As I have discussed, I have been exploring converting my successful Outlook/OneNote/MindManager based installed app to a set of web 2.0 applications. I will be blogging this process here.
Given that I travel most of the time, the most challenging issue I needed to overcome was mobile access to my web 2.0 application set that I will be using. Previously, I had a Windows Mobile 6 based phone (HTC Hermes/TyTN). On it, I had an installed version of each app that I used on my desktop and an effective synchronization technique to get at my data on the road. Often, my mobile phone is the primary mechanism for me to get things done.
Moving to web 2.0 productivity, collaboration, and workflow application means I need brutally good browser access from anywhere...particularly on my phone. I've used Opera. I've used Pocket IE. However, nothing comes close to the usability and compatibility of Safari on the Apple iPhone. For most tools that I leverage in this conversion, I will be blogging painfully detailed reviews. However, in this case, I'd rather not beat a dead horse. There are so many iPhone reviews out there, I will only be focusing specifically on Safari as a platform for accessing my web 2.0 application assets.
Second, the pan and zoom interface of the iPhone allows extreme usability. While Opera has some rudimentary support for Ajax (like soonr's mobile ajax interface), the breakdown comes in seeing all the data on a complex application page. It is very easy to "get lost" as you wander around a page on a 2-3 inch screen. The iPhone's zoom and pan interface allows you to see the big picture and very rapidly go to the details and out again without a lot of menu interaction or overhead.
Third, the auto orientation feature of the iPhone makes it easy to optimize the 3 inch screen for the content displayed. Depending on the application in question...or even the portion of the page in question, I can quickly and easily move from portrait to landscape. The is interesting for two reasons. Not only can I orient my phone to maximize column viewing (landscape) or maximize list item viewing (portrait), I can also optimize my data entry. The keyboard layout in landscape mode is wide enough for easy two thumb typing. While I haven't gotten up to the same speed as on the "real" thumb board of my TyTN, it is pretty usable.
Fourth, the auto complete feature of the location box (where you type the URL) makes it very productive for me to do knowledge work, research, and access little used applications that aren't in my mobile bookmarks. As I type, the list of previously viewed pages appears between the keyboard and the location box. That list is scrollable using the insanely good iPhone scroll gesture. I can find any entry in milliseconds.
Finally, the page/tab metaphor gives me a persistent virtual workspace for my commonly used web 2.0 applications. I can keep pages up for each application in my heavy use arsenal. Having four or five of these around doesn't seem to make the iPhone slow or unstable (unlike Opera or Pocket IE on my TyTN).
There are two primary drawbacks to the iPhone as a mobile Web 2.0 access device. Both are minor, but very real.
The biggie is EDGE vs. UTMS. My TyTN and my 3G Laptop Connect Card are both blindingly fast. EDGE is slow. The recent ATT network upgrades were nice, but no substitute for real bandwidth.
The jury is still out on the keyboard. I will reserve judgment until I have reached my maximum proficiently, but currently, it isn't looking good. The error correction in the iPhone is dramatically better than any other mobile device I have used, but that does not make up for the slowdown in wpm when using my TyTN or a Blackberry.
The Bottom LIne
Safari is life changing as a mobile productivity tool. If you plan on using it as an access device for web applications, you just can't get any better in a phone form factor.