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Well now that the iPhone 3G (and actually more specifically the 2.0 software) are out, I promised myself I’d take another look, especially given that the claims of “for the Enterprise” were there (which really meant ‘we added ActiveSync’).  I had been holding on to some gift cards to subsidize this gadget investigation and so alas, I am testing the iPhone 3G for my use.

Now because the device itself isn’t really much different (physically the changes are subtle) I’m not really commenting on the “iPhone” itself but rather on the claims of what 2.0 software brought to the device.  The 3G and GPS are additive value, and I’ll comment on them a little bit.  The physical device is still great looking, feels good in your hand and has a bright display…but still has some shortcomings I think as well.

For me the claim of “ready for the Enterprise” should mean a lot more than ‘we've technically implemented the spec for ActiveSync.’  Given Apple’s track record with user experience design, I was surprised to see some really lacking implementations coming from an environment where I live in Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) and have experienced that integration since it was available on the Windows Mobile platform…which in this instance is the bar.  No, I’m not saying Windows Mobile is the bar…I’m saying the EAS integration is the bar.  How it operates, how the user interacts with it as a part of their usual desktop experience as well.  So here goes my feedback.  Remember, this is feedback regarding the ‘ready for the Enterprise’ claims.

I’ve already admitted in the past I hate the term ‘Enterprise’ but Apple seems to be defining it here as anyone who wants to use Exchange.  I think that is a wrong definition by a long shot.  Lots of people use Exchange – it’s why they added support for it!  That being said, my brain definition of ‘Enterprise’ is a large corporation.  I’m using my current usage of my digital lifestyle (personal and work) in that definition.

My feedback based on my experience (note: firmware version 2.0 5A347).

Multiple Calendar/EAS profiles

I’ve seen this complaint several times in the blogging circles.  People want to be able to sync multiple Exchange accounts or combine with EAS and MobileMe, etc.  I must admit that it doesn’t appeal to me.  I have one address book.  While I can see people wanting to do that, I can see how it wouldn’t be ideally supported.  The device seems to have single contact stores (calendar, contacts, etc.) – so adding two accounts would seemingly blend these together.  Admittedly I haven’t looked into this because it is a feature that I don’t care about…so if I’m wrong and it does support it, forgive me.

Large Contact Store

I have currently 1,172 contacts in my address book.  Notice I did not say friends.  These don’t represent every Twitter follower, Facebook friend, etc.  These are valid contacts that I want to retain in my personal and business life.  Networking is key in my industry and I make sure that I maintain relationships over time.  People may say there is no way you can manage that many contacts and would be true…I don’t ping these people daily, but keep contact information for people I’ve met of value over time – it has paid off tremendously to do this.  But enough about that…

iPhone sucks at handing large contact stores.  I suspect that a hard-core sales person ‘in the Enterprise’ has many more contacts than I do.  When I switch to the contacts application (or when using Contacts in To/From type fields) the software is painfully slow.  In the contact screen, it comes up and then when I click the search field there is a noticeable delay before that is enabled.  Then as I type it starts to filter….slowly.  This has to improve in my opinion.  For me the #2 functionality of my device (phone function being 1) is contacts.  This feels almost unusable to me.

The Exchange directory feature is also hidden.  In Windows Mobile when you search and nothing is found, you get an immediate option to check the ‘company directory’ which is the Exchange global address list.  iPhone buries that in 3 more gestures away…it is not an integrated experience within the default contacts and is behind the Group icon on the device…then you pick the Directories section.

This area needs improvement.  Windows Mobile has a superior experience here in both performance of large contact stores and GAL integration.

Meeting Invitations/Appointments

This one is an odd one as I’ve experienced two different things and it hasn’t been consistent in my testing (even though the meeting requests are coming from the same place).  With that said, this was one area that I felt took a lot to get used to as it does not exhibit the same behavior as Windows Mobile.  In WinMo, when you receive a meeting request it is the same as in the Outlook desktop experience.  You get it in your inbox, open it up, accept/maybe/decline with an option immediately for inline comments as well.  iPhone does it a little different.  First, you get a popup notice (this can be turned off) for your ‘Invitation’ (that is what iPhone calls them):

If you click view, it takes you to the Calendar application under the Invitations section:

And once you click on the new invite (as denoted with a blue dot), you see the meeting request with the option of accepting/etc.

