Will a test drive with the iPhone 4S cure John Stokdyk of his gadget envy?
For years I have resisted the zombie-like devotion that iPhone users focus on their mobiles.
But as part of Gadget Zone’s ongoing assessment of the different devices and operating systems on the market, Vodafone let me have one for a few days during Budget week.
From its sheer prevalence, most of us are familiar with the iPhone, as well as some of its shortcomings, for example when it comes to accessing spreadsheets.
But once you get your hands on one, there is no question that the iPhone 4S is a superior piece of consumer electronics. Fast to power up and simple to configure, the iPhone had me up and surfing within just a few minutes, without needing to refer to any help materials.
Web browsing was fast and satisfying and the on-screen finger-flicking scroll and spreading/pinching technique for zooming into specific areas on pages made it easy to navigate even visually busy web pages. I particularly liked the iPhone’s ability to identify my home and office Wi-Fi networks after my initial log in. The phone would then switch to recognised networks automatically when I was within range to speed up browsing.
Like Android and Windows devices I have tested, the iPhone wanted to link me into an iCloud account - but in this instance, it recognised and picked up my existing iTunes ID, so I could immediately start downloading videos, podcasts and apps.
Apple designed this whole user experience around the iPhone so it was no surprise that the interface worked more smoothly than Windows or Android.
The apps that really stood out when I tested them were the social media tools for FaceBook and Twitter (HootSuite).
The 4S model I used was certainly fast and the other enhancements from the previous model were mainly operating system tweaks, for example to include the voice activiated Siri “assistant”, the iMessage tool and integrated Tweeting.
But you probably know all about this stuff already because all your iPhone devotee friends have already demonstrated these things. But what about the business benefits that might justify the choice of a more expensive iPhone 4S model for your contract?
The Google Docs app was serviceable, automatically syncs notes made back to the online version of the document, and more experienced colleagues said they had no problems linking the phone to their Google accounts for email, contacts and calendars. However, they also said that if they want to do any proper editing, they’ll tend to wait until they’re at a desktop machine.
Integrating with Microsoft Exchange was more problematic - in my case because something recently went awry with our configuration and our IT team hadn’t sorted out the non-BlackBerry configuration issues yet. The “bring your own” iPhone is the arch-villain in their eyes, but solo tech guru Anne Fairpo advised that she had no problems linking to her Exchange emails.
Reading Office documents is easy enough - all you have to do is open the email attachment or Dropbox address and you can see the contents on the iPhone. But to edit you’ll need an app such as Documents to Go, or Apple’s own Pages/Numbers/Keynote suite. According to Anne, Microsoft may be working on an iPhone version of Office, which would boost the business case for the iPhone (and iPad) within our organisation.
For the moment, however, my iPhone-using colleagues Robert Lovell and Henry Osadzinski advise that they keep their BYOD iPhones entirely separate from their work uses. So while I wouldn’t currently invest in an iPhone in my current role, if I was considering setting up on my own Apple’s smartphone could tempt me towards a more Microsoft-free set up. And for the time being, I’m certainly considering looking at an iPod Touch as a way to indulge the iPhone experience in my non-work life.
● Simple, integrated touchscreen interface
● Speed and ease of Web browsing
● Automatic switching to known Wi-Fi networks
● Vast catalogue of apps.
What we didn’t like
● Extra cost (£10/month more than Samsung’s Galaxy SII from Vodafone)
● Lack of native Microsoft Office tools
● IT department not keen on supporting email on iPhone.
For more info, visit Apple.com
This review was conducted using a trial Vodafone UK Business package. The Apple iPhone 4S is available free with Vodafone plans starting from £35 a month.