How much work can you do on an iPhone?

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The iPhone comes with Google Maps installed, which does a good job of using the device’s GPS and related geolocation capabilities to give you directions and show you where you are. The iPhone’s zoom and scrolling gestures make navigating maps easy; they usually updated in real time as I moved my finger across the screen. If there was a redraw lag, the iPhone at least remembered where my finger moved, so I didn’t feel lost when the screen finally redrew. My only beef with Google Maps is that when it moves from one turn to another, its zooming out and then back in can be disconcerting and make you lose the overall picture of where you are.

A standard “find me” button in most location-enabled apps made it easy to get going, whether looking for a nearby restaurant or “bookmarking” the location of my car so that I could get directions back to it later. Even the local Bay Area Rapid Transit system’s iPhone app used this feature to tell me where the nearest BART station was, though it didn’t draw a map of how to get to it.

I was impressed that the iPhone could find my location even when I was in a building or some other point obstructing the line of sight between the device and the GPS satellites. It uses both Wi-Fi and cellular triangulation to find your location, so it’s rare that you can’t find out where you are.

The iPhone’s Web browser is almost as capable as a desktop browser, and it does a great job of working in its confined screen real estate without stripping out the visual and functional richness of the Web. Once the Flash and Java issues are resolved, the iPhone browser will be on par with a desktop browser. Location services are likewise well implemented and easy to use, and the number of applications that take advantage of this capability in imaginative, handy ways is impressive.

Give your laptop a rest The iPhone comes very close to being a laptop replacement for many basic business and field-service uses. Its file-handling limitations and lack of support for enterprise mail servers other than Exchange are the biggest reasons it can’t really replace a laptop. Some silly flaws like the calendar integration issues also get in the way.

You can’t do intensive work on it, such as writing proposals, creating budgets, managing production schedules, creating graphics, or developing apps, of course. But the iPhone can handle a lot of routine business tasks that let you put down your laptop for several hours at a stretch. It’s become part of my daily toolkit, one I enjoy using.

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This story, "How much work can you do on an iPhone?" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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