by Al Sacco

iPhone 3.1 Breaking Exchange E-Mail for Enterprise iPhone 3G Users?

Sep 10, 2009
Computers and PeripheralsData CenteriPhone

Reports suggest that a feature within Apple's brand new iPhone 3.1 software update is disabling corporate Microsoft Exchange e-mail access for some first-gen iPhone and iPhone 3G users, though owners of Apple newest smartphone, iPhone 3GS, seem to be unaffected.

One of the major announcements from Apple’s “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it” event in San Francisco yesterday was the immediate release of the latest iPhone operating system: iPhone OS 3.1.

iPhone OS 3.1 Software Update Logo
iPhone OS 3.1 Software Update Logo

Apple touted a variety of new features within the software update, including iTunes Genius Recommendation for the App Store, wireless ringtone-downloads, app organizer tools within iTunes and more. But iPhone 3.1 also seems to have had an undesired effect on many first-generation iPhone and iPhone 3G users who receive corporate e-mail on their devices via Microsoft Exchange.

Apple’s support forum pages are quickly filling up with reports from frustrated enterprise iPhone users who attempted to sync information via iPhone with Exchange servers after upgrading to iPhone 3.1, but received the following error message:

“The account requires encryption which is not supported on this iPhone.”

However, corporate iPhone 3GS users appear to be unaffected. Here’s why: iPhone 3.0 featured a bug that caused Exchange encryption policies for mobile devices to go unenforced, according to The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW).

The original iPhone and iPhone 3G do not officially support Exchange encryption–first introduced in Exchange 2007 SP1, TUAW says–so they technically shouldn’t have worked at all. In fact, Exchange encryption policies weren’t enforced on any iPhone models, until iPhone 3.1 was introduced yesterday. That means even the iPhone 3GS, which officially supports Exchange encryption, was sneaking beneath those Exchange policies, according to TUAW.

This is could be both good news and bad news for Microsoft Exchange admins; good news because the iPhone Exchange encryption requirement which should have been enforced all along is now actually in effect; bad news because frustrated iPhone and iPhone 3G users are sure to shower their admins with questions/complaints related to the change.

Currently, there’s no ideal fix. Enterprises or individual users could simply upgrade devices to the pricey new iPhone 3GS models. Or admins could choose to disable the Exchange encryption policy. This dilemma could leave plenty of users “displeased” at the upgrade and at Apple, to say the least.

Of course, you should expect to see Apple (attempt to) offer up a fix, soon, before the early iPhone users’ complaints start reverberating throughout the Web and gaining strength.

Still, something tells me this isn’t going to help Apple’s ongoing efforts to steal enterprise users from companies like Research In Motion (RIM)…