iPhone functionality fail

I’ve written about Apple’s new iPad here and here, and I thought I’d do a few tests of my iPhone.  If the iPad is merely the iPod Touch writ large, with more screen space and a thinner body, then the iPhone ought to do some of the tricks that I expect an iPad to do.  So I put it through a few tests:  reading and editing my school’s wiki, using Wikispaces.com, running this blog, and using Google Docs accounts, two things I want to be able to do on the iPad.

And as much as I hate to say it, the iPhone 3G failed all but one of these tasks — running this blog, which it doesn’t do particularly well.

It shouldn’t.

The wiki server my school uses is the standard server that comes with an Apple server.  I hate AppleWiki with an indifferent passion, because it’s not MediaWiki that runs Wikipedia; and the blogging software is wiki-like rather than WordPress or LiveJournal-like.  Both pieces of software are kind of slow and clunky to begin with, on any computer.

To have them not work with the iPhone Safari program, though, isn’t really acceptable.  If the goal is interoperability, and the objective is cloud computing, then the iPad has to work with cloud computing applications, like wikis and blogs.  Currently, it doesn’t.  I can read the pages fine — score one out of two.  Except that editing a wiki is more than 80% of the fun — so Fail.

Wikispaces.com wasn’t much better (I’m ABWatt there, but I don’t do much on it other than help monitor and administer http://cais21stcentury.wikispaces.com — which is the wiki website of the statewide professional development commission I’m on.   And no, I can’t edit this website either.  iPhone OS Safari is not built to handle wiki websites, apparently.

I can run this blog using a WordPress client application, so that’s OK, I guess.  The functionality is not great; it’s certainly not as powerful as doing it from a browser running on my laptop.

Finally, Google Docs.  I have found (and in one case bought) a client application for Google Docs for the iPhone. These clients allow me to read Google Docs items that I have permission to read or ownership of, but I don’t seem to have the ability to modify files.  Moreover, my powers to “read” documentation is still limited — spreadsheets and presentations are both off limits to both programs.  Maybe I just have the wrong program.

It still feels like the iPad’s usefulness and functionality are seriously compromised, though.  If I can’t use it for editing my wikis, if I have only limited control over my blog, and if I can’t access Google Docs (either standard GD or the specialty site my school is setting up), then maybe the machine’s functionality is pretty well compromised as a learning device for my purposes and intentions in class.

It’s not to say that it’s not a useful tool or that I don’t still want one as a reading device.  But I’m less enamored of it as a teaching and learning tool in the classroom, unless I have some demonstrated improvements to the ability to work with wikis, blogs and Google Docs.

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  1. I’m with you in spirit about the iPhone an it’s Google uses. I love all the other functionality it gives me, but I hate that all my Google stuff is so clunky on it. I did want to say though, I’m able to read and edit google spreadsheets in Safari. I can’t edit docs, but spreadsheets are allowed. I don’t know about presentations.

    I’ve thought often that after my AT&T contract is up, T-Mobile’s phones wi have gone through their de-bugging phases and it might be worth the trip back there to get a Droid phone specifically made for Google stuff. But by then I may be too entrenched in Apple specific products – especially if the iPad can actually move in the direction you are talking about.

    • Agreed about the need for access to Google Docs on an iPad. Without that functionality, no iPad for me — I’ll take a client app, but I still need the access.

      I’m pretty well entrenched in Apple hardware and software. I like Pages and Keynote much better than MS Word and Excel. I like Bento and Filemaker more than anything else.

      But I’m also really keen on wikis, and I’ve begun experimenting with my own. I set it up a while ago, but I’m keen to do more with it in the upcoming days. Especially since I discovered that I could edit it from the iPhone. Turns out that MediaWiki software will run in the Safari browser, though AppleWiki won’t. Figures that Apple doesn’t support its own product, but that the open-source software does support Apple hardware. 🙂

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