iPhone

Product spotlight: iPhone 3GS for business users

Learn the pros and cons of the iPhone 3GS from a business perspective. Read the details and watch a short video of the business features in action.

The Apple iPhone is perhaps the best-known smartphone on the planet, drooled over by Apple lovers and consumer electronics enthusiasts, but how well does the latest model - the iPhone 3GS - stack up for business users? Here is TechRepublic's unadulterated evaluation of the iPhone 3GS from a business and IT perspective.

For a full visual of the iPhone 3GS and a quick summary of its strengths and weaknesses, check out this short video clip, and then read the full review below:

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Specifications

  • Carriers: AT&T Wireless (U.S.), full list of international carriers
  • Processor: 600MHz (Samsung S5PC100)
  • RAM: 256MB
  • Storage: 16GB or 32GB Flash memory
  • Display: 3.5-inch 480x320 pixel HVGA LCD touchscreen
  • Battery life: Standby time: Up to 300 hours; Talk time: Up to 5 hours on 3G; Internet use: Up to 5 hours on 3G and up to 9 hours on Wi-Fi;
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces (135 grams)
  • Dimensions: 4.5(h) x 2.4(w) x 0.48(d)
  • Camera: 3 megapixels with autofocus and video recording
  • Keyboard: 33-key onscreen-only, both portrait and landscape
  • Networks: Wi-Fi; UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • Tethered modem capability: Yes (though not yet activated on AT&T)
  • Price: $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB
  • Official iPhone 3GS product page
  • Photo gallery: iPhone 3GS

Who is it for?

This device is great for users who've had trouble using other smartphones, because the iPhone has the easiest UI to navigate - in fact, many toddlers can even figure out how to make it work. The iPhone is also a great fit for users who do a lot of reading on their smartphones, including email, documents, and ebooks, because it has a large high-resolution LCD screen and it's easy to zoom in or make the text larger, if needed, in most programs. It's not as good for users who do a ton of typing, texting, or data entry because it is limited to an onscreen keyboard.

What problems does it solve?

The iPhone has two major innovations: user interface and smartphone applications. The UI has made smartphones usable for the masses for the first time. With the help of third party developers who have built over 50,000 applications, the iPhone has become infinitely more useful than previous smartphones, which were basically just cellphones that could sync with your corporate email and calendar. For business users, there is a wide array of apps that now do everything from helping you quickly hail a cab based on your GPS location, to reading The Wall Street Journal, to quickly accessing a company dashboard from an Oracle database, to tracking a FedEx package.

Standout features

  • Accessing the Web - With its big screen, fast processor, 3G connection, and great UI, the iPhone is best smartphone on the market for browsing standard Web pages. Period. Also, beyond its App Store platform (which requires programming in Objective C and submission to Apple for approval), the iPhone also has a Web app platform in which any person or company can build Web pages aimed at iPhone.
  • Reading documents - Again, with the big screen, this is just a great reading device, for PDFs, Word files, and even ebooks and longer documents. There are a variety of third party applications that can make all Microsoft Office documents easy to read and manage on the iPhone.
  • Multimedia device - This device is excellent for viewing video files and listening to audio books and business podcasts. The built-in camera is even pretty respectable, with video recording and a great autofocus feature that allows you to tap on the screen to focus on a specific thing.
  • Application ecosystem - As we've discussed, the iPhone has developed into a powerful platform for third party developers to bring lots of additional functionality to the device. All apps require Apple Review in order to make it into the App Store. That insures that no rogue software makes it into the iPhone but it's also limiting at times, as we've seen with the controversy surrounding the rejected Google Voice app.

What's wrong?

