Is the iPhone 3G for Appraisers?

The debate over its viability as a tool for appraisers is in full swing. I’ll go on record: iPhone 3G ranks with the best Windows Mobile, “business class” devices I’ve used (and I've used them all), and I’ll tell you why.

E-mail: iPhone 3G supports Exchange, GMail, Yahoo! and other webmail clients, as well as POP/IMAP connections very gracefully. It’s easy to set up, and includes both “Push” and “Fetch” features for downloading e-mail. I particularly like the way it crisply displays the entire message without the need for zooming. And it even displays images, Word, Excel and PDF attachments.

The iPhone 3G

Internet: Most mobile devices and cell phones have Internet access now. But the way iPhone uses Apple’s Safari browser is nothing short of jaw dropping. Zooming in and out is as easy as dragging your fingers across the glass to resize the display, and with the exception of web pages utilizing Flash content, you can view and access the same websites you can on your desktop PC.

Contacts: iPhone synchronizes contacts from any e-mail client you connect to. And in most cases you can even specify groups of contacts you want to sync in case you don’t want your entire contacts list. While browsing contacts simply tap a phone number to dial or text message, or tap their e-mail address to start a new message. This is one feature I’ve been exceptionally pleased with.

Touch Interface: While iPhone isn’t the only device with a touch interface, it does it well. Being able to scroll by dragging or flicking your finger down the glass is a very nice touch, so to speak. I couldn’t go back to not having it. And, the keyboard input is much easier to adjust to than you may think. It actually learns from the way you type, so after several weeks it nearly reads your mind.

3G: Most (if not all) metro areas now have 3G networks. That means you get fast Internet connections via your cell phone for faster e-mail, attachment downloads, maps, and browsing. Remember how it felt going from dial-up to cable? (Unfortunately, those in rural areas will have to wait longer for 3G service.)

Maps/GPS: iPhone includes GPS, and when used in conjunction with the built-in Google Maps, you can get driving directions, find nearby points of interest, or if you’re me, find yourself. It’s not as good as a dash mounted GPS with spoken turn-by-turn directions, but it’s very helpful and intuitive.

Voicemail: On the iPhone, I can choose from a list of my voicemail messages I want to listen to, rather than having to listen to them all at once. That's been a surprisingly handy feature. And last, it’s just cool. To my appraiser friends reading this article, I say, it’s okay to wear a belt and suspenders at the same time. And it’s okay to have both a pocket protector and an iPhone.

If you’re an AT&T subscriber needing a new cell phone, iPhone 3G is a solid choice. And you may be eligible for the upgrade price, which at $199 is competitive with other devices. Is this meant to be a big ad for Apple? Absolutely not. But it’s been a while since I got jazzed up over a new “gadget” and to me, this one lives up to the hype. Knowing how appraisers look for better, more efficient ways of doing their jobs, the iPhone shouldn’t be dismissed as a fad. The iPhone has begun to redefine what we’ve come to expect from a mobile device. Get an iPhone and you’re holding a bit of the technological future in the palm of your hand. My advice? Check it out.