Verizon iPhone: Lawyers Learn the App Life

So the iPhone on Verizon is coming in early February. What does this mean for the legal community? In the short run, not so much. There will be a faster uptake with smaller firms and companies, since many give flexibility to lawyers in their choice of mobile handsets. When you add the iPhone on a new network to the fast growth of the Android OS (such as with the top-end Droid X), you have something that hasn't existed before: lawyers will have computers with them 24/7. Make no mistake about it, these newer "smartphones" are phones in name only. Some that will ship this year will have more computing power than your laptop had a few years ago, and they are always-connected to a network. Rather than a BlackBerry with many of its fine features, these smartphones can use small programs. Yes, you guessed it, these are cleverly called apps. Put simply, apps allow a user to customize their phones to suit their business requirements and personal tastes. Smartphones are not just all touchscreen, they are really blank slates. So as higher-performance smartphones hit the market and find their way into more lawyers' pockets (and purses), the demand for legal-centric apps will increase. What apps, exactly? Stay tuned. And some of these apps will also work on tablet computers like the iPad, or others coming soon that run Android. And whither BlackBerry? I don't count out RIM out at all. They have tremendous brand equity in the legal space. Many lawyers will prefer BlackBerry, want a real keyboard, and not be willing or able to change in the short run. But BlackBerry is under severe pressure from the iPhone and Android. Their first and second attempts at touch-screen phones didn't fly. They may not get much of a third chance. All of these apps are optimized for touch; many use voice commands for search and even text. Just ask someone who had a BlackBerry whether they would now give up their iPhone or Droid X. It's totally anecdotal, but I haven't met anyone who would. As more lawyers (and over time most of their clients) carry a mobile computer, there will be new ways to work. And a new place to work. It's called everywhere, and it's an exciting and scary place these days.

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