David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

June 12th, 2008 at 5:49 pm Print This Post Print This Post

Contemplating the iPhone 3G

I really didn’t care that much when Apple introduced the original iPhone. Yeah it’s cool, but it wouldn’t sync with Exchange using ActiveSync, and without that it’s pretty useless to me. Well, that and it has no hardware keyboard. The new one coming out on July 11th will not only support ActiveSync (and better from the Palm Treo ActiveSync support in VersaMail it looks like), it will also have built-in GPS and 3G (higher speed) internet access (but alas, still no keyboard). Granted, the “old” iPhone will have a free software upgrade (to version 2.0) to get ActiveSync support as well, which is cool.

So, I’m contemplating those new iPhones. Strongly considering getting one, but I have a few questions. Although the price came way down (now $199 for the 8GB version, and $299 for the 16GB version), the data cost goes up for the 3G service. Original iPhone data plans were $20/mo, but 3G service appears to be tiered at $30/mo for personal accounts and $45/mo for “enterprise” accounts. However, I have been unable to find any good definitions of the difference between the two accounts, other than who is paying for them. In the #citrt channel, Chris Green said yesterday that based on his research, ActiveSync was probably going to be avialable only on the $45/mo corporate plan. I can’t find any details other than price on the Apple or AT&T websites, but I’ve found one or two rumors of a similar setup with some Google searching, but those were some random posts on some forums.

While on the AT&T website, a customer service order chat popped up, and I took the opportunity to ask AT&T directly. They were less than clear, and I’m not sure I believe them, but here’s the conversation:

Michael: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support.  How may I assist you with placing your order today?
David: Actually I have a question. What is the difference between the personal and Enterprise data plans for the new 3G iPhones?
David: Other than $15/month?
Michael: I am sorry, but we do not have the information on the new iphones at this time
Michael: We will have that on July 11th.
David: You have enough information to say there’s a corporate plan for $45 and a 3G personal plan for $30. Why can’t you just define those terms?
Michael: One is business and one is personal
David: Yes but if I have a personal phone, will the Exchange ActiveSync feature work with an Exchange server?
Michael: Yes, but is will not be secure
David: That can’t be true, my ActiveSync account only allows for encryped SSL connections.
Michael: Ok, then you would not be able to use the $30.00 plan you will need the $45.00

Other than an uncanny ability to state the obvious (“One is business and one is personal“), Michael says quite plainly that ActiveSync will be possible but “insecure” for Personal accounts. This would have to be done in the ActiveSync client software on the iPhone, because I’m sure the iPhone allows SSL-encrypted web browsing on any data plan, and since ActiveSync is essentially encrypted SSL traffic, AT&T would be hard pressed (in my opinion, which I’m willing to have corrected) to sniff/block the traffic at the network level. I think they’d have to “remove the Use SSL” checkbox from the ActiveSync config on the iPhone itself based on account type. Or are they talking about the ability to remotely wipe the system only on the Enterprise plan?  I have no idea. But I don’t like the idea that only businesses get encryption; ActiveSync over HTTP is not a good solution for anyone, and it’s certainly not worth a $15/mo premium for essentially the same service.

I suppose only time will tell, unless one of my readers has better or more information than I’ve been able to find. If so, do share!