The accountant and the iPhone

I’d never had an iPhone before.

I’d seen my techie brother sneakily looking up the answers to Trivial Pursuit questions on his iPhone over Christmas and thought “Wow, a computer that’s small enough to hide in your hand”.

Because HMRC say an iPhone is a computer, not a phone, when you’re looking at it as a benefit provided to staff. But that’s another story.

Suddenly my MacBook Pro looked very big and felt very heavy.

Could I avoid carrying it on the train? Was there a computer small enough to fit comfortably in the pocket of my coat?

Just this week I became the proud user of a company iPhone 4 and I’ve had tremendous fun getting used to it.

Internet and Email

Could I work through the morning’s crop of support requests, using email to pick them up, then answering them on our GetSatisfaction forum and Zendesk support helpdesk?

In short, could I go a whole hour’s train journey without needing to get my MacBook out?

Three web applications to try to begin with, Google Apps email, GetSatisfaction and Zendesk, once I’d logged in to the on-train WiFi.

Accessing the WiFi proved a bit of a challenge, because for some reason, rotating the iPhone didn’t make that page show in landscape. Does that only work for certain sites? And the SHIFT key was automatically switched on at the beginning of typing into a text box, which is great in most circumstances but a pain when you’re entering a login ID that begins with a small letter. It took a good bit of steam coming out of my ears before I was able to work out that I had to press the lit SHIFT button to turn it off again.

The touch-screen keyboard, which I’d never used before, is taking some getting used to. I keep looking for the Command key to copy text - and I’m not yet there with the necessary sleight-of-hand to copy by dragging on such a tiny screen. More practice needed, particularly to get used to using unfamiliar muscles and avoid “texter’s thumb”.

Google Apps and Zendesk worked beautifully. I think both of them have been adapted to work on an iPhone, because the layout of their pages looked different there, with the buttons in good places for a small screen. 

GetSatisfaction, though, was much harder. The page layout still looked exactly the same, only much smaller. The “Add an image” tab at the bottom of the text box didn’t move out of the way when I was typing, which made it very difficult to see what I’d written, and because the keys are so tiny (well they are if you compare them to a full-size QWERTY keyboard), I wanted to be sure and double-check that I hadn’t hit the wrong letter.

And another thing I couldn’t do easily on GetSatisfaction was scroll through the text box to select a point to paste a link to an article from our knowledge base.

But hey, I got there. When I arrived into Edinburgh, the support requests were all answered, and the MacBook hadn’t left the bag.

Phonecalls and text messages

Texting isn’t something I do a great deal of, apart from texting my husband to say “here safely” when I’m on the move, and for that I use my personal phone (honest, HMRC).

But some messages did come in from O2 with information about using the PAYG system, and I did send a test message to my personal phone.

Texting on the iPhone felt easy except I wasn’t initially sure which box to put the number in and which one was for the text. But I got there in the end!

Phonecalls, on the other hand, have so far not been that easy. I managed to block a lady who was trying to call me yesterday, without having the faintest idea how I did it, and now she can’t call me at all.

Other applications 

I’m keen to try writing an article or blog post on my iPhone (now wouldn’t that have been great for this article - pity I’ve got so far with it by now, really).

And to try working on a spreadsheet, which, as a finance queen, I do quite a lot of. Will I be able even to do whizzy stuff like pivot tables and complex formulae on the iPhone? Ooh.

Are there word processing applications and spreadsheets for the iPhone? I’m sure there are. Any recommendations gratefully received.

Will it replace my MacBook completely?


It’s just too tiny. There are times when I really do need a larger screen, such as when I’m reading a document.

And I can type much quicker on a full-size QWERTY keyboard than on a tiny touch-screen keypad. OK, I touch-type, but even if I didn’t, I’m sure that would still be the case.

But it’s going to be a great addition to my working life. For one thing, it’ll mean I don’t always have to take my MacBook when I’m commuting.

Apple take note: it’d also be great to have the iPhone User Guide available actually on the iPhone without having to download it. Making me download it meant I had to jump through the hoop of working out how to turn the SHIFT key off and logging in, before I could read the user guide which would (hopefully) have told me how to do that.

Some of us are newcomers to the iPhone and we need a bit of extra hand-holding!

Want more bookkeeping and tax tips?

Sign up for our helpful guides to claiming expenses, filing your tax return and more.