The iPhone 3GS and Exchange

Many people think of marketing as a dirty word, a synonym for words such as lying, tricking, or overpromising. However, when done properly—and ethically—marketing can be pretty amazing. Consider what Apple has accomplished with the iPhone.

A little over two years ago, there was no such thing as the iPhone, but now it would be hard to find anyone in the industrialized world who hasn't seen or heard of it. Even my local paper, the famously stodgy Toledo Blade, ran a front-page story about the iPhone 3G release last summer. That level of familiarity and popularity is all due to a brilliantly conceived and executed marketing campaign, not to mention a product that appeals to consumers of all stripes.

I reviewed the iPhone 3G with iPhone OS 2.0 software, which was the first version to include Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support, and found that, as a mail device, the iPhone didn't stack up well against Windows Mobile. Now that Apple has released version 3.0 of the software along with the iPhone 3GS, it's time to take a look at its changes and see whether Apple has been able to move the needle.

Let's start with calendaring, which was one of the weakest parts of the 2.0 release. Apple has made some notable improvements here. The biggest change is that users can now invite people to meetings! This seems like a small step—and it is—but it removes one of the biggest limitations of the 2.0 software. For Exchange 2007 users, you can also view the attendee status of people you invite. When you receive a new invitation, you can use the Show in Calendar option to get a graphic view of where the appointment falls (see my blog for screenshots). However, there's no textual warning if the new meeting conflicts with an existing appointment. Also, you still can't see free/busy data for invitees or get suggested meeting times.

iPhone OS 3.0 has some notable improvements to email, too. You can choose individual folders to automatically sync (provided that you've turned push mail on), although the iPhone still insists on expanding every folder in your mailbox when you use the folder picker. iPhone OS 3.0 supports the use of client certificate authentication for Exchange access, and it adds support for some additional EAS password policy controls—as well as the EAS policy for controlling whether people can use the built-in camera.

Overall, though, even with these improvements, the iPhone still lags behind Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.0 because it lacks some of their key features:

  • task support, including over-the-air synchronization
  • an easy way to add a contact from the GAL to your personal contacts lists
  • the ability to flag and unflag messages, a necessity for triaging email on the road
  • the conversation view found in the Windows Mobile 6.5 version of Outlook Mobile (remember, it's back-portable to Windows Mobile 6.1 devices as well)
  • correct behavior for IMAP deletes (the iPhone still doesn't send the correct IMAP EXPUNGE command to remove deleted messages)

So, my bottom line: the 3.0 release makes progress, but it's still not as powerful or useful as an email device as Windows Mobile is.

Related Reading:

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.