[ Updated on 23 June 2009 to fix a couple of mistakes and add a few new tidbits ]
Last summer I wrote a post about the utility of the iPhone 2.0 as an e-mail device for people, like me, who are heavy e-mail users. Now that the 3.0 release of the iPhone OS is upon us, I wanted to post an update to see what Apple’s fixed, or not, from the original complaints. I had hoped to get some hands-on time with a Palm Pre as well, but haven’t quite made it there yet. However, I have spent some time using the version of Outlook Mobile from Windows Mobile 6.5, so that’s now my baseline standard for comparison.
Executive summary: Apple invested a ton of time in the 3.0 release, but most of it went to other aspects of the OS, not into the messaging and calendaring experience.
Policy and account control
I didn’t spot any changes here. The big one I was hoping for was the ability to create and manage multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts. Sadly, Apple didn’t include this.
The extended policies in EAS version 12 (like forced disablement of the camera or Bluetooth) still aren’t supported. You still can’t install your own certificates, either.
[Update]: As Chris Haaker pointed out in the comments, you can indeed disable the camera using Exchange 2007 EAS; for a complete list of the policies 3.0 supports, see this doc at Apple’s site; and, of course, you can install your own certs by e-mailing them to the device, using the over-the-air configuration utility, or distributing profiles with the utility. In addition, Apple improved certificate support quite a bit: 3.0 adds the ability to provide client certs for authentication, and it now uses OCSP for checking certificate validity online instead of depending on static CRLs.
In my initial review, I started with basic e-mail operations. These are essentially unchanged: the look and feel of the Mail application is identical to the 2.0 version for the most part. The annoying automatic expansion of EVERY SINGLE FOLDER YOU HAVE is still there. You still cannot delete messages while the iPhone is offline. Instead of fixing this issue, Apple has chosen to deactivate the “delete” icon on the message toolbar. However, when you’re in the message list view, you can still use the swipe-to-delete gesture, or the Edit button, to delete a message… and then you get the same error that the message can’t be moved to the trash. Fail.
You can queue replies or forwards while offline, which is a welcome improvement.
One area where Windows Mobile 6.5 really shines in comparison to the iPhone is in the new conversation view for e-mail. There are a number of other WM 6.5 mail improvements that I won’t cover here; suffice to say that the new Outlook Mobile extends Microsoft’s lead by providing a better pro-level e-mail experience than the iPhone 3.0 does. Apple could definitely improve things just by using the correct EAS verbs for reply and forward, though, which they still don’t do
Oh, that bug with not properly sending IMAP EXPUNGE commands to remove deleted messages: still there. I guess Apple thinks it’s a feature.
If you didn’t like the iPhone 2.0 calendaring experience, you won’t find much to change your mind here. You can now create meeting invitations for your Exchange calendar (but not for your MobileMe calendar, a baffling omission given that MobileMe is marketed as a service useful for families). I am hopeful that the forthcoming Exchange support in Apple’s Snow Leopard OS will force Apple to make iCal more useful, and that those changes will ripple out to the iPhone. Until then, though, Windows Mobile still kills the iPhone in calendaring usability.
Speaking of usability: since my original review I found a few more annoyances:
- meeting cancellation notices show up on your calendar as “Canceled:whatever“; there’s no way for you to use the cancellation notice to remove the event.
- If you receive an invitation on the device, then accept it from the desktop or OWA, it will still show up in the calendar app as a pending invite until you try to open it.
- You still can’t see .ics files that arrive in IMAP-connected Exchange accounts. Fortunately, Exchange 2010 includes an OWA link in meeting invites, so you can click the link to jump into OWA and accept the invitation there.
[Update] One nice addition that I forgot to mention: when you get an invitation, you can see where it falls on your calendar, and there’s a new disclosure chevron next to meetings you create that lets you view the status of the invitees (provided you’re using Exchange 2007).
Nope. This is another promised Snow Leopard feature that will hopefully make an appearance on the iPhone at some point. In the meantime, I’ve been using imTasks, which works flawlessly with all of my Exchange accounts. I also tried TaskTask, which has a somewhat nicer interface but which hasn’t worked very well for me.
Steve Foskett summarizes this better than I could. Bottom line: it’s like the Mac OS X Address Book in your pocket, with all the good and bad that entails. No support for contact public folders, no way to add a GAL contact to your own contact list, and a 100% chance of getting duplicates if you use Entourage + Sync Services to sync contacts to the device through MobileMe.
New iPhone 3GS features [UPDATE]
Apple says that the 3GS has “hardware encryption”. It’s not really clear exactly what this means. In the enterprise deployment guide, This blog entry suggests that remote wipe is so much faster on the 3GS because it’s essentially a decommissioning operation– erase the master encryption key for the device and you’ve effectively erased all its data. I haven’t seen any confirmation of that, though, and it’s not clear what other value there is to encrypting data on the device given that apps are sandboxed and there’s effectively no external storage. (You also can’t force encryption on with EAS, as you can on Windows Mobile).