It’s been one year since the Verizon iPhone went live. I traded in my BlackBerry for the iPhone 4 then and, for the most part, haven’t looked back.
How the iPhone will do in the legal market is, for some, an open question. Most law firms have a lot invested in the BlackBerry platform. A lot of lawyers can’t imagine trading in a mobile phone that has a keyboard for one that doesn’t. Some companies are starting the migration to the iPhone (Halliburton is one recently in the news).
Here are a few pros and cons. More of the former, so a fair warning: potential Apple fanboy rant ahead…
1. The phone itself. In a word: awesome. The design and build of the iPhone 4 are unbelievable. It is almost a work of art. Check that, it is a work of art. It fits in the hand perfectly, not too big, not too small. I grudgingly use a Griffin silicone case, to protect the thing in case of a drop. And drop it I have. No problems.
2. The user interface. In a word: magical. To use the iPhone is to forget all others before it. I just flat out works, and installing new apps or updating the software is super-simple. This is, I bet, a selling point for using the iPhone in the enterprise. If it comes with a manual, I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never had the need. This is the real secret behind the iPhone, and something you don’t fully appreciate until you use it.
3. Call quality. OK, two words: super-dandy. I know I am am biased in favor of the Verizon network, but the voice sounds great coming and going. I think I read somewhere that the iPhone 4 had upgraded technology to improve voice quality and lessen background noise. One particular strength is using the hands-free mode. I do this all the time and have had people tell me it sounds like I am on a land-line.
4. Keyboard. This is a subset of the user interface comment, but Apple’s touchscreen keyboard is great. I don’t email a lot from the iPhone, but it works, whether using an email client, webmail, or Gmail. My typing is generally some texting and using a small universe of apps.
5. Apps. I am always amazed by the focus on apps as far as gross numbers are concerned. I use a few, balanced between those of the business and personal variety. They are all easy to use, and quick to get things done. I’m not a gamer, and have never tried Angry Birds. (Although if someone launches Rapacious Lawyers, I’m in.)
6. Travel. Can you use the iPhone instead of lugging along a laptop? Short answer: maybe. I have done it a few times, mostly on personal trips rather than pure business travel. And it worked; my world as I knew it didn’t fall apart. Since I recall lugging a monster Compaq laptop to Mexico back in the day, traveling with just an iPhone is bliss. It might not work for a transactional lawyer on a work trip, but that’s what a MacBook is for.
1. Keyboard (sorta). Some legal power-users may say it’s not enough, and gimme back my BlackBerry. Yes, a 5+ year BB user will probably chafe a bit, especially one with large fingers and low frustration tolerance. I came to the iPhone via the BlackBerry Pearl, so I was used to a predictive type environment. A touchscreen keyboard will never satisfy some users. I do find some of the auto-complete words suggested to be mildly irritating. But it learns as you go, and most of us lawyers are on a laptop or a desktop much of the time anyway.
2. Battery life. For the first few months, I felt the iPhone was using up the charge too fast for my taste. It would last a full day, but definitely needed a charge by nightfall. Then after about 6 months, the battery life seemed to improve. I searched out a few tips to extend battery life on the web. I also think one of the effortless software updates may have helped as well.
3. Legal apps. There are not a lot of legal apps for the iPhone yet. (Full disclosure: I have not done extensive research on this, and since I don’t have a real need right now, I don’t claim to be an expert.) Some of the apps I have seen are mostly of the special-purpose variety, an app version of desktop software. In many cases, it might be better off waiting to do that work when you are on a computer at work or at home.
So there you have it. Really strong pros and a few dutiful cons. On a scale of 100, I’d give the iPhone 4 on Verizon a 91. Light years ahead of anything else I have used, or have seen in the last year. In my humble opinion, Apple is at least 18 months ahead of other mobile phone manufacturers, and is accelerating. Put another way: almost everyone I know who has a choice in the matter opts for an iPhone when their BlackBerry contract is up.
Before I had an iPhone, I kept up with what the latest mobile offerings were from various manufacturers. In the last year, I have stopped looking.
On Friday, a few thoughts of what the emergence of iPhone on Verizon means to legal and client enterprises in the coming years.