iPhone – nine screens +4 only!  Apple has some smart programmers, why not throw in some “categories” or “tabs” or some intelligent organizational method!  No file or icon management whatsoever.  I don’t ask for much. 

While we’re on the wish list, why not allow me to have a “back” button, to return to my previous program.  But no, if I want to look up someone’s phone number or address to include in a calendar event, I have to hit the home key, thereby exiting the calendar, go find the contacts icon, press it, scroll through scores of contacts until I find the right one, then select that contact, memorize the information, exit the contacts program, find the calendar icon, press the calendar icon – OH MY FREEEEEKING *#*#*#!!!!!!  Isn’t Apple supposed to be the king of simplicity?  Somebody surely missed the boat on this one didn’t they?  It is a simple concept – multitasking.  Apple didn’t get it.

So, you might be wondering, why do I still have and use the iPhone.  Well, actually as I said there are many apps that do service many of my needs.  I utilize Freshbooks for invoicing, SugarSync for file backup and access, Jott for quick notes to myself, Google for directions, eReader for my literary needs, Transactions to get myself paid, Pandora to listen to music, Upvise for my shopping list needs, ReQall for my localized to do list, MyCast for weather, Banking online, etc. etc. You get the picture. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I could do ALL of these things on my old Samsung Blackjack with Windows Mobile.  But certainly the iPhone is, after all, the most recent iconic symbol of high technology.   I just hope that Apple has their act together enough to realize that their market is expanding, and in order to expand fully into the business sector, it might have to let go of some of its old methods of doing things.  Let the programmers in.  Let them design fixes to these flaws.  Let them develop an app for that!  Until then, in my opinion, the Blackberry Storms and Samsung Jacks of the world will continue to have a foothold in that precious business market that every smartphone desires to dominate.  Until then, Apple, repeat after me:  “I think I can, I think I can . . . .”