On Sunday, Kim and I went down to the Apple store in King of Prussia and I got an iPhone. Despite people lining up outside the stores for hours and even days before the 6 PM Friday launch (including Philly’s mayor John Street), most Apple stores were still well-stocked with iPhones by Sunday, and I had no problem getting mine. We walked into the store and it was a mob scene: there must have been 100 people in the tiny ~1500 square foot store. If I had wanted to check out the iPhones that were on display, I would have had to wait for quite a while, because people were three-deep around those displays.
Fortunately, I had been getting psyched about the iPhone for at least the past six months, so I didn’t need to play with one to know that I wanted to buy it. I just walked up to an Apple store employee and asked, "Do you still have 8 GB iPhones in stock?" He said he thought they did, and sent someone into the back to check; he came out with my iPhone, and I was out of the store in under 5 minutes.
No one knew for sure how many iPhones Apple was going to have available at launch, hence the thousands of people lining up 6-12 hours in advance across the country to make sure they got one. It turned out that there were plenty of iPhones, at least at most Apple stores. It was a different story at AT&T stores -- the only other place that iPhones are available -- with most of them selling out the first night. All told, the estimates are that Apple and AT&T sold over half a million units during the launch weekend.
I’m not sure why I didn’t go out on Friday night to try and get an iPhone. I guess I wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to get one right away, plus the word was that it was a hassle at AT&T stores, and the closest Apple store is an hour away from us. But then as I read various bloggers saying that it did indeed live up to most of the hype, I caved.
One of the ways that Apple is redefining the cell phone business is that the account activation process is handled by each user individually, at home, over the internet, using iTunes. You don’t need to spend an hour in the store with some clueless salesman getting stuff set up. There were reports that some people who were already AT&T customers initially had trouble with the activation process, but for most people it was quick and easy: it took less than 10 minutes in my case.
Apple also managed to get AT&T to offer a plan that’s actually reasonable: $60 per month for 450 minutes, with free nights & weekends (and including rollover minutes), and unlimited internet access. Many (most?) other smartphone data plans are $80-$100 per month, often with only limited internet access, and severe overage charges.
The iPhone itself is amazing. It’s so thin, so solid, so industrial, the screen is huge and gorgeous, and the interface is so simple and useable it’s like a dream. The decade-long nightmare of horrible cell phones is finally over.
For me, the combination of the real internet, email, and Google Maps in a portable device is just priceless. The fact that it’s also got a cell phone, a camera, and an iPod, plus that it’s gorgeous, only make it more compelling.
The screen is about twice the resolution of most standard computer screens, which means that text as small as 5-6 pt is crisp and totally readable. When browsing the web, though, you only need to double-tap on the portion of a page that you want to read (for example the main content column) and the iPhone automatically pans and zooms that area to be full-screen, with nice large text. Scrolling up or down, and panning left or right, is as simple as dragging your finger across the screen.
There are a few things that need fixing: there’s no way to select/copy/paste text; you can’t save images (or any files) from websites; you can’t upload files to websites (the Browse/ChooseFile element is grayed out); the Google Maps app lacks the little scale image in the lower-left corner; the on-screen keyboard doesn’t always rotate into wide-screen mode, sometimes forcing you to use the narrower version of it. But all of those are software issues, and since the iPhone is a computer running Mac OS X, Apple can (and will) simply issue automatic updates via iTunes to fix them.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the iPhone is probably the coolest product I’ve ever purchased. I can’t put it down, and when I finally do, Kim picks it up and can’t stop playing with it.
Here are some iPhone photos including side-by-side comparisons with a couple of my old phones.