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IPhone -Is Now the Time to take the iPhone Plunge?

June 10, 2009

Is Now the Time to take the iPhone Plunge?

By Doug Mohney
Contributing Editor
For corporate IT in the United States, the next wave of "will you support my iPhone (News - Alert)?" starts on June 19.

The Apple iPhone may be the coolest mobile device on the planet, but supporting it is a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, the inner geek in all of us appreciates the beauty and elegance of the iPhone design and user interface – I mean it just looks GOOD. And if the boss wants you to support the iPhone for the business, well, you need to have one for, uh, testing purposes, yah, that's it.
On the other hand, the iPhone wasn't designed from the ground up to be enterprise-friendly. Advances to sate the needs of corporations have been incremental, with the newest members of the family – the iPhone 3G S and iPhone software 3.0 -- taking a few more steps forward.
The new iPhone 3G S – the "S" is for "Speed" –incorporates 7.2 Mbps HSDPA for faster networking speeds if the local cellular network can support faster download speeds than the holder model. There are also various tweaks for faster 3G graphics and longer battery life.
Apple (News - Alert) has finally added the ability to tether – use the phone as a modem – in version 3.0 of the software. Tethering means you don't have to carry around a separate USB device for hooking up to the Internet, so there's both less hardware cost and less gear to haul around. The capability will be seamless and supported both over a USB cable or over Bluetooth; my suggestion would be to stick with a USB cable in order to stay more secure and to save some battery life on the iPhone.  
Tethering has been available for years and years on other phones, so it begs the question as to why it took Apple so long to get the capability baked into the software. The other "who knows" issue is when AT&T (News - Alert) will officially offer iPhone tethering; the company said it would announce a date and price at a later time. Of course, 42 other carriers are going to support tethering when 3.0 becomes available on June 17. I suspect tethering support is going to be linked to AT&T's U.S. network upgrades rolling out this year, including support for 7.2 Mbps HSPA.
A cool security feature is the ability to use a "Find My iPhone" service through Apple's Mobile Me service to locate/pinpoint a lost device. If the device appears to be stolen or otherwise is unrecoverable, a user can remotely wipe it clean – assuming the iPhone can be "found" on a cellular network. In comparison, the RIM Blackberry can be configured with a self-destruct feature if it off-line from cellular connectivity for a period of time.
Traveling road warriors will appreciate two new features of the 3G S. Hands-free voice control has been added, so you can speak into a built-in microphone or headset mic to dial by name or number. In addition, there's a built in digital compass integrated in with the GPS. Speaking of GPS, TomTom demonstrated a turn-by-turn navigation application and a car kit so getting from point A to point B (News - Alert) in a vehicle doesn't require a separate device.
Security remains a sore point among critics. While the iPhone 3G S has incorporated hardware encryption, third-party experts have yet to stress test its implementation.
Regardless of new enterprise features, corporate end-users – and most likely executives who love the latest gadgets – will latch onto the iPhone 3G S because of its sweet entry-level price of $199 for a 16GB version and a 32GB version for $299. In the world of consumer electronics, $199 is practically an impulse buy. 

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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