  • No hardware keyboard - The biggest limitation of the iPhone is its on-screen keyboard. The onscreen keyboard is functional for moderate use and the landscape keyboard in the iPhone 3.0 software is a nice improvement, but for those who do heavy emailing, text messaging, or data entry, the iPhone is simply not as fast or as effective as a smartphone with a hardware keyboard.
  • Doesn't match up to BES - Even with the new Exchange integration, the iPhone does not have the same level of security and IT manageability as you get with BlackBerry smartphones that connect to a backend BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which is still the IT department's smartphone platform of choice. In high security environments like government or the financial sector, the BlackBerry will still be the smartphone of choice and the iPhone will not be widely implemented.
  • Limited to AT&T - In the U.S., the iPhone is limited to a single carrier, AT&T, and AT&T's coverage and network performance simply aren't good enough for business-class usage in some parts of the country.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

The iPhone is the easiest smartphone to learn how to use, and the easiest to operate on a daily basis. It is also the best device for Web browsing and reading documents. The iPhone's massive collection of over 50,000 third party applications also give it a big advantage in usefulness over most other smartphones. However, if you need a smartphone to do heavy typing or messaging, or you need a device with enterprise-class security and IT manageability, then you'd be better off with the BlackBerry Tour or the BlackBerry Bold.

User rating

Have you used or supported the iPhone 3GS? If so, what do you think? Rate the device and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. You can also give your own personal review of the iPhone 3GS in the discussion thread below.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

66 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

The Apple iPhoney in all variations is the WORSE phone in the universe. The user interface is HORRIABLE and NOT user friendly. There is only two good uses for the iPhoney, one is the replace for clay pigions and the other is steady a wobbly table.

lcdata
lcdata

The WORST what's wrong I've seen in years. STOP promoting BES and don't speak in the name of IT departments. BES is crap, a legacy-type of paradigm from 80's. The ONLY edge BB have over iPhone is the battery life. Everything else you said about the keyboard etc, it's just a matter of getting used to. I know, I'm an IT manager, had used BB for 5 years, I LOVE my iPhone and would NEVER go back to BB. Same goes for my users.

mattpoll
mattpoll

Give it the ability to create and edit documents and spreadsheets and it would be amazing. Also I've noticed some problems in accepting appointments (esp from blackberries.) Zoom in the camera would be nice too (I sometimes take pics of whiteboards, etc)

jkiernan
jkiernan

Oddly, the iPhone only allows for one Exchange account on the phone - yet it have have several IMAP and POP accounts. A friend of mine ran into this limitation last week and clued me in. He has clients that use several Exchange mailboxes on the same server, and they're out of luck.

Brent Stevenson
Brent Stevenson

lol - did anyone else notice the background 'window scenery' moving in the video??? :)

steve
steve

I can't agree that the onscreen keyboard is in any way inferior to a hardware keyboard. These devices are WAY to small to have an effective mechanical keyboard unless you have fingers shaped like a ball point pen, not like a pork sausage as mine are. My original smartphone was a Palm and I hated the mechanical keyboard. I can type very quickly and effectively with the iPhone in either portrait or landscape modes, and the intelligent auto-complete feature makes it even faster. WRT the AT&T thing in the US I feel your pain, but in other countries it is available on just about any network you like, so this point is really only for US customers. I agree that if total connectivity to an Exchange server is your hot spot then the Blackberry is still probably your only option. For many users however the iPhone's Exchange connectivity will be sufficient. Both are very good devices.

mail
mail

I think is SMS service is bad, very bad.

clsmith
clsmith

Love mine - only issue is with service in rural areas. AT&T needs to expand!!

Jeffrey Turmelle
Jeffrey Turmelle

When doing a business case, shouldn't cost be a consideration? Using an iPhone internationally is extremely expensive. Without a WiFi connection the iPhone is practically useless internationally unless you have an unlimited phone budget.

jg2186
jg2186

I've had a ton of problems with the sync process. I have a corporate-issued laptop running XP and using Exchange server for mail, contacts and calendars. Calendar refuses to sync at all, contact syncing is just ok, and I get constant messages of "OutlookSyncClient has encountered a problem and needs to close," after OutlookSyncClient starts using up 50% of my processor and over 200MB of memory. Not pretty.

