Yes, I do find it a little hard to believe that the iPhone has been out for three weeks, and this is my first blog post about it. I wanted to make sure that when I did my first post about it, that post would be based on direct experiences and not hearsay or rumor or whatever. So, it wasn't until this week that I had my first chance to look at one, because a client called me up because he was having trouble configuring his new phone, and it wasn't' until after I got on site that I realized it was an iPhone and not one of the Windows Mobile devices we had been talking about. Based on that limited experience, here we go.
First, the iPhone is just cool. The interface is slick, the lack of buttons to press is actually refreshing and not limiting, and the phone is much smaller and lighter than I thought it would be. I have been through all the Apple videos on the web site, and for the most part, what you saw was what you got.
Second, there is no Exchange ActiveSync support for the iPhone. Yet. There have been a flurry of blog posts with rumors and predictions, but the only way to get e-mail off your Exchange server with the iPhone is by using POP3 or IMAP. Yes, the iPhone e-mail settings interface does have three options for "Other" mail server: POP3, IMAP, and Exchange, but the Exchange option specifically says "Enable IMAP on your Exchange server." So, they've added a separate tab for Exchange, which kind of implies that specific Exchange support may be coming, but you have to remember that Entourage in versions prior to 2004 had "Exchange" support, so long as it was IMAP. Same thing with Apple Mail. Now, my personal thought is that we will see EAS support in the iPhone at some point, but I really don't think we're that close even to an announcement. I'd love to be wrong about that, but...
Third, POP3 connectivity against Exchange is a bit weird. We were not able to get it to work at all. The iPhone registered no errors when the connection was made, but it pulled down no e-mail at all. I ended up doing a netmon trace of the POP3 traffic to discover what was going on. This particular iPhone kept defaulting to NTLM authentication against the POP3 server even through I kept changing the settings to "Password" instead. The NTLM authentication was either not formatted properly or the SMTP service was not happy in some way with the way the authentication packet was formed, but bottom line, POP3 authentication did not work. SMTP was fine, and once we got around the issues with opening up IMAP through the firewall (another long and uninteresting story), the iPhone started happily pulling mail down from the Exchange server with no issues.
Cool as it is, I'm still not recommending the iPhone for any of my business clients who have Exchange servers or hosted Exchange accounts (or could move to one in the near future). And to answer the question I've only been asked a few hundred times, no, I don't have an iPhone either. I'm very, very tied to my calendaring and contacts sync with Exchange, so that's a deal killer for me. Plus, there are other tasks I use my PDA for, including tracking mileage, etc., that I couldn't do on an iPhone, because there's no Excel-like tool or other similar app for such things yet. I'm sure the community will send this feedback in and developers and possibly even Apple will jump in and fill some of the voids noticeably left in the product. The one that's going to be a bit of a stickler is the lack of copy/paste, but we'll probably see some solution for that down the road, too.
When my wife is ready for a new phone, would we look at the iPhone for her? Possibly. It is a cool gizmo, and she's almost as much of a techie as I am. I could certainly see her making use of most of the features of the phone and being very happy with it. As for me, I have not purchased one for myself.