iPhone 3G for lawyers

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I got to say, I love my iPhone.  It is a great convergence device: phone, music player, calendar, web  browser, camera, map and GPS; all in one device. I previously had the first generation iPhone and after a trip to Denver on launch day (line was too long at the Park Meadows Apple), and a second trip the following day, my wife (another lawyer) and I got our 3g iPhones.

I won’t go in to the third trip to get the white one exchanged for business black model, except to say, it was worth it.  Oh, they only had the white one when you went?  You are right, in a case it looks just like a black one (almost).  It is fine.  Really.

If all of this seems rather obsessive and reminiscent of the “tullip craze,” you just stick with your Treo.

There are tons of 3G iPhone reviews so I will try to direct my mini-review to a lawyer’s use of the iPhone, or “How to Justify Your Techno-Lust to Your Office Manager Without Coming Off as a Total Fan-Boy Whose Income to Expenses Ratio *Really* Needs to be Reviewed.”

I primarily use the iPhone, (un?)surprisingly, as a phone.  Along with a virtual PBX service like RingCentral or GrandCentral, the iPhone is a great way to let my clients reach me anywhere I may be without having to rely on a receptionist not picking up a call in time or not being able to find me.  Client’s call one number and it always reaches me where ever I may be.

I also use the Aliph Jawbone 2 Bluetooth headset which lets me take calls on the go.  I have the iPhone mounted in my car which allows me to see who is calling via the very nice, large, clear display.

Which brings me to my second use of the iPhone: the camera.  I use the iPhone to photograph all of my clients and associate the picture with their contact.  So, whenever a client calls, their picture comes up.  It may seem like a little thing but a photograph is an excellent mnemonic for helping you remember who you are talking to and the status of their case.

After or even during a call, I can pull up the Notes application and notate the critical points of the call and then email them back to my office for future reference.  With the Evernote app, I am even toying with the idea of having Evernote folders for each client and just adding phone notes directly from the iPhone which will then sync directly to my desktop.

iPod.  I know what you are thinking, “The iPod is a *non-business* use!”  Au contraire mes amie.  I have used the iPod to listen to CLE courses and I use it daily to listen to podcasts during my commute to stay current on technological advances and marketing.  As you probably already know, the iPhone handles calls while listening to the iPod beautifully:  the sound of the podcast fades away (and the podcast is paused) and the phone rings.  After the call, the podcast fades back up.

I cannot even count the number of times I have used the Google maps function to search for businesses.  If I am looking for a doctor’s office, I just enter the name and I get a pin on the map.  I can further select the name and get a phone number, which, I can click and call that office.  Plus with the GPS in the 3G, I can not only get a route to that location, but also see exactly where I am on.  Now the GPS is not as good as a full featured GPS, but you could make that same complaint of the camera not being as good as a stand alone camera.  Both criticisms are correct.  However, both miss the point:   you now have a camera, gps, browser, iPod, datebook, etc in one device aka in one pocket.  Consider how many electronic gizmos you won’t have to cram into your Dockers?  Even Batman does not use a utility belt anymore.

And syncing of events and contacts over Mobile.Me.  Yes, there have been a lot of problems – or so I read.  For me, it has just worked.  If a client needs to change a phone number when I am out of the office, I just update their contact record and the office is updated automatically.  Same goes for adding or changing appointments.  No need to sync to make these changes, they just happen over the air.

But do you really need 3g when many of these functions are available in the 2.0 software.

You are still using a black and white printer, aren’t you?  And your secretary has a 15 inch monitor, doesn’t she?  Is it a CRT?  Dell.com – I’m just saying.

While you do get a lot of the functionality I have described in just by using the 2.0 software on a first generation iPhone, there are several advantages of upgrading to 3G:

  • It is significantly faster.  If you ever have to look up a case or address or anything using the iPhone, you will immediately appreciate the speed boost of 3G.
  • The sound quality is much improved.  The telephone audio quality is noticeably improved and the speakerphone is much louder, which makes it much more usable.
  • If you are on a 3G network during a call, you can still access the web during the call.  If you ever needed to look something up during a call, you will appreciate this function.

If you have read other reviews, you know there is also plenty to criticize Apple over:  no cut and paste (oh come on, it is a year later!), no voice dialing, not turn-by-turn GPS, no tethering, no improved camera, no video, no editing of documents (though I never understood this personally), and fewer devices will charge it.

That is the agony and the ecstasy of Apple:  offering just enough to make you want a product and withholding items so basic that you want to pull your hair out.

If any of these omissions is a deal breaker, then the iPhone is probably not for you.  Otherwise, the iPhone 3G offers solid performance in every feature it offers, with a great UI, great overall user experience, wrapped up in a very attractive package.