This weekend was another expensive and bumpy Apple weekend for me. I am now the proud (?) owner of an iPhone 3G. Here's the whole sordid story of how I got my hands on this little gizmo.
I knew about the original iPhone a year ago when it came out, but I didn't get one. I was hesitant because of the high price and the fact that it was with AT&T - a wireless company I didn't much like. I did go to the mall that day just to watch the insanity though. What I witnessed was a massive line of hundreds of people snaking out the Apple store and continuing hundreds of feat around the mall. However, from watching the store, it appears that they got people in and out very fast. All in all what appeared to be a very efficient buying experience. There were some bumps last year though. When people got their iPhone's home, they tried to activate them but the activation often failed. These problems got ironed out over the first few days, but things were bumpy at first. I figured that this time, Apple and AT&T would better anticipate this and be prepared for it. Apparently not.
The new iPhone had several major advantages going for it that made me finally decide to buy it. First, the price. It was much cheaper to buy. I think it was $599 (maybe $699?) for the high end iPhone last year. Now, the high end iPhone is $299. Much more affordable. The new iPhone also uses a new 3G network which means it's Internet access is considerably faster. One of the biggest complaints I read about the old iPhone was that it's Internet speed was very slow. The final point that sold it for me was the announcement of the iPhone 2.0 SDK. Finally people could make real applications for it, not just the so called 'web-applications' that Apple suggested at first. Since I am a developer, this appealed to me. I applied to be a developer of iPhone apps myself. That's a story for another blog though. So I had finally decided to buy one. I knew that my current Verizon contract expired in May of this year, so I knew that come July 11th, I could finally get rid of my despised Treo 700 (worse damn cell phone I've ever had! Windows Mobile is pathetic) and get a nice new Apple iPhone.
Bright and early on Friday morning (the day it went on sale) I showed up at the nearest AT&T store to my house. I got there at 7:30AM. The store opened at 8AM. Of course by this time there was at least 150 people waiting in line outside the store, in the hot South Florida sun. The line had already snaked three quarters of the way around the back of the store. I was standing in line behind the store, with a good 150 people in front of me, sweating my ass off. Of course I had to be at work at 9AM that same day, so I hoped (in vain) that I could get in and out by 9am and still make it to work without being too late. No such luck. At 8AM sharp, the doors opened up and they started letting people in. The first couple of groups of people seemed to move quickly so I was optimistic I might make it through quickly. However, after the first two exciting times when the line jumped forward, things ground to a halt. at about 830AM the line stopped moving. It didn't move at all for a half hour. By now it's 9:00AM, I've been sweating in line for 1 1/2 hours and I have to leave to go to work. So after all that waiting for nothing, I left, went home, changed, and headed to work.
For the next couple of hours at work I read the news on the whole iPhone 3G release. It turns out that so many people were trying to buy and activate them, that Apple's servers were getting overloaded and the activations weren't working. This was causing massive backups at all the stores. This is no doubt why that line I was in had stopped moving. Later, around lunchtime, I decided to make another attempt. I hoped that by now they had fixed all those server problems and the lines would have shrunk down to a size where I could get in and out during my lunch break. I hopped into my car and headed to the nearest AT&T store to where I work (a different store from the one I was at earlier). As I drove up, I saw a relatively small group of people in line. There were maybe 30 people. I thought this looked like a manageable size, so I parked and got in line. After a few minutes though I decided to go to the front of the line and check what was happening. The lady at the front of this relatively short line said she'd been in the line for 3 hours! Ok, if the line is that short and it takes 3 hours to get to the front, forget it! I'm not going to wait 3 hours for this thing. I'm a fan, but I'm not that crazy! Besides, I only had 1 hour to do all this. So I left and went to eat some lunch nearby. After eating my lunch I drove back to that same store to see if the line might have cleared up. It didn't look like the line had moved hardly at all, so I just left and went back to work.
Finally, at the end of the day Friday, I left work and went over to the Galleria Mall to visit the nearest Apple Store. I figured I might have better luck there. As soon as I arrived, I witnessed another long line, of probably 150 people or so. I asked someone at the back of the line how long the wait was. They said 2 1/2 hours! Now granted, it was in the air conditioning of the mall, but again, I didn't want to wait that long, so I left - again. it's now been three attempts in one day to get an iPhone without wasting hours in line. No luck. I decided to give up for the day. I figured that the next day (Saturday) would be lighter. Everyone has already gotten their iPhones, so the lines would be smaller, the activation problems would go away and I could get an iPhone without too much trouble. I decided to return the Apple Store in the Galleria Mall on Saturday morning and try again.