The problem is where is the option to provide feedback/comments on why I might decline?  The screenshot above implies that it isn’t there and gives you no indication that you can scroll down…but when you do:

Not very intuitive and not the same experience of a typical Exchange user who is used to taking action and adding comments at the time. 

The other thing that was odd for me was that if you ignored or didn’t see the popup, you’d have a much different experience in getting your appointment.  Take a look at the screenshots below.

  

On the home screen when you receive an invite you get a new notice on the calendar icon.  Hmm…that doesn’t imply ‘new meeting request’ to me as an Exchange user…it implied I have one item today.  When you click on the calendar application you go to your calendar view and if you look at the second screenshot you’ll see the lower right corner what appears to be an inbox?  Clicking on that takes you to the Invitations screen (pictured previously).  So to me, it was an odd workflow, especially given that I didn’t have an email in my inbox with the meeting request!  I thought that was odd.  My future testing, however, showed the emails starting to show up (third screenshot above).  It is pretty much what you’d expect and when clicking on the appointment link takes you to the Invitations screen (again, pictured previously above).

UPDATE: New Meeting Requests

What?!  When I create a new calendar item I cannot invite people?  Shame.  Shame.

So for me, the process coming from a world of EAS and the Outlook desktop experience was different.  I can’t say this is bad yet, but if I miss a meeting request because it isn’t in my inbox, I’ll be pissed.  No vote on this one yet…the experience is ‘different’ for now.

No EAS Feedback

WinMo has an explicit icon to go to ActiveSync.  Here you can see your settings, but more importantly view any issues that may have occurred with the last sync.  This could include conflicts, EAS status messages, connectivity issues, etc.  I see none of that in iPhone.  It gives me no feedback of if everything is operating okay or not.  Am I just to assume it is?  Here’s the config screen I expected to see it in:

Location Services

Seems to be the most popular thing to build iPhone applications off of!  As a side note I think the UrbanSpoon application is the best.  It is a great innovation to the age old question “what are we doing for dinner?”  That said, every app seems to want to take advantage of GPS.  Here’s the problem – GPS is a battery suck.  So for me I turned it off immediately which you can do easily.  When I then go to Maps (which uses Google maps), I am presented with this when I choose the Locate Me feature (lower left corner icon button):

If I choose Don’t Allow the feature goes away.  What?!  What happened to even my fake GPS with Google maps?  It doesn’t seem like it is an option anymore…it’s either real or none.  Clicking ok on here turns on your GPS radio as well, so start the battery suck.  This is odd to me and I think a loss for Google maps.  Sure real GPS is great, but I would expect that it fallback on the tower triangulation that was an acceptable option for most…espeically those in dense areas where GPS line-of-sight might be troubled, but signal triangulation might be easier to attain.

On a side note, developers should do exactly what UrbanSpoon does – gives me the option to use my current location and if I choose Don’t Allow then it falls back to still let me manually select and still use the application…well done.

Battery Life

Wow, noticeable battery life drain on this device compared to the previous incarnation.  I mean, really bad.  I’ve got GPS/WiFi turned off and have tuned my mail settings accordingly.  My battery was dead after first day.  Yikes.  This is failure ‘for the Enterprise’ given how mobile employees are.  I’m making sure my car adapter works and never leaving home without the wall cable.  I really hope this improves for their sake.  My WinMo device is a BlackJack II (which also has GPS turned off) and I get at least 2 days on a full charge with 3G activity and push email.  I know people complain about the BJII as well, but in comparison I think WinMo devices have fine tuned for the most part the battery usage that EAS and always-on push email uses. 