smattix
smattix

If they had it on a Verizon or Sprint network, the Iphone would take off like a rocket. The only thing the pact with AT&T does is limit their US market. Most business users don't go overseas, so the AT&T claim of worldwide network is useless. The Verizon or Sprint networks would provide access that AT&T doesn't (rural and outlying areas). I would buy one if it wasn't limited to AT&T. That's why I won't own a Macintosh either, I am limited to Mac hardware. Tying me to a vendor does not work at all.

ido
ido

Hi, Since I worked both with iPhone and Blackberry in a business way I find some major points in this article problematic. 1. The button keyboard as we know it is an obsolete idea, we can argue here that its more convenient and stuff but really.. As a technological personal can you really NOT see it? on the fact that its ,still, less convenient from the BB I can?t argue the landscape keyboard is a real improvement but we still have a long way for touch keyboard to develop. 2. BES and BB in particular are wildly spread in the US alone, I live in Israel, and I manage international speared IT infrastructure and where ever I go only US employees ask to work with BB Smartphone?s across Europe we don?t have this problem.. So to say that its most popular system in an IT environment, especially an international one is not really accurate. Therefore I think the iphone (although its price without at&t contract) gives a good value and user experience

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

Every time I see a list of cons for the iPhone the less than stellar battery life is never mentioned. If it is heavily used you will run out before the day is over. This shortcoming is magnified by the fact the battery is not user replaceable. So unlike almost every other phone in the world (where you can keep a spare charged battery) you are stuck with clumsy third party dongle or special "battery cases" to extend the life. Apple needs to take note - make the battery user replaceable!

alberto.mendes
alberto.mendes

There are some 3rd party software for secure access to PIM in the enterprise also. Sybase has one and Commontime another. With these assistantes could be a secure business tool, besdes BES.

tom.williams
tom.williams

As a former IT support manager, the iPhone is a nightmare. If Apple wants to capture the enterprise market, it needs to create Mobile Me Enterprise accounts that prevent users from installing non-approved apps, can delete apps remotely, can force sync apps and contacts, and can locate phones from a central account or two. I question whether Apple really wants this market. Enterprise support customers are the worst - lots of support calls, but at a discounted rate each. Lots of travel and carrier related problems which are very hard to resolve. Hardly profitable at all. Since they've got the personal market sewed, why bother with the rest? As a non-corporate user, my iPhone 3GS rules, and I will not part with it until a better one comes out.

doug m.
doug m.

We use this at work now. It replaced our Blackberry's. Overall I like it a lot. Nice screen, good graphics. Takes some getting used to a touch-screen keyboard, but its not bad. Two things I don't like, lack of Adobe Flash (for certain website content) and lack of MMS capability. Supposedly that will be remedied soon. There are some ways around that, but I'll wait until the official fix comes around. The GPS in this thing is great, and the tons of Apps are amazing. The camera is very good and of course the iPod part is great also.

brett
brett

I have two wishes for the iphone. Tethering and a keyboard. Now when i say a keyboard, I'm talking about a regular keyboard. I used to use a foldup keyboard for a HP pocket PC. Something like that would be great!

icecreman
icecreman

You're obviously that "I'm a PC" guy from the apple commercials...

MH101
MH101

BES is a joke

doug m.
doug m.

There is a halfway decent zoom app available for like .99 cents. I have it and it works ok.

MH101
MH101

You can edit excel all day and share over a wifi network. Also create word docs and PDFs etc.

MH101
MH101

Exchange does have it's reasoning for this. I'm not sure if this will ever change. But the BBs are also limited to one exchange domain last I checked.

Tom
Tom

Why wouldn't he simply converge all of those mailboxes into a single one? After all, isn't efficiency one of the key considerations? Why would you have several mailboxes for a single user on an exchange server anyway? With a little rational thinking, he could solve both problems by giving them a single mailbox, with separate addresses receiving and sorted by rule in Exchange. Only one outgoing though, which isn't a bad thing, unless he is masquerading as different people, which is just strange.

