iPhone 3.0 vs. Windows Mobile 6.1 for Exchange users

I started this post a few months ago but I decided to give Apple another chance with iPhone OS 3.0.  Now that 3.0 is out and I’ve had a chance to use it for a while, I still conclude that the iPhone doesn’t quite cut it for hardcore Exchange users who don’t want to carry their laptop with them everywhere to remain a first class Exchange citizen.  Since I try to avoid brining my laptop to meetings to remain focused on the meeting, I typically use my mobile device as my tether when necessary to check what’s going on outside the meeting.

After periods of using both during the workday, I ended up keeping my Windows Mobile phone (a Samsung Blackjack running a special build of Windows Mobile 6.1) for work use and swapping the SIM card to my iPhone for weekends or some evenings.  That said, the iPhone is simply beautiful, functional and powerful resulting in a much higher emotional attachment for my iPhone than my Blackjack.

Here are the issues I have with the iPhone’s Exchange integration:

  • Deletes don’t enter into an offline queue so if the delete can’t be serviced immediately due to network or Exchange server issues it fails and the message returns to your list.  Compounding this problem is that you get one failure dialog per attempt so if you rapidly attempt to delete 5 message and the server cannot be reached right away you get 5 separate error messages.
  • Push only updates the unread message count and downloads the message header instead of having the whole message ready.  This means you have to wait a few seconds when entering your inbox for it to update to a useful state after you see that there’s a new message.  Since push kills the battery and is functionally limited, I just have my email update every 15 minutes.
  • You cannot reply all to a meeting invite when you’re remote and need those in the meeting room to setup the conference bridge.  Similar problem if you want to notify them that you are running late.  Yes, you can reply to just one member but you never know who in the meeting is checking email.
  • There is no support for tasks.  Yes, there are “apps for that” but this should just be standard and fully integrated.
  • There is no support for categories (though this is mainly something I use for tasks).
  • You can’t turn on/off the out of office message.
  • iPhone users who reply to a thread break the threading order when messages are viewed in conversation view in Outlook.
  • Replies are sent in Times font and mess up formatting.
  • When a meeting you are invited to gets cancelled, you cannot  delete its calendar item.  I find meeting invite/reply workflow troubling in general.
  • When you finally figure out how to lookup someone in the corporate address book (the GAL) you cannot add them as a contact from the GAL lookup.
  • You have to manually set/change the Exchange time zone to properly display meeting times relative to the local time.

Beyond Exchange integration, the other issues I have with the iPhone in general are:

  • I cannot get through a full day of average usage with 3G and Push email turned on
  • No Adobe Flash support.  Web standards and custom iPhone apps are great but there are still a bunch of sites I try to use which don’t render properly/at all because the iPhone doesn’t support Flash.
  • No background applications (kind of makes that GPS tracker app for running/biking useless).
  • Apple doesn’t allow 3rd party applications which offer a better/differentiated experience for Apple’s “integrated” apps such as phone or email.  I could write more about some of the things I’d like to see improved with the App store and lockdown but much has been written about this and for now it’s not a deal breaker for me.
  • You have to use iTunes.
  • On the 3GS, Nike+ integration is cool (and not available on WinMo) but you can’t use the watch remote to control iTunes unless you are in a Nike+ workout.
  • AT&T network and feature crippling.

It turns out that my friend Omar Shahine and a few others have a wiki tracking the issues and most of the issues that kept me on my Windows Mobile phone for work days are also listed there.

All of this said, I don’t want to come off as saying Windows Mobile 6.1 on the Blackjack is superior overall.  It is not.  Beyond the design cred, the iPhone has tons of features which are not yet available or possible with the current crop of Windows Mobile 6.1 devices.  WinMo does have many advantages for enterprise users but most people with an iPhone either learn to live without these features or never needed them in the first place.

In many ways, the iPhone vs. WinMo competition is similar to the Wintel/Macintosh competition in its enterprise/consumer split.  That’s a blog post for another day.

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