Apple iPhone 3G Review - Firmware 2.0, Exchange, MobileMe & Apps Review

This new iPhone also brings with it the new Firmware 2.0. It’s not unique to the 3G, first generation iPhones and iPod Touch owners (at a cost) can also benefit, and it adds numerous features. First among them is Microsoft Exchange and Push Email support; two features that should expand the iPhone’s attraction to business users. Do they?

Ironically, we haven’t been able to test these features fully because as of yet our tech department doesn’t support the iPhone – a lesson in and of itself. What we can say, though, is the iPhone is a long way from supporting all of the Exchange features needed to persuade business users and tech departments away from their Windows Mobile and Symbian based handsets.

Just basic Email viewing and composition is as strong as it is in any other email application, like Google Mail. There’s added support for attachments and contacts search, yet there’s no support for email Flagging, a basic essential to our minds, or other staples such as Tasks or Notes synchronisation. Neither can you edit common office documents.

More fundamental, however, is the lack of cut & paste – yes that well known and complicated function. According to Apple it was on the wish list but got pushed out. Until this and a few other things change it’s hard to see the iPhone being a convincing business proposition.

Perhaps the answer, though, to why Exchange support isn’t as thorough as it could or ought to be lies in another new service: MobileMe. It’s a subscription service and at £60 a year it’s not cheap, but for the price you get 20GBs of online storage and ability to synchronise your mail, calendar and contacts between your iPhone and your PC/Mac as well store and share photos and documents. All this information can be accessed in “the cloud” via your own online desktop and any changes are then sent to your various devices.

It had its teething problems in the early stages but it’s an impressive attempt at creating a user friendly centralised service, though it’s quite a different beast to the Enterprise focussed Exchange. Ultimately the iPhone’s strengths still lie in consumer friendly activities and though some of its features may appeal to business users, anyone in a big company is unlikely to able to enjoy the full benefits.

Firmware 2.0 does bring more to the table, however, and most of it is great. Applications and the App Store that houses them are bound to have a massive impact on the future of the iPhone, opening new avenues of functionality. Already there’s a multitude of new applications and games, paid for and free, becoming available and though there’s predictably some lame ducks mixed in there, there are some gems as well.

Getting applications on the iPhone is predictably easy and can be done via the device, or synchronised onto the device through iTunes. A couple of good’uns include the iTunes/Apple TV Remote and Zenbe list applications, while in the gaming segment Super Monkey Ball is the stand out addition. We’ll be taking a closer look at the applications available at a later date and rest assured there’s plenty more worthy of note.

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