I don’t think the configuration options for the email/push are incredibly intuitive.  In fact when i configured my IMAP account, it automatically set it for Fetch rather than manual (this seemed to be a change from the previous software in my experience).  I noticed there was an Advanced button that would allow me to change the per-email account settings:

This enabled me to say Manual for this account and Push for the other.  This option is under the “Fetch” section of the Settings applet.  I recommend fine tuning these to your needs, maybe even turning off push all together for optimal battery life if you get a lot of mail.

16GB and no document storage

Seriously.  16GB and still no option to save documents?  Now I am not a heavy document user on my WinMo device either but I do like the ability to save documents to the device (whatever ‘documents’ means to you) when I need to.  I know iPhone can be used for USB storage, but my WinMo device can respond to the inquiry of ‘Hey, can you email me that spec?’ To which i can Save As…to my SD card and transfer later if needed…or transfer via ActiveSync via Bluetooth…neither of which iPhone can do.  WinMo clearly wins here for this feature that I think people use a bit in the Enterprise.

Home Screen Customization

Where is the home screen customization?  One great thing about all ‘for the Enterprise’ devices (WinMo and Blackberry) is they provide Today style home screens.  Date/Time, # emails, # appointments, next appointment, etc.  The iPhone home screen gives me # of emails (but doesn’t tell me which accounts those numbers exist in…WinMo does) but tells me nothing about my day until I click a few times.  This should be a customizable feature that iPhone should enable.  Even in the locked screen state I’d love to see my message counts and next appointment.  This is a common use for me in my business life.  I’m not even sure their SDK would allow such overriding of the icon display home page UI?

Pin Unlock

Most larger corporations would implement the EAS feature of policies and require a device pin lock.  This is fine.  What sucks is that when pin lock is enabled, you essentially have to double-unlock.  Slide to unlock, then enter pin.  Sigh…that sucks.  I’m not sure that can be improved as the pin lock feature is tied to a timeout and I do like my device preventing me from using features when in my pocket.  Maybe if you have a pin, then the Auto lock settings are used.  Either way I think it should be one or the other…not both.

The Developer Story

Much has been said about AppStore and how wonderful it is.  I agree, the iTunes experience is pretty seemless.  Having one place to acquire apps is nice.  I think this is one area where WinMo really hasn’t nailed although there are exponentially larger amount of applications for WinMo available, it is not an integrated experience to get them.  Handango comes close, but I believe this is one area where the carrier customization of the devices bites WinMo in the end in my opinion…nobody chooses to include Handango in their distribution.

Aside from distribution, the developer story sucks a little for me.  Sure the tools are free…for emulation only.  Want to deploy to your iPhone?  $100.  Now, I don’t think that’s such a bad price actually.  My problem is that it limits you to a device.  It is hard to tell from the terms (I haven’t signed up fully) whether you can deploy an app to multiple devices (it notes Registered Device IDs).  If not, this is epic fail for me.  How do you get your app out there for people to beta test and give you feedback?  Will AppStore allow beta versions since that is the only mainstream distribution channel?  This seems like a developer shortcoming to me.  I love the WinMo experience of being able to write something, debug in emulation, change and deploy to my device, or write an installer that I can email to my friends who can receive it over the air, save to their device and install.  I’d really like to know the equivalent process here for iPhone development.

Ready?

In the end, I’m not convinced all the kinks are worked out for really declaring the badge ‘ready for the Enterprise’ valid.  Simply adding one feature to your software hasn’t made it that ready.  I guess ‘the Enterprise’ will eventually tell Apple what needs to be done.  For me, as an enterprise user, as an EAS user…it isn’t complete.  It needs some fine tuning in certain areas for sure.

UPDATE: See Exchange features broken/missing/weird, help us build the wiki: iPhone Exchange Issues

How did you take those screenshots?

I have a friend that runs a blog called On a Mac that you should subscribe to if you are a mac user.  He clued me in to how to take screenshots on iPhone using a new feature in the 2.0 software.

