Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Eying the iPhone?

originally published in National Magazine

“On the weekend, I worked on a closing,” Rob Hyndman recalls. “Documents were sent to me. I reviewed the black lines, took two or three minutes to compare them to the list of items on my checklist, and fired off a quick note telling everybody I was finished with the document.”

Hyndman, a Toronto solo practitioner specializing in information technology, managed the entire closing at home using his iPhone.

Yes, that iPhone. Few handsets have hogged as much limelight for as long as Apple Inc.’s first-ever smartphone, featuring PDA-type features, an iPod and a phone all wrapped up in a touch-screen package.

Smartphones – primarily BlackBerries – appeal to mobile lawyers who frequently find themselves on the road visiting clients and don’t want to haul notebook computers with them. But what is an iPhone doing in a lawyer’s hands?

(Full disclosure: a former BlackBerry user, Hyndman states that the above-mentioned closing is doable using a BlackBerry as well.)

Hyndman’s iPhone use mirrors his computer use in that the iPhone serves as another way to access the applications Hyndman uses in the office. Phone and email, long-time strengths of the BlackBerry, are only the beginning.

Third-party developers offer thousands of extra tools, commonly called apps, for smartphone users. The iPhone developer roster includes names like Cisco, Google, the ABA Journal, and the New York Times.

Hyndman is happy to try these applications. “All the apps I’ve installed on the iPhone were two or three dollars, if they weren’t free,” said Hyndman, “and they install in 30 seconds. You only spend two or three dollars to explore a new technology.”

At the office, Hyndman subscribes to the online file backup service SugarSync. He can also pull files onto his iPhone using SugarSync’s iPhone app.

Minute book records reside in the office, but Hyndman shares an index to those records with a virtual assistant using Google Docs. Google’s iPhone app lets Hyndman review and update that index.

Toronto-based FreshBooks contains Hyndman’s billing and timekeeping on their servers, and the iPhone app lets Hyndman track and record time spent on specific projects and tasks.

The list goes on. Hyndman accumulates case notes using the cloud service Evernote, both on his computer and the iPhone app. When travelling to a client’s office, the Google Maps app tells him where it is in relation to where Hyndman happens to be, thanks to GPS.

Hyndman records voice memos into his iPhone Jott app, then receives email containing a transcription of his memos.

As enthusiastic as Hyndman is about the iPhone, he is just as blunt about its shortcomings. Inadequate battery life tops the list. “If I use it intensively to access the web, I get two or three hours,” he said.

For some reason, Apple omitted tasks, universal search, copy and paste and the ability to type email while holding the phone on its side. (Thanks to an internal component called an accelerometer, the screen responds to movement.)

Regardless, Hyndman speaks bullishly about the iPhone. “It’s a game-changer,” he says.

For a PDF of this article, click iPhone_3G_laptop_replacement.