Reasons not to buy an iPhone… Yet.

As the initial reviews from real-life iPhone owners began to trickle in, I started keeping a list of some of the problems they were reporting. Not the meta-problems that I already knew about, such as the fact that AT&T is the only supported carrier, or the price tag, etc. — I’m more interested in the little quirks that might not be showstoppers, but which were non-obvious at first and which would make it frustrating to use. The good news is that many of these problems can be addressed in software updates. We’ll have to wait and see how soon those start landing.

Apologies in advance for not providing attributions for these reports — if you’re one of the people who pointed one of these problems, you know who you are.

System-Wide Problems

  • By design, there’s no visible file system for the iPhone. This has a lot of ramifications in terms of limitations on other features.
  • There’s no support for copy-and-paste between applications.
  • Landscape orientation for the onscreen keyboard is only available in Safari. For other applications (namely, Mail) it’s always in portrait orientation.
  • You can’t purchase music or videos from the iTunes store, directly from your iPhone. You must purchase them via the desktop application and then sync them to the iPhone.
  • The built-in Google Maps application doesn’t know where you are, even though one of the commercials suggested that. There’s no built-in GPS, so it can’t know where you are. You can, however, bookmark certain locations (such as your home or office) to use as starting points for directions.
  • You can’t sync via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi; you must use the standard USB cable.
  • No support for MMS messaging (only SMS).
  • No iChat application.
  • You can’t compose notes on the desktop and then sync them to iPhone; you must compose notes directly on the iPhone.
  • You can’t record video with the iPhone’s built-in camera; it’s only good for still photos.

Problems with Mail

  • There’s no Junk mail filter built-in to the Mail application. This is not a big deal for me as Gmail does a pretty thorough job of spam-filtering on the server side, but it is nevertheless a curious omission.
  • You can’t attach a picture to an e-mail message from within the Mail application; you must switch over to the Photo album, select a picture and click the “Send” (or is it “Share”?) button. This presumably also means that you can’t send multiple pictures in the same e-mail message.
  • There’s no way to reply to an e-mail without quoting some part of that message. You can’t, for example, select the relevant part of the original message and then click “Reply” like you can in the desktop

Problems with Safari

  • The browser doesn’t yet support Flash, so web sites that rely heavily on that technology (such as Homestar Runner) won’t work.
  • Safari doesn’t cache pages that you’ve recently visited. If you navigate away from a page and then click the “Back” button, Safari reloads that page.
  • You can’t download arbitrary files from web sites and sync them to your desktop for later use.
Posted July 2nd, 2007 in Apple.


  1. Anna:

    Good list of issues (that should hopefully be resolved soon), but it still rocks. My husband bought me one — I could have waited and had no desire to port over to ATT. But after many painful days trying to get set up with ATT, now that I am…it was worth it. Life changing. Awesome. This isn’t a phone. It’s a computer. It’s an iPod. It rocks…


  2. Tony:

    Dude: The gmail integration blows. It does not work directly with web based gmail. You still have to sync with your PC or Mac. Ugh! In order to check your gmail directly, you’d have to use Safari – and I had two guys from an Apple store try, an fail to do so. These email limitations are a big negative in my opinion. Also, Google Calendar does not integrate seamlessly with the Calendar utility. Hopefully future software updates will resolve issues like this. Though, I have to admit, the phone is super cool – with great usability. Like yourself, I’m waiting a bit longer…

  3. Lyle:

    @Anna: Glad to hear you’re enjoying your iPhone!

    @Tony: I guess I had assumed that you could just POP into your Gmail account (or any other e-mail account), which is what I’m already doing with It sounds to me like you’re saying that you’ve have to first download your mail to your Mac (or PC), and then sync those messages back to the iPhone — I can’t believe that that’s how it works.

  4. Ravi:

    Actually, the iPhone mail app already has a ‘profile’ for gmail, so when you begin to set up mail, you can select ‘gmail’ and configure your login and password. The phone already knows the pop settings for the gmail profile. One problem I have noticed is that b/c I use gmail in conversation mode, I’m not used to seeing so many messages with the same title. Also, for some reason I seem to get sent messages in my inbox. But the mail is is pretty amazing even with these drawbacks (which will be fixed over time) I switched from a Treo on Verizons network and I agree with Anna… it’s an amazing device now, but its only going to get better over time.

  5. Lyle:

    Thanks for the information, Ravi. Your description of the Gmail integration sound more in line with what I’ve been reading elsewhere (and what I would have expected).