Related Posts:

    • "If you're a business user, then we feel the answer is no, it's not worth it." Speaking on a business user purchasing an iPhone 3G Source: ars technica

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I suspect Apple will have a good day on 11 July.  I’m pretty sue Apple could release the iGumWrapper and people will camp out 2 days before to be the first to purchase a gum wrapper made out of napkin and far less superior in functionality than what exists today.  It’s the lure of Apple, the marketing engine behind them and the fact that despite that napkin material, it would likely be so beautiful and make you forget some things that you’ve depended on for so long.

But I digress :-).  In all seriousness, Apple excels at the hype and the experience (yes, two distinctions that shouldn’t always be confused as one).  With the release of the iPhone 3G, they’ll sell a lot I’m imagining and it will cause other mobile manufacturers concern…or it should.  The iPhone is being marketed as ‘half the price’ but others have already pointed out that that asterisk on the advertisements is a large asterisk…and in fact the ultimate cost to the consumer is actually higher (including service plans, etc.) than the current model.  But who cares…I’ve seen the cost analyst and it is negligible.  Misleading advertising?  Maybe.  Some have even pointed out that other than the 3G there isn’t much core upgrade to the device.  No camera upgrade, no IM, no Bluetooth support for cars, no cut/paste, no MMS messaging.  Some have even pointed out that despite GPS support there will be no guided turn-by-turn navigation provided.

Regarding Navigation: Some have said that 3rd parties will use the SDK to solve that problem.  Ah, but read the terms of the SDK…no applications can provide navigational guidance using the SDK.  Why?  If you are aware of US carriers in telecom, you may notice that devices equipped with GPS all have an icon for directions – provided by TeleNav – provided as a monthly service fee of approximately USD $10 per month.  I think this is one area where the carriers won against apple in negotiations…to protect their own agreements and cross-revenue opportunities on services.

One thing that has bothered most developer geeks about the SDK is the lack of background processing.  Apple’s keynote has pulled a little of the 'these aren’t the droids you're looking for’ magic by stating battery life, blah blah blah.  Hey guess what…Blackberry does this just fine and has great battery life.  Is this an area of “we couldn’t get it done” for Apple?  How many think this will change?  I do.  If there is any plans for iChat to be on the device, it would have to be.  Rely on an middle messaging server to deliver what is effectively an SMS command and then prompt me to launch the app again?  Seriously?!  Is this another way of retaining the carrier’s service costs for messaging fees?

Have you ever noticed that Visual Voicemail is actually delivered as an SMS command to the phone with information on what that voice mail contains?

Another sore spot for developers was the lack of Flash on the device.  There has been some bickering from Adobe/Apple on this, but it still isn’t there.  Adobe has said in their last company call their execs have noted they have it working via SDK but would hope the software would eventually be a part of the iPhone software.  A similar request has been made to me by developers of ‘when will Silverlight be on the iPhone’?  Hey guess what, no plugins are allowed on the iPhone – let’s wait for Apple to change that first, then let’s talk…you can’t complain when the platform doesn’t allow it first!

And then comes Android.  When I first saw the video demonstration of this I was impressed.  It incorporates a lot of what modern devices have as well as what people like in the iPhone from a usability standpoint.  Oh, and it will be free and open source.  Some of the Open Handset Alliance have already announced devices with Android that might be available as soon as the end of this year!

Will Android be successful in mainstream?  That is a big question.  Why would I ask that?  Tim, it’s Google, they do everything right, how could you be so stupid?  But consider this.  What makes Apple so successful in their software implementations?  Their ad campaigns shed some light on this when they jab Windows.  They control everything…the entire channel from hardware design to implementation.  There are no other (legal) hardware providers creating iPods, iPhones or MacBooks.  What does this have to do with Android?  Well Android is an open source project that will directly affect consumers.  Most of the time I think we see open source projects that are hiding behind consumer services.  Take, for example, any web server running their site on Linux.  Sure that affects consumers visiting the site, but not directly…the HTML/rendering is what affects me…not the implications of the hardware.

