The Tear-down of the iPhone: PIM (calendar, contacts, some notes and a dash of sms)

by rmtwrkr

I have a long history with PDAs. Starting in ’97 with a Psion Series 5, going through Palm pilots and into Smartphones. The core functionality of any PDA was the Personal Information Manager. Now I have the iPhone, and although it is not exactly sold as a ‘Newton 2.0’, just how well can it organize my life?

The Calendar.
Let me start by saying I have been through many phases with Calendars on PDAs. I started with wanting a simple, quick and easy way of putting in important dates and appointments. Then I went through the ‘more complex is better’ mentality by installing 3rd party Calendar apps on my Palm and Nokia E61 to ‘add functionality’ like visual icons for categories, tags, etc. This didn’t work out at all. In fact I rapidly deleted apps like Papyrus and Aqua Calendar because I was spending more time entering, categorizing, and adding stupid bitmap icons of flowers to my appointments. Jeezus…what a waste of time. Besides, it STILL looked like crap, and was slow to load.
After this brief period of mental illness, I can happily say I am back to the simple, clean and fast way to do things. Sure the iPhone’s Calendar app could be better, but it does what I want, and quickly, so I can close the app and get on with something else. The Calendar.app syncs with iCal on the Mac, and will sync with any or all calendars you have created. Although you can only sync back from the iPhone to a single nominated calendar. You have a Today button, to see what mundane tasks you have to do in the next 24hrs. You have a List view, a Day view and a Month view of the calendar to choose from. There is just a single ‘+’ button to add dates. You add the info (Title, Location, Start, End, Repeat, Alert and Notes). Hmmm…thats it. A downside for Corporate-Suite-Types is the lack of Exchange integration. Oh. Anyway, another downside is the strange lack of integration with Apple’s own Calendar Server in Leopard Server. I am a little surprised at this till now, as I would have thought it makes perfect sense to integrate the iPhone / Server, and this would increase appeal to that Corpo-Suite-Demographic that buys I.T gear for the company. I expect there will be updates quite soon (next couple of months) to fix some of these holes in the functionality. Till then, I can still manage to get to appointments on time, easily with the iPhone’s Calendar.app

Contacts.
Integrated into the Phone.app, Contacts sits slap bang in the middle of the row of buttons at the bottom of the screen (alongside Favourites, Recents, Keypad and Voicemail). There has been some complaints about the fact that you have to ‘flick and scroll’ forever to find a contact. Well, I have about 600 contacts. And I can find ANY one of them in about…well…2 seconds. You see, on the righthand-side of the screen is a long A-Z bar. So I say “hey I’ll call Jim Bowen”. Now I already know how the contacts are ordered (they follow the same order as the Apple Addressbook) so I tap on J in the A-Z. I now have the screen jump to J, and then it takes me exactly 1.256673 seconds to find Jim Bowen in the J’s. Did you see that I didn’t spend ages flicking the screen aimlessly up and down? While the possibility of searching for a contact would still be a nice add-on, I don’t believe its essential to the way Contacts already work. Besides, you should have ANYWAY split the contacts into sub-groups (like Family, Clients, Office etc), and that makes it even easier on the iPhone to find what you want.

Notes.
And the point of this app is? Come on Apple, lets have notes synchronization already! Otherwise it just flounders around without a real sense of purpose or destiny on my iPhone. While still useful for basic jotting, it has no reason to live unless it gets properly married to my Mac. Make it so.

SMS.
Ahh…the bane of teenage social life. The humble 160 character SMS. Personally I am not a big lover of SMS, and prefer to use it as sparingly as possible, due to too much use causes MY SPLING 2 BCUM RLY BAD, LYK TEH TYPYCL SMS LVR. Anyway, I suppose it still would be nice to have Multiple recipient possibilities, and of course its Bigger Brother, MMS. Which again, I have never used. Because I don’t want to be sent postage-stamp sized blurry video of some drunk people in a dark club, puking up. I want to see it on YouTube instead.

Next in the series: Weather, Maps and Stocks.

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