The mobile phone market is a tough place to be for manufacturers and operating system owners but the Apple iPhone certainly made a splash when it launched in mid 2007 and has gone from strength to strength with the 2nd “3G” version of its phone.

If you read my previous article, The top 10 problems with Windows Mobile you’ll know that I have been using an iPhone 3G for the past 9 months and quite liked it but Apple doesn’t get it all their own way.  This article looks at what really bugs me about the device.

1.  Where is the Battery and sd card!?

The battery in iPhone is not user replaceable and this is probably the biggest issue I have with it.  All you need to do is use the GPS along with google maps for a few hours and you can easily run the battery down to 1/4 full.  at Rugged and Mobile I’ve been tentatively starting to offer the iPhone into some small enterprise customers but the battery often fails the usage requirements of needing to run for a full 2 days and there’s no way round it.  I also have a worry about the life of the battery because it’s nowhere near the newer range of HTC and Nokia phones.  I know you can replace it but it does add an extra cost and does affect the lifespan of the device.  In this and its iPod relatives should be on shaky legal grounds as their batteries should be readily disposable in the EU for environmental reasons.

This follows true for other expanding accessories like memory.  Whilst 8 or 16Gb is enough for most, will it be in 1 or 2 years time?  Whilst the consumer on the street will probably buy the next hardware revision to cope with the latest advances, will businesses have the ability to follow the same 1 or 2 year cycle?

2.  To be Capacitive or not to be Capacitive!

The screen on the iPhone is of the capacitive type.  To those non-techies it means you need to use it with your bare finger as it detect current/capacity difference where it is touched and is at the heart of its multi-touch ability.  Other screens, especially those found in Microsoft devices use a touch screen where pressing the screen is detected.  I do like the iPhone screen but it does mean that anyone wearing gloves can’t use it.  Its annoying at best when you’re snowboarding and need to call your friends but for anyone hoping to use the device whilst wearing protective glove wear its a no no!

3.  Why can’t I hear my music!?

A2DP is the bluetooth streaming protocol that allows your phone to stream true stereo sound to anything via bluetooth.  Whilst most phones are now incorporating this the iPhone is left lacking which is a big surprise considering its beautifully integrated iTunes software.  It was rather embarrassing watching my friends cheap nasty Sony Ericsson phone connect seamlessly to his BT car stereo whilst my iPhone failed miserably!!

4.  Non proprietary connections

Whilst most other manufacturers are signing up to the USB standard, all Apple products remain using the proprietary Apple standard.  Don’t get me wrong, it works and it works well but it also means that you have to replace all your accessories if converting into the iPhone world and can be a big barrier to entry for some.  It’s also quite annoying that despite being a loyal customer in the iPod world, everything seems to change from version to version, forcing me to upgrade my cables at great expense for no apparent reason in my eyes which is always a worry for the iPhone.

5.  App Centre,

I think App centre is a good idea for the users it typically serves but Apple does need to do more on the other side of it.  App centre is hard to get your application into and even then its an issue getting exposure.  I have heard stories of being subjected to totally un-policed review spam like slating from competitors and when App centre is the only place you can get your applications to the (legitimate) users then it could all be done better.  It’s no surprise that the Jailbreak cracked community is more than twice the size of the legitimate one.

6.  Device openness

Again I understand that the jailbreak community gets round this but there are big parts of the iPhone that are hidden from developers.  For instance you can’t run any applications in the background which renders a lot of alerting type apps impossible.  We run a great GPS location portal at Rugged and Mobile and the iPhone has a working client presently being tested, however unlike other phones that can have a very slim client running on your phone in the background, the iPhone requires that you have the application in the foreground.  As soon as you check your email or answer the phone, the tracking stops.

7.  Developer process

If you want to develop iPhone apps then you have to get an Apple PC.  This means that I have had to buy a Macbook, train myself and my .NET programmers up on using it aswell as having a whole set of new issues when networking and troubleshooting it.  The message here is that when I learnt Java for OS60 it was pretty easy to convert because I just installed the required SDKs and tools on my PC and got on with it.  With the iPhone you have to go solely with Apple meaning learning the hardware, the operating system and the tools.

8.  Lack of software

It has been almost a year since the launch of the 3G iPhone and yet still no TomTom, Skype, Live Messenger and a plethora of other main stream applications are still missing.  For me, TomTom or an equivalent, is often an essential tool businesses either want available on their users phones or integrated into the applications we provide.  I simply can’t provide this with the iPhone.

9.  Cut and Paste

I’m not entirely sure why but iPhones do not let you cut and paste which is really annoying if you want to use it for true data entry.  I’m not getting drawn into the soft keyboard debate here, I certainly managed to adjust to it and can easily write long emails using it, but the lack of cut and paste leaves me way short on productivity compared to my HTC Touch Pro when sitting on a train composing documents or blogging like this!

10.  Operator lock in

In the UK, O2 is the only operator you can get an iPhone through.  This poses an immediate issue when selling into businesses here and its never good for us users because it allows Apple and O2 to keep prices up and to control the market.  O2 in fact have been pretty good, they are great for business but the fact is I am sure it would be better all round if Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone got a look in.  It would be really interesting to see what “3” would do with the device too.

There’s no question that right here and now, the iPhone is everything to a lot of people and it shows in Apples bottom line and the fact that a certain Microsoft programmer (mentioning no names!!) loves his iPhone.  The above list however is by no means exhaustive.  If anything it’s biased towards the business side of the phone and leaves out things like the poor camera, no video, MMS and lack of HSDPA, all vital in a web 2.0 world where uploading and sharing data is king.  However the shiny Apple gets by how it is for now.

There’s no doubt though that Apple’s competitors won’t let this pass for long and Apple will have to continue to innovate and lead which is something they’re historically not so good at doing.  The next few years will be very interesting indeed.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.