Intellicomm
Intellicomm

It was shown to be BS, about a week ago. The only cases were in France, from a few people, a few days apart. Suspicious already. Then knowing where the battery is and thinking a little about thermodynamics, more suspicion. Looking at the screens of the "exploding" phones, closed case. You can see the fracture compressions at the edges of the phone. This is a non issue created by people wanting something for nothing. This does not count the cases of screens just cracking from heat, just the alledged "exploding" phones.

MH101
MH101

Ok let me apply a major amount of force to your BB and let's see if it doesn't shatter like an egg. Read the article....... In full. This is what happens when you give children a grown ups tool. LOL!

steve
steve

Did you actually read that report or just the headline? Apple HAVE addressed the battery issue long ago - was trying to find the link but like most things that report the positive steps taken by companies in this type of case its a lot harder to locate than the negative. If someone has the link to the article that outlined their change of battery technology (and I think even suppliers) could they link it please to help this man out with some facts. And how many issues out of how many phones sold? And WRT the screens cracking, I have four members of my immediate family, numerous extended family and many clients using iPhones. My 19 year old son has dropped his onto the concrete floor of our entertainment area more times than I care to think about, yet the only one that has suffered any damage to the screen belongs to my eldest son's fiancee who knocked it off the bar at her grandmother's house causing it to drop around 1.2m on to a tiled floor. It landed on the corner and got a tiny (about 2mm) crack in the corner of the screen. Oh, and she's the only one that doesn't have some sort of leather or silicon case on the phone...

doug m.
doug m.

How many millions of iPhones are out there and how many have these specific problems? If we're talking about a handful of phones or even 100 phones...its not that big of an issue, though it should be addressed. It might be certain phones coming from a certain manufacturing facility and not others. Hopefully the EU investigation will get to the bottom of this.

terry.floyd
terry.floyd

We've all heard the horror stories about thousand dollar AT&T phone bills for iPhone users who leave the U.S. (going no further out of the country than Canada or Mexico, let alone Europe or Asia), and lots of iPhone users complain about their inability to get adequate network coverage even in metropolitan areas of the U.S. And don't even get me started on coverage in more rural areas. My son has an iPhone and he loves it, but he doesn't work in my office, and his calls are often dropped by AT&T for no apparent reason. I've never heard any similar problems from my Blackberry users, and my boss even used his Blackberry in Thailand for 2 weeks with no trouble and no thousand dollar phone bills. Blackberry users can even tether their phones to a laptop for EVDO network connections at no addtional charge on the Sprint/NexTel network, and for only $14.95 per month on Verizon's network. Apple and AT&T killed the tethering option from the iPhone App Store when it showed up, and is now trying to kill Google Voice to keep them from competing on that feature. If Apple would unlock the iPhone from AT&T's deathgrip and open the App Store to more innovative products (not just games and other foolishness), I'd buy one tomorrow for my personal use, but security is a big concern for my network, and I daresay the weather reports from hell will be very alarming whenever our Chief Security Officer authorizes us to support Apple's iPhone in our environment.

icecreman
icecreman

I've had 14 iPhones syncing directly with my Exchange server for over a year now with zero problems. I've never heard of the Outlook Sync Client but I recommend dumping it and syncing directly with Exchange. Works like a charm.

MH101
MH101

Wht version exchange? Contacts syncing is just ok? Try speaking to your exchange admin and figure out what your mail server address is and it's basically kids play after that. Good luck!

alorasdad
alorasdad

As someone looking to decide on IPhone vs BB, I currently sync 3 email addresses to my old Q and my Outlook Calendar. Is the IPhone capable of handling that without a problem? As a sales/road warrior, I rely heavily on those functions.