Saturday morning arrives. I get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and head back to the Galleria Mall. I arrive at the Apple Store to yet another line. This line was shorter, though. It was about half the size of the line from the previous night. I figure there was maybe 50 people in line. This seemed reasonable, so I got in line. I heard shortly that the wait in the line was about an hour. Ok, I can deal with that. So I waited for an hour in the air conditioned mall and we slowly moved toward the front of the Apple store. Not long after being in line, i was told that they had sold out of the black 16GB iPhone, but they had plenty of the white 16GB iPhones. I was a bit disappointed by this. I had debated between getting the white or the black 16GB iPhone. It had to be 16GB, but I wasn't sure on the color. I prefer the look of the black one, but then again, I'm going to put it in a case, so it's not like the white would be very noticeable. I decided I could live with the white 16GB one.
After about an hour of waiting, I reach the front of the line. They had divided the Apple Store in half. One half for iPhones and one half for everything else. There was a separate line that people had to wait in if they wanted to get into the store to buy something other than an iPhone. I am escorted in by a very friendly Apple store employee. I told him which iPhone I wanted (the white 16GB iPhone.) I also told him I wanted to get a cover for it. The plastic on Apple iPods tends to get scratched almost instantly and since this iPhone had a plastic back, I knew I would need one. He suggested I go over and look at the cases while he goes and gets the iPhone. I walk over to the cases, and quickly picked out a black one for the phone. He comes back with my phone, and I hand him the case. I also bought a copy of MobileMe to try out. We do the whole sign up and porting of my cell phone number from his handheld computer. This is the same handheld computer they use to let you buy everything else in the store. Everything was done without opening the box of the iPhone at all. Finally after around 15 minutes or so of doing all this, and paying for my purchaces, he takes me over to one of the Mac computers on display. It is at this point we open up the box of the iPhone. He lets me take it out (so I can 'bond' with the phone, heh) and it is plugged in very briefly to iTunes on the Mac we were standing next to. After what seemed like a very brief instant, the phone was fully activated. I turn it on. After a short delay it comes up and connects to AT&T with a nice little '3G' icon appearing at the top. Success! I am now an iPhone owner and a 'slave' of AT&T wireless for the next 2 years. He tells me it could take a couple of hours for the port of my phone number to complete. In the meantime I could receive calls on my old phone but make calls on the new iPhone. I thank him, take my purchases and head out the door. It has been a total about about 1 1/2 hours in line and in the store, but I have succeeded in getting an iPhone.
I go downstairs, hop in my car and leave the mall. I had left the iPhone in the box and inside the little fancy white 'iPhone 3G' bag they give you in the Apple Store when you buy one. I left it there because I was planning on driving down the street to get some lunch. I planned on opening it up when I arrived at the Quizno's where I was going to eat lunch. There I would put on the case. That way it would be kept clean, and scratch free and I could play with it while eating lunch. I pull into the parking space at Quizno's, park and open the box. As soon as I open the box I hear this odd sound and I see a number displayed on the screen of the iPhone. At first I couldn't figure out what this was! Was this phone number being displayed the temporary phone number I had on the iPhone until my cell phone number ported over? After a moment of staring blankly at the thing, I realized that someone was calling me on the phone! It turns out that it was my father calling me to ask me if I got the new iPhone yet. Apparently in the 15 minutes it took for me to leave the mall and drive to the sub shop, the number port had completed. I answered the phone, and told my father all about how I had finally got it. We also discussed going to dinner that night to celebrate my birthday (which is tomorrow, July 14th). I hung up , went inside and ate my lunch.
Later that evening, I joined my parents and brother for dinner at Outback Steakhouse to celebrate my birthday. As soon as I walk in the restaurant, the first thing my mom says to me when I arrive is "Ok, let me see it." So I grin and hand her the phone. She really liked it! I swear she didn't stop playing with it for most of the dinner! The entire time we waited, while we were walking to the table, and most of the wait for dinner, she sat there silent playing with the iPhone. I think she had a lot of fun with it. I also showed my father it. He didn't seem all that interested in it, though he did like the new calculator app on it. My brother also played with it for a while. He was having fun watching Youtube videos on it. We finished dinner and I headed home.
So there you have it - the story of my two day attempt to get an iPhone. But now the all important question of how do I like it. That's another long winded blog, so I'll save that for my next blog.