Salesforce for the iPhone: Not ready for prime time

iphone_search.jpgI was thrilled when I saw a Salesforce application in the new Apple iPhone app store. It was one of the first applications I downloaded.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t nearly live up to expectation. In fact, it’s a disappointment.

First, you have to understand that Salesforce Mobile is a separate license. Once you pay the extra fee, per user, you can access Salesforce data from BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and now iPhone. So whether you use the iPhone client or the BlackBerry client, it’s the same price.

When you purchase the Mobile version, it’s not a web app duplication of the regular interface. It’s a stand alone mobile application that keeps object records on the device in an interface that shows just what you need when you’re on the go.

The Administrator sets up profiles depending on how the business operates which keeps data small and manageable. Since we’re a contact-centered organization, we don’t keep donations records remotely (although the object is available if needed). Instead, for us, the mobile interface is for looking up people and keeping track of tasks and events. For our Director of Patient Information Services who handles our Answer Line, she can also get information on Cases from her BlackBerry. Like the desktop version of Salesforce, it’s a different experience for whatever organization/business that uses it depending on how the Administrator has chosen to configure the service.

The BlackBerry client allows you to edit as well as view records. The BlackBerry client allows you to add new records to an object. The BlackBerry client allows you to log emails to records/objects from within the BlackBerry email application.

Would you believe the iPhone application does none of that? No, you can’t edit anything. No, you can’t read an email on the iPhone and link it to a record in Salesforce. No, you can’t create anything in the Salesforce application. All you can do is view records. As far as I can tell, all communication between Salesforce and the iPhone application is one-way only. Sad.

It’s got some very basic features: If you click on a phone number you can call it, but no record of the call is recorded in the record’s activity log. You can map an address. You can send an iPhone email from an email address, but once again there is no activity log. It’s essentially a read-only address book, nothing more.

I certainly hope version 2 is coming soon. The BlackBerry application just hit version 10, so there’s a lot of catching up to do. If the iPhone wants to be taken seriously in the business world, folks that develop applications for it are going to have to do better than this.

Update: Salesforce has published a post on their blog where they promise that changes are coming:

Is it going to be read-only forever?

In just two word: absolutely not! This is the very first release of the client, developed in a short time on an exciting new, SDK. Salesforce is excited about having released a client upon the App Store launch and looks forward to future releases.

Moving forward, we aim to provide users with the features they need on the road and will be watching the blogs and gathering customer feedback.  Additionally, we are very excited about the opportunity to integrate with the iPhone powerful browser capabilities.

That’s good, I guess. Great, actually. But a mobile license isn’t cheap. Frankly, with such a wide gap between the iPhone version and the BlackBerry version, Salesforce should either offer a discount for iPhone users or a free trial until at least basic functionality is introduced. As a nonprofit we get our mobile licenses for 80% off so I’m not really complaining for us, but if we were paying full ride I wouldn’t be as patient.