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9 Things an iPhone Can't Do

Most reporters are too busy hugging their MacBooks to write a critical piece on the iPhone so let me fill the void and add some clarity to the situation. Here's a list of 9 things I can do with my Nokia e61i which can't be done with Apple's iPhone.

1) Customizable dashboard screen keeps me informed.

With one glance at my phone's primary screen I can quickly see missed calls, new voice mail messages, upcoming meetings, available Wi-Fi hot spots, and even the last couple e-mails I have received. Selecting any of those items takes me directly to that task. I find the upcoming meetings the most important, but it is user configurable so it can be tailored to whatever you find most important. (One weakness is that it can't be configured to show incoming IM messages which would be ideal.) Nokia calls this the "standby" screen and here's a picture of mine. The iPhone lets you set your wallpaper to a picture of your dog or any photo which Nokia phone's do as well, but I don't find that nearly as informative.

2) Do instant messaging.

Anyone under the age of 29 uses instant messaging as a crucial communication method and the phone as their crucial device. On the iPhone, instant messaging is blocked even to Apple's own iChat network. Instead, they want you to use SMS text messaging and incur the exorbitant amounts that AT&T charges. Even then you can't reach the major IM networks - only other phone users. Nearly any Nokia phone can run Gizmo for Mobile (Beta) which lets them send and receive instant messages on all major networks including Gizmo, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, iChat, GoogleTalk and Jabber. (Disclaimer: Gizmo is from SIPphone a company for which I am CEO.) Below is a screen shot of Gizmo for Mobile (Beta) running. The clever design lets you keep track of multiple conversations with people all in one window. It should run on any modern phone with a data connection.

3) Shooting videos.

I enjoy using the video features of my phone to capture special moments and to help teach my boys sports. Here's before and after clips of my son learning to dive. The iPhone has a still camera but no video camera.

4) Over the air (OTA) updating of my contacts, calendar and music.

My e61i comes with syncing software which lets me sync my contacts and calendar anytime I like. (It's the circular arrows in the first screen shot above.) Often my assistant or co-workers book a meeting, add a contact, setup a call or adjust traveling plans. When this happens I am often traveling, or even if I'm in the office, I'm not going to remember to cable my phone to my PC. Calendar and contact information should update on my phone completely wirelessly and with my e61i it does. Nokia supports SyncML - an open standard for wireless. Updating contacts, calendar and music on iPhone requires remembering to cable your computer up to your computer running iTunes.

5) One button access to ANYTHING.

In an earlier piece I mentioned that the e61i has 58 buttons. What I didn't mention is that many of those physical buttons and virtual buttons on the screen can be configured to perform the action I want. When driving I don't want to have to click lots of buttons to dial a number. So I configured the number keys so that they directly dial my commonly called numbers with a single press. I also can determine what the virtual buttons do. I like the Opera browser because it's the fastest mobile browser by far. You can see from the O (in the first screen shot above) that I can get directly to that from the main screen. Since I often send e-mail, I configured a button to launch e-mail and open a new message making it quick and easy to access my most commonly used tasks.

6) Send files directly to/from my PC.

I used to carry a laptop most places I went, but I find myself increasingly moving about with just my phone. Consequently, I often want to move files (multimedia, documents, etc) from my phone to my PC or vice versa. Because I can add programs to my Nokia phone I was able to add Gizmo for Mobile (Beta). This program lets me swap files from any PC to/from my phone. Even big files move quickly because the transfers are going point to point. I often leave Gizmo Project running on one of my computers with a unique name and "auto-accept files" turned on so I can quickly move files from my phone to a computer in my office.

7) Voice activated calling

I'm a big fan of bluetooth headsets and specifically the tiny Jabra X10. By clicking a button on the headset and saying a name after the beep I can tell my phone to dial any name from my address book. It repeats the name it identified back to me and then puts the call through. This is a great way to place calls keeping my phone in my pocket and my hands on the wheel.

8) VOIP Calling

VOIP calling on the Nokia e61i
The Nokia e61i has Wi-Fi that can be used to easily make crystal clear calls that are often higher quality than traditional mobile phones. To make a Wi-Fi call - simply select a telephone number and select 'Internet call'. (insert image here) There's even an option to default to Wi-Fi calls automatically and only use the mobile service if Wi-Fi is unavailable. This can avoid expensive calls and eliminate the likelihood of exceeding allotted minutes on a plan and incurring substantial charges.

9) Wireless keyboard

On a recent East Coast trip I took just my phone to all my meetings in place of my laptop. I often take notes during meetings so I can share information with co-workers. To make entering text easy I took a portable wireless keyboard which I would remove from my pocket to the astonishment of the other attendees. It not only let me take notes but I could use the keyboard to switch between e-mail, web and Gizmo for Mobile using the key with the ellipse on it.

As a former Treo user, and before that a Blackberry carrier, I have ample experience with smart phones. My point is not that the Nokia e61i is perfect - far from it. See a raw list of its specific faults here. There's no denying the iPhone has a well thought out interface that is superior to the scrambled mess on Nokia phones. However, locks on the iPhone prevent customers from adding or customizing software to perform many of these smart phone tasks. Nokia will improve their interface but Apple will most likely not change their closed view of the world and that means Nokia devices are ultimately the better choice.

Instead of earning your business Apple wants to lock you into their system where you have no choice. Your devices and ultimately your data are under their control. I believe the world is a better place where consumers have open devices they can control. Steve Jobs glosses over this in his well orchestrated unveiling by saying the device is "open" because you can use the web browser to visit any web site, but he knows that it is not really open. (Most of the applications that people say are for the iPhone are simply web pages with very limited user interface and won't run in the background for example.)

Some criticize successful people for sport - largely out of jealously. Jobs is brilliant. He's in the most elite class of entrepreneur - those that have had more than one monster success. There aren't many who can make this claim and even fewer who have done it in different industries (Mac computers, Pixar, and iPod.) Unfortunately Jobs is also the leading promoter of music DRM and single-handedly set back interoperability of music for years which is why I criticize his actions. Sure he blames the record labels for making him do it, but look closer at the iPhone and you realize that he is not only a willing participant but an advocate.

-- MR

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