Ryan.Haller
Ryan.Haller

This is a common misconception with IT folks. You can "lock down" the iPhone and you can track their location. Locking it down is free, tracking is a subscription. Apple has released, free of charge the iPhone Configuration Utility which allows everything from blocking out unwanted/unapproved applications to forcing syncs on connects. It also allow you to prepare a phone for delivery using profiles. http://www.apple.com/support/iphone/enterprise/ Give it a try I think it will meet your needs fairly well. It is still not perfect by any means, but anyone who has worked with Blackberry has a list of cons much longer inmho.

alberto.mendes
alberto.mendes

The lack of the Adobe Flash is really a shame.... about the MMS is covered now fot the 3.0 and 3GS of course.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

You can get tethering now by browsing to help.benm.at (on your iPhone). Does not require jailbroken phone, simply downloads a config file that enables tethering. Works flawless and is fast. Of course offical support from ATT coming, for a price :)

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

If an iPhone is dangerous in untrained hands, perhaps users should be licensed. Or, they could be regulated, like firearms.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

There are aligations of Apple attempting to surpress this in the new. Perhaps Job's reality distortion field is failing, after all it took a major hit when his health issues were hidden from stockholders. The SEC was not amused.

michaeldonovan
michaeldonovan

Before anybody deploys the iPhone in a corporate environment, please be aware that there is an issue sending an invite to a distribution list of which you are a member. This can cause the invite to go into a loop repeatedly sending the invite until the appointment is deleted. This even applies if a delegate of the iPhone user sends the invite. This is a known bug with the IPhone that started with the 3G upgrade and continues in version 3.01 of the iPhone firmware. Apple has been less than candid addressing this on their site (though it can be located in the forums.) The Apple phone support acknowledged the issue. The work around is ugly( expand the DL and explicitly remove the senders name from the DL.) Quite frankly, until Apple has addresses this I do not recommend using an iPhone in a corporate environment. Apples lack of acknowledgement of the issue on the support portal does not bode well for other issues IT departments may be confronted with in the future. This is a known bug with the Iphone that started with the 3G upgrade and continues in version 3.01 of the iPhone firmware. Apple has been less than candid addressing this on thier site (though it can be located in the forums.) The Apple phone support acknowledged the issue. The work around is ugly...which is to exapnd the DL and explcitly remove the senders name from the DL. Quite frankly until Apple has address this, I do not recommend using an iPhone in a corporate environment. Apples lack of acknowledgement of the issue on the support portal does not bode well for other issues IT departments may be confronted with in the future.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

You can have more than one email account, but only one can be Exchange. I have my Exchange, Gmail, and two other POP accounts. The only down side is that the mail icon on home screen only shows how many new emails, not which account they are in (Blackberry lets you have multiple email icons). Once you open the email screen you can then see what accounts have unread emails.

doug m.
doug m.

Nice!! I'll add that on my wishlist.

doug m.
doug m.

Apparently either AT&T isn't allowing it or Apple isn't. Either way it doesn't work. I have the 3GS with the latest OS version. I cannot send a photo file to another persons' phone via MMS. I have to email it to their phone number, for example 888-888-8888@vzwpix.com . (vzw = Verizon) The same can be done for other carriers)

brett
brett

Does anybody know of a program that tethers a non-3G iphone? (Without jailbreak)

brett
brett

I've been their... I now only have the non-3g version of iphone. I've tried this program on it and it didn't work. I will be going for the 3g. We've got about 2 months before we will have 3g on our local towers.

dave_adcock
dave_adcock

I've been a WM6 user up until last month, when i got a 3gs. The keyboard is a double edged sword - it fits in my pocket without the bulge, but a slide out tactile keyboard is quicker. The battery life is appauling, my Kaiser would last 3 days, the 3gs hardly a day. You can buy a ijuice, but that makes it as big as my kaiser (but sans the keyboard) But the biggest cons are the lack of flexibility - forced to use itunes and you cant change the battery. So the only advantage of the iphone i can see is its 'cool' image.

MH101
MH101

Lol if u say so

doug m.
doug m.

All that is needed is a disclaimer advising the user not to drop the product. Of course like a lot of things in life, that is just common sense and you really can't or shouldn't legislate common sense. You either have it or you don't.