iPhone OS 4: More Useful for Lawyers

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Guest post by Barry Edwards.

I watched and read the liveblogging of the new iPhone OS 4. Geeky as that may be, I came away with the impression that with iPhone OS 4.0, the iPhone will become even more useful to lawyers.

Here is what the new OS will offer iPhone users:

This new iPhone OS features 7 “tent poles,” as Steve Jobs referred to the major categories of features:

  1. Multitasking. This feature allows you to move slow-moving apps to the background while you continue using other apps. Jobs admits that Apple is late to the multitasking game relative to other smart phone manufacturers, but if the iPhone is your device of choice, you now have the ability to do so. This key feature, unfortunately, is only available for the 3GS and iPod Touch 3rd generation, but see below.
  2. Folders. With this application, you can have over 2,000 apps on your iPhone, neatly organized and labeled. The folder app available for jailbroken phones never seemed to work quite right, from personal experience, so if Apple can pull this one off, it will be not only handy, but impressive.
  3. Enhanced mail. Gives you the ability to combine and sync multiple email accounts into the email program, ability to sort email by threads and to open attachments directly from the mail program. For lawyers, this means that your personal e-mail and your work e-mail can both be synced to your phone, and if you have failed to keep up with putting client e-mails in separate folders (guilty!), you can sort to find all of one client’s or opposing counsel’s e-mails.
  4. iBooks. This is described as a very attractive interface for previewing, buying, and reading tens of thousands of books, many of which are free. For lawyers, well, it comes with Winnie the Pooh, what more do you need.
  5. Much deeper enterprise features. Unfortunately this feature, like the multitasking utility, is geared toward iPhone 3GS. If you have the 3GS, though, this feature offers greater security of data since you can use your phone’s pass code to encrypt data, protecting your confidential client and firm data, even if your phone is hacked, stolen, or lost. With the enhanced enterprise functionality, you can also wirelessly update, monitor, and manage phones, particularly useful if your firm has several firm-owned phones.
  6. Game Kit. Play games with your friends, your opposing counsel, or with the presiding judge. Okay, so this one is more for killing down time.
  7. iAd. This provides a great way to market your ever expanding law firm.

One of the most useful, and easiest to use, features is Folders. With folders, you can create a folder to contain your law-related apps within one folder, making them easy to find quickly. Among the law-related apps I currently have are Court Days, SquareSpace (so I can edit my web site), Dragon (dictation), LawBox, LawStack, the US Code, Legal Edge, Docs to Go, FastCase, Days From, and Facebook (for updating and monitoring my business site).

Now, instead of flipping through six (or more) pages of apps to find FastCase, for example, I can just go to my “Legal” folder. This ease-of-use feature saves time and the potential embarrassment of being unable to find your app in court or in a deposition.

Lawyerist has posted about many iPhone apps for lawyers, and the ones on my phone are by no means a comprehensive list of apps available to lawyers. And given the increased functionality, including easier access for developers to design apps, there are certain to be many, many more.

Some drawbacks, while Apple is heavily promoting the multitasking feature, that and several other features are only available for the iPhone 3GS and for the iPod Touch 3rd gen. Many of the new features will work on iPhone 3G and the 2nd and 3rd gen iPod Touch, but will not work at all on previous versions of the iPhone or iPod Touch. However, if you have a jailbroken pre-3GS or pre-3rd gen iPod Touch, an app called “BackGrounder” will let you multitask. Another Steve Jobs-like move, the OS announced today, April 8, will not be available until this summer. Although for the eager, if you pay $99.00, you can become part of the “Developer Program” and get earlier access to the beta version.

A few additional features: with the new OS, you can control Pandora with iPod controls, it includes “location backgrounding” (so you can run programs that require your GPS even if your phone is locked/off, but not when the phone is physically shut down—or the police could find what towers your client was bouncing off of while his phone was “off”), and the ability to keep Skype running in the background while using other iPhone or iPod functions.

The new OS has a lot of potential, even if it will not be fully realized by those of us without the iPhone 3GS and 3rd gen iPod Touch. Sadly, if you have an original iPhone or iPod Touch, this new OS will not work at all for you. Jailbreaking is always an option however, and will give you access to very similar functions (and perhaps a few more).

(photo: Engadget)

Barry Edwards practices criminal, civil, and family law from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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  • I think the multi-tasking and folders is going to bring alot to the table. The Iphone itself is a wonderful asset to any lawyer giving freedom and the ability to stay connected and research at almost anytime.

  • cj

    I can’t read this article because ads from the left are covering some of the text. Device: Epic 4g touch

    • Someone reported a similar problem a while back, and it turned out to be a browser setting on their end. Try checking your default zoom and text size settings.