Friday, July 18, 2008

iPhone for Small Business

Over at the Personforce blog, i wrote a review on how well the iPhone worked for small business and startups. Check it out here: iPhone for Small Business. Reprinted below with permission.

At Personforce a lot of us are using the new Apple iPhone 3G for work and for fun. We thought it might be useful to give a short review on using the iPhone if you are a small business. After all, in a small company or startup your phone is your lifeline and you don't have a lot of resources, staff, or time to waste fiddling around with a new device.

Overall, we think the iPhone is awesome for small business. There certainly are huge negatives, but the pros really stand out. Most notably:

1. Your computer in your pocket. Unlike any prior PDA, the iPhone gives you true mobility by giving you remote access to all the functions of a computer. Because of the fully functioning web browser (combined with Google Apps) you can view any document, look up anything on the web, log in to your company's accounting systems, and of course make make a phone call from anywhere. You can basically set up your office environment so that there is nothing you can't do when you're on the road. This is a great leap forward in productivity!

2. Web Browsing. You can look up anything anywhere anytime. On the whole internet. Enough said.

3. IMAP & POP3 connections. While a Push email service for the SMB space would be a welcome addition, the iphone's IMAP connection is actually pretty good. As a result you can very confidently use your google apps email account from the iPhone. On the otherhand, the Samsung Blackjack routinely failed to work with google apps and was a constant source of frustration.

4. Apps make commuting better. You can listen to Pandora radio on the bus, play some iPhone games on a plane, and surf the web while you're in line at Starbucks. My favorite app so far is built by Muse. It won't be publicly available for a couple of weeks but we managed a sneak peek and wow! We'd have to say the one downside of apps in general is you can't do anything else while using them, so surfing the web or checking your email is out of the question.

So, the iphone is great, but there are some huge cons that a small business should consider:

1. Calendaring. Seriously, the calendar solution is not good for the iPhone. Your appoints are buried several clicks away and you have to actively be checking to see what's on your plate for the day. We really need a solution that somehow shows you the upcoming (or at least number of) appointments you have that day on your home screen. Moreover, there is no good way (on a PC at least) to sync you Google apps calendar with your iPhone.

2. Checking your email on the sly. Say you're in the middle of a dinner party or driving down 280, and you just need to take a quick peek to see if you have an email (don't email while driving!); it's really hard to check for a message quickly. You have to pull out the phone, unlock it, open your email (and maybe wait for it to load). The phone is so slippery eventually you'll drop it while doing this some time. I'd compare with with traditional devices where you just pull out the phone and take a peek.

3. Battery life. If you mess around with the phone and use its features throughout the day, the battery will die around dinnertime. This could lead to an absolutely cataclysmic event - no phone or email access. Yikes.

So, that's our perspective on the using the iPhone if you're a small business. Overall, we think it's a huge leap forward for making small business more productive from the road. Not only that, but it's very fun and enjoyable to use.