Android will be literally in peoples’ hands.  There have been others that have done this successfully…like Sansa running Mono on their MP3 devices.  But how is this different?  Google isn’t providing the handset.  Will Android feel the same pains of the distribution channel that Windows does?  That being that you are providing an OS and don’t control the hardware that it resides on?  Android will be picked up by handset manufacturers and modified and tweaked and installed on various chipsets and handsets with differing peripherals that may not always comply to the specs or to what Android may expect.  Will that give Android a bad name when someone wants to put it on a device that is ‘minimum requirements’ (I hate minimum requirements---ever try anything on a min req machine…it never is a good experience)?  That remains to be seen.  Perhaps Google may have to do what they said they never would: the Google phone – to ensure that Android has one place where it can be guaranteed.

And when it does come out, will it beat iPhone even though it shares some similarities?  I’m not convinced.  Apple (and iPhone) have a culture behind it.  iPhone itself has become somewhat of a mnemonic.  If you have an iPhone, when you tell someone that you just took a picture, do you say “I took it with my phone” or do you say “I took it with my iPhone”?  I hear this all the time…I <fill-in-the-function> with my iPhone.  I never walk around saying “I took this with my Blackjack.”  This is an advantage Apple has over the market…the brand strength.  I took it with my Android.  Still doesn’t sound right.  Even the newest devices like the Samsung Instinct, HTC Diamond, etc. will not gain that level of brand recognition.

Where does all this leave developers?  Let’s see:

    • Apple – closed platform; closed hardware; Objective-C/Cocoa dev platform (OSX only for best tools); controlled distribution channel for apps;
    • Android – open platform; Java dev platform; tools everywhere; available for any hardware
    • Windows Mobile – open/closed platform; C++/.NET dev platform; tools everywhere (best tools on Windows); available for any licensed hardware vendor

What a minute, Windows Mobile an ‘open’ platform?!  Tim, you lie.  Well, I’m not sure the marketing teams would agree with my statement, but consider the facts.  Windows Mobile provides an operating system to device manufacturers to leverage.  We actually provide what we call “platform builder” and those who license Windows Mobile can customize and pick and choose what “Windows Mobile'” means to them.  Is it completely open to alter the base code of WinMo?  No.  But if you have ever picked up a phone that had WinMo from T-Mobile and one from AT&T and one from Verizon, you’ll see that it is not the exact replication across the board.  Those carriers have done some of their own customizations and added/altered some of the applications that exist.

Basically developers will have a choice…not a consistent choice by any means because each choice has a specific skill set.  I don’t know Java well enough that Android will be my choice, for example.  But if it is compelling enough, will that cause me to want to learn?  Who knows…

So what’s with my rant.  Who knows…just had some thoughts on mobile that I wanted to get out.  Carry on.

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gizmodo reports (and i confirm the link...although everyone is downloading it now so it is sloooowww) that the samsung sgh-i607 aka blackjack now has a windows mobile 6 update available.

one disappointment (for me at least) is that the updater doesn't work on vista.  argh.  gotta find me an XP box now.

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as of today 04-DEC-2007, the treo 750 in the US is upgradable by the carrier (AT&T) to windows mobile 6.

while this update has been available for UK roms for a while via vodafone, it is now 'officially' available and supported by at&t.  if you have a treo 750, go get the update from here.

