iPhone Angst Resolved

July 12, 2008

Like most gadgeteers, I was plugged in to the drama that was release day for the iPhone 3G. And yes, I even made three half-hearted attempts to get one. Let me count the ways:

I drove by the Zona Rosa AT&T store at 7am to see what was happening. There were around 50 people already in line, and I’d heard via the interweb rumour mill that it was likely that each AT&T store was only getting a handful of units. So I drove on by and made my way to work.

My wife drove by the Plaza Apple Store at lunchtime to discover that the media-covered line that stretched for close to a city block (probably more) hadn’t appreciably dwindled. So she drove by.

Later Friday afternoon a co-worker let me in on a dirty little secret: there was a NEW Apple Store in town, at 119th and Roe! HOLY CRAP, how did I let this get past me? So I dropped everything and drove by to discover a small line of around 20 people outside. But as soon as I walked up, an Apple Hippie came out and informed us that there were no 16gb iPhones to be had. Since that was the unit I thought I wanted, I bailed. Three strikes, no iPhone.

As it was, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t get any further than that. The webs are alive with the sound of angry early adopters complaining about the activation times, and that just wouldn’t have been any fun at all. So I came home and thought about it overnight, and this morning my wife and I came up with a plan. Not only would I try to get myself a 16gb iPhone, but she wanted an 8gb phone as well. So that meant that both of us and TJ, our 22 month-old all went down to the Plaza Apple Store, which was – according to the Apple web site – stocked with all models of iPhones.

When we arrived at the rain-soaked Plaza at 9:30 – half an hour before what I thought was opening time – we found open doors and around 25 people in a line outside. We got in line, thinking that this might be our best shot. The company was nice, everyone seemed to be in a pretty friendly mood, but then another Apple Hippie came out and let us know that they were about to run out of 16gb models, and they weren’t sure if they’d have enough 8gb models for everyone in line. They even handed out little slips of paper representing 8gb iPhones.

I was conflicted, but I decided that I’d be OK with an 8gb iPhone. My iPod Touch currently has about 7gb of stuff on it, and I could cut down on all the unplayed podcasts and the like. But I wasn’t happy about it. I really wanted a 16gb model so I could download and play with all the cool apps I’d been reading about. Like that light saber. Man, I wanted me one of those.

The line broke off where the slips of paper ended, and the rest of us managed to get inside the store and out of the rain. Around 10:30, two things happened almost simultaneously. First, shoppers started arriving for things that weren’t iPhones, and second, we spotted a UPS guy walking through the store, having just delivered some boxes to the back. COULD IT BE? The concierge was snagged by a fellow enthusiast and said yes, those were likely more iPhones, and yes, there could be 16gb models on there. Or maybe not. Should we take the chance and wait the half hour more or so it would take to get the boxes opened, unloaded and scanned into inventory?

As it turned out it probably didn’t matter, because once the store filled up with general browsers the line ground to a halt. A mixture of people trying to change plans without all the information they needed, or people with incomplete paperwork along with other shoppers wanting notebooks and iMacs stretched the staff pretty thinly. FINALLY we were taken out of the line by an Apple Hippie who was only too glad to grab us an 8gb model for Jen and a 16gb white model for me. I wanted a white so we could immediately tell the two apart.

The actual process of changing our Sprint numbers over, getting the new AT&T account set up and everything else was reasonably quick. It went without a hitch, to be honest, it was just a lot of trying to recite social security and account numbers in the middle of a crowded, noisy store. Finally we were done, and we had two cute litle iPhone 3G bags chock full of gadget goodness. As a side note, TJ did great in line – he fell asleep once we got in and stayed asleep until we started the purchase, over an hour of not having to keep him entertained. Thank goodness for small favors.

I’ve already made and received a couple of calls, and they sounded great. Our numbers were switched over in just a few minutes, and Jen is really excited about getting her phone all set up. I’m in the process of synching my iTunes library now, it’s taken just about as long to do that as it’s taken to write this little retrospective.

The lesson to be learned here is that being a Release Day + 1 shopper was a pretty painless experience, to be honest. We couldn’t walk right in and grab one, but that’s OK. To get one this early and start playing with it was worth a couple of hours in a really decent line, and the folks at the Apple Store were quite gracious and accomodating, even when they were mobbed by what looked like a pretty hefty back to school crowd around 10:30am.

iPhone Angst

June 17, 2008

I don’t own an iPhone. For whatever reason my fanboy status had not fully kicked in early last summer when the first revision of the phone that answers the question, “what would Jesus use?” came out to a largely adoring public. The reason I didn’t get one? Three words: AT&T. Or four words. Or something like that.

While I don’t have anything against AT&T as a massive, globe-spanning mega-corporation that sucks the souls directly from the hearts of human beings and rapes the planet sideways with a giant broom handle (metaphorically speaking, of course), I didn’t like the fact that the iPhone was going to be on the EDGE network. Edge, indeed – the edge of uselessness…am I right? Having a powerhouse productivity producer like the iPhone on a piece of crap network like the EDGE network is pretty much just like having a really fast something on a really slow something else. That sentence started out with some promise, but really kind of fizzled out at the end.

But now that the baby-saving and planet-loving Apple corporation and it’s sainted leader have seen fit to announce a new version of the iPhone, I have literally been forced to sit up and take notice. Indeed, I am sitting up as I write this meaningless diatribe – it’s that important. First off, the new iPhone sports a fancy new 3G chipset, allowing it to operate at speeds neatly unthinkable in 2004 or so when 3G was all the rage. Apparently AT&T missed that particular meeting of the telecommunications overlords garden club and went forward with a network that Alexander Graham Bell has been quoted directly as describing as “poopsky.”

If that wasn’t enough to make you moisten your stamps in excitement, there’s more good news from Cupertino. The new 3G iPhone is cheaper*, has GPS**, allows 3rd party developers to make their own applications***, and boy does it catch fish****.

* Cheaper: If you’re new to AT&T or near the end of the lifespan of your existing contract, you can get an iPhone for $200 (8gb) or $300 (16gb). But the data plan costs about $10 more per month, on top of a pretty hefty voice plan. So over the course of the next couple of years the iPhone actually will cost more than a current generation iPhone with the existing data plan. Zing! So when they say “cheaper,” they actually mean, “from a certain point of view.” The AT&T/Apple cabal see themselves as an ersatz Jedi Council, with more comfortable seating but a higher rate of dropped calls.

** While the iPhone does have GPS capabilities, the SDK agreement forbids 3rd party developers from using it to create real-time GPS solutions. So it can show you where you are on a Google map, but I already know where I am. Lost. I want to know how to get where I want to be. Somewhere where I’m not lost. Many have speculated that somehow local hero Garmin may be allowed to develop a GPS solution, but frankly if the 3G iPhone can’t help me find a route home from the Apple store on the day of the launch I’m not certain it’s worth the effort.

*** People that qualify for the development plan and agree to cut in Apple for a piece of the action can develop their own applications for fun and a portion of the profit. That’s cool though, I just thought I’d point this out.

**** Fishing with an iPhone is prohibited in Colorado’s protected streams and rivers.

So what’s a fanboy to do…go get in line with all the other fanboys on release day? Wait until something better comes along? Something else entirely? I don’t know. But I do know one thing…I haven’t been this deeply personally conflicted about a personal electronics purchase since the release of the first Apple QuickTake.