Second in a series. Editor's note: To commemorate iPhone's fifth-anniversary, we present several stories looking at its debut and colorful history -- so far. Who says you need the newest tech to be productive, eh?
As a writer and freelance IT contractor, I am in effect running my own business. I have multiple clients, assignments with deadlines, meetings with suppliers and contacts, and lots of marketing to arrange. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that I can manage all of these activities from my humble iPhone 3G. In effect I’m running my business from my phone, which is pretty amazing when you think that the original iPhone is only five years old today. In that short time the ‘God phone’, as some dubbed it at the time, has completely transformed what a phone can be.
So how do I manage my day to day business activities from my iPhone 3G?
It’s Not All About the App Store
Apps are of course a big part of this story, but they came later. The first thing my iPhone gave me was access to the real Internet, in a useable way, in the palm of my hand. It is easy to forget now but Apple was the first company to make mobile browsing work for the masses. Opera did an excellent job, and I still have fond memories of using Opera Mini on my Sony Ericsson, but the iPhone gave me access to the web I was used to. Not a cut down version, or the woeful WAP, but the real thing. I could pinch and zoom and visit pretty much all the sites I needed (The ever topical Flash issue aside).
This gave me the power of information, literally at my fingertips. On the way to conferences I could Google who I was meeting. I could check sources for articles on the train. I could stay ahead of the curve with access to my RSS feeds and normal news sites. We take all this for granted now but it was revolutionary stuff half a decade ago.
(Almost) Never Be Late for a Meeting Again
The Maps app (soon to be revamped in iOS 6) has saved my bacon more times than I care to remember. Sitting here at my desk now, I’m more than happy to set off for a meeting or trip without really knowing where I am going. Sure I check the general locale, or the train or bus times. But when I get somewhere I rely on my iPhone to tell me where I am, or more typically how far I am away from where I actually need to be. Again Maps is something I now take for granted, but which 20 years ago would have been almost (almost) on par with flying to Mars. It helps me get to where I need to be, quicker than I can on my own, and for work that is invaluable.
All the Media I Need
Straight off, the iPhone included everything that was good about the iPod (bar the storage of the iPod Classic, but I can forgive that). For work this means a few things. Firstly I can carry around all of the Podcasts and audio books that I need. Research material, background reading, the latest news -- all of it can be stored on my phone. Secondly, I can keep important video files on hand. More and more for work these are video interviews with people I need to know about, or shows that I have missed and try to catch up with on the move.
Ok, It Is All About the Apps
I admit it, iPhone apps are pretty persuasive, and mean I can customize my phone to do the specific things my business needs of it. Apps are one of the first things many people think of when they think iPhone, but it is interesting to note they weren't even part of the original device. Downloadable applications where only introduced as part of iOS 2.0, a year after the original phone came out. So what apps do I need to run my business? Well there are a fair few, and this isn’t a ‘Top 100 Business Apps’ piece, but the most useful for me are:
The Dropbox service is a great way for me to keep my files synced across devices. The iPhone app means I always have an up-to-date set of my work with me in my pocket, and I can share with anyone directly from the app. The whole package makes even a USB thumb stick seem antiquated.
I need to know who is visiting my various sites, when, and why. This app hooks up to my Google Analytics account and quickly and clearly tells me what I need to know.
Now officially part of iOS, the Twitter app lets me interact with that community wherever I am. Marketing and "social networking" are a big part of running a modern small business. This app helps me do it. To clarify: Twitter is integrated into iOS 5, which isn't supported on iPhone 3G. I use the separate app on iOS 4.2.1.
Capsule is a lightweight CRM tool that lets me manage my work and contacts. Their iPhone app is actually a web application that I’ve bookmarked to my homescreen. It lets me get to my customer information quickly, and uses HTML5 to provide a very slick ‘app style’ interface. Offline access would be nice, but I can just about live without it.
Editor: Do you run a business from your iPhone, or perhaps you have a story to tell in celebration of iPhone's fifth anniversary? Please email your personal account to joe at betanews dot com.
Photo Credit: George Panos