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this week at devconnections a few of my comrades were there and started to spread the word about our planning on something we are doing in the western united states.  we're calling it 'the code trip' and the plan is simple, get us (the developer evangelists who interact with our community groups) out hitting the streets and talking code.  we're in planning stages right now for sure, and brewing up some things for our stops.  we want our communities to participate in that planning.  have a good idea?  let us know.  want to ride on the RV for a leg?  let us know.  you can subscribe to our RSS feed at http://thecodetrip.com.  you can also submit ideas there as well.  we're on twitter and facebook so you can follow along.

our plan is to hit the cities west of the rocky mountains (that's the regional area i cover) in the US.  we'll stop at major cities and hopefully you'll tell us where else to stop.  we'll have an interactive online experience for you to see what we are up to, view podcasts and other media as well as download applications and samples. 

we'll be giving away a ton of swag at the events, etc.  in fact, let's start small -- blog about the code trip, send me a link (or leave the link in the comments here) and i'll send you some code trip stickers.  okay it isn't an xbox 360 (yet) but it is what i have in hand right now.  be sure to include where to send them to and i'll hook your user group up with some stickers for laptops or whatever.

we really are shaping a lot of this now so please if you have suggestions for what you would like to see, we'd love to hear about them.  be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed and Twitter so that you also can stay up-to-date on how the plans are progressing as well as when the trip hits the road about what we are doing!

even in this preliminary discussion and planning i've already gotten some flame mail (anonymous of course).  it can be summed up into roughly two categories:

-you suck
-the site sucks
-you are copying adobe (referring to the adobe onair tour)

let me address these three categories.

you suck:
thanks. i appreciate the feedback and continue to strive not to suck. your reminder helps.

the site sucks:
got a few comments (mixed really) about the site sucking as well as people liking the idea.  the current one there is temporary.  if you don't like it, that's fine, it won't be there long.  i like it.  bottom line: it isn't the final one.

you are copying <fill-in-any-vendor-that-reaches-out-to-their-customers-but-namely-adobe>:
really? that's shocking. i guess then that adobe stole it from def leppard. i didn't realize there was a patent on tours. but seriously speaking, i'll be blatantly honest. the onair tour was/is a great idea. getting software organizations out in the streets and talking to their developers always benefits the developer. i'm actually glad to see adobe finally having more of a community feel. microsoft has had field developer relationship groups for the past 10 years (maybe longer than that but that is how far back i can remember). we've had a constant tour (microsoft across america - updated: picture and info here from the start of MSFT across america) that visits cities every quarter and travel in a branded bus which demonstrates various technologies.  there was a comment about our marketing sucking so we had to steal someone's (adobe) idea.  maybe our marketing does suck because nobody knew about the existing microsoft across america bus that has been around for a while.  hmmm...maybe adobe copied?  joking of course.  i really don't care.  like i said, when any company gets out and talks to their customers, as well as giving their customers a platform for talking about their experiences, that is awesome.  that is one of our goals and i'm sure is/was one of adobe's.  my hat goes off to ryan stewart, mike chambers, mike downey and the other product/program managers and evangelists that were on the tour.  i think they are doing good things for adobe.  i hope adobe continues to invest in field evangelism like microsoft has had -- if they do, we (developers) all win. 

so there you have it, my raw opinion.  if you choose to continue to berate me, that's your right, but be fair and use facts, don't assume you know me personally.  i've got tough skin though so if you continue to feel the need to anonymous act go for it, i won't respond anonymously, but if you want to have a conversation like adults, please identify yourself in your post and we'll continue the conversation.

i'm excited to be empowered to do this in my group.  my team is excited.  we want to have some fun and talk about the things you are doing as well as talk about some of the exciting things microsoft is working on like , LINQ, Windows Live services, Windows Mobile developments...and some other surprises we have up our sleeves!

oh yeah, and to address a few questions i got in email (between the "you're a f*ing idiot" sentences there actually were questions): yes any event we have will be free; yes we will have stuff to give away; good food -- i wasn't at any stop that adobe had (apparently phoenix wasn't important enough even though they drove through) so i don't know what kind of food they had, but we'll do our best.  this is being funded by my team and not some behemoth budget (unless anyone from other microsoft teams wants to kick in :-) -- you know my alias), so we'll do our best. 

please keep the feedback coming.  positive and negative are welcome.  anonymous rants filled with explicatives i think waste everyone's time and are simply put: lame.  if you're going to be that negative and personal attacks, then at least have some basis.

remember to visit http://thecodetrip.com and subscribe for updates!