Things iCan’t Do on My iPhone


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iPhonelimitsThe iPhone is an amazing device, but it does have some annoying limitations.

  1. Dropbox. Problem: I work in a paperless office—all client files are stored online—and I have Dropbox on my iPhone. This means I have access to every single file (it will download a file if you click on it). One problem, my office uses, and Dropbox will not read those documents. Solution: every pleading and every judicial order are stored as PDF files, which Dropbox can read. In addition, if I know in advance I will need to the file, I can download it to my iPhone for easy access. Bottom line: Slightly annoying, but not really a big issue.
  2. Skype. Skype runs great on my iPhone. I can call clients from my cell phone, without using my cell minutes, and it looks like I am calling from the office. Problem: iPhone cannot switch between applications. If I am logged into Skype, the minute I flip over to Safari to check my email, Skype is turned off. Even worse, Skype only works on a wi-fi network, no calls over the 3G Network are allowed because of “contractual restrictions.” Solution: Other than “jailbreaking” my iPhone to allow multiple applications to run at the same time, there is no solution. Bottom line: Major annoyance.
  3. Drafting documents. A few weeks ago, my computer at the office was having issues. I decided to see if I could run my day using just my iPhone. Email? Check. Calling clients from Skype? Check. Meeting with clients using my iPhone to reference documents instead of a computer? Check. Doing legal research and drafting a memorandum of law? Good luck. I doubt it would be much easier drafting the same on a BlackBerry. Solution: you can certainly read full web pages on the iPhone, and take notes by hand. Bottom line: This limitation is not unique to the iPhone—if you are trying to draft documents on a smartphone, I think you have bigger problems.

(photo: JSchoek)


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  • What do you mean Dropbox won’t read OpenOffice docs? I use Dropbox on Linux using OpenOffice and Dropbox grabs them Do you mean the iPhone doesn’t recognize the format so you can’t open them on the phone? That would be an issue.

  • I should have been more clear—the Dropbox app on iPhone does not read OpenOffice docs.

  • No way! I never knew Dropbox’s app let you access files through it. Both cool (in general) and bad (that it doesn’t read OO docs).

  • Right on the money—generally cool (PDF’s and others look great)—but also lame because any OO doc we do not convert to PDF cannot be opened.

    At the same time, if you know you might need a document, you could always convert it ahead of time. But that definitely detracts from the utility of it.

  • Just to be clear, Randall means, not OpenOffice. Different trademarks, different products.

  • Have you tried Vonage Mobile? It is supposed to work with cellular and wifi. It doesn’t provide a free calling like Skype to Skype, but if you are using Skype for low-cost, long-distance calls, but can’t use it with no WiFi, give Vonage a try. I can’t say I’ve tested it as I’m unable to get past the validation stage of the sign-up process. My guess is that this is because I have a non-USA mobile number, even though the App store or the Vonage site say nothing about it being a USA-only service.

  • yclipse

    Drafting documents on any handheld device is an exercise in frustration, unless you use the phone function to call your SpeakWrite number, then dictate your brief, memo, etc. Then wait half an hour or so for the transcription to arrive via e-mail.

  • TomH

    With respect to the docs, will docs not open even if you save them in Word format? I am using but save everything in .doc to try to be compatible with others.

  • @Paul – we use Skype for our business number, so the advantage to being able to use Skype on a portable device is I can call clients from the office number when I am not in the office. The work-around I currently use is just turning off caller ID if I need to do so.

    @ TomH – that’s a nice little workaround – and it definitely works!

  • @TomH & @Randall Ryder – I save copies of my work in .doc format so I know I have compatible versions to send to people, but it does pretty consistently mess up table and TOC formatting when you make the conversion back and forth.

  • I save everything in ODF format because (a) it is better, and (b) other people should do things my way.

  • SD Anderson

    there’s more native app called “Air Sharing” (search the App Store). It was Free in the first few months it was out but now it costs $4.99. It’s reads Everything … really. I believe it even reads video files (unconfirmed – as I only have the free version).
    I think max capacity is 12 Gigabytes.

    • SD: According the the AirSharing website, the paid app cannot open files.

  • Mark W. Prasek

    Here’s a work around. I use SnagIt from they have a free 30 day trial and it’s only $50 if you buy it. When you install it, there will be a “SnagIt” printer that will print to pdf. It does a lot of other cool screen capture stuff that could come in handy. Anything that you can print can be made into a pdf.