Summary: Alexis, the other GadgetSquad brother, responds with his own impressions from the left coast.
The first thing people ask when they see the iPhone is how did I get one, did I have to camp out for it, hire a kid to stand in line for me, or pay a premium on ebay? Part of the strategy that Friday afternoon was targeted at finding the best solution to this dilemma of scarcity. The internet rumors had AT&T Wireless corporate stores having 60-80 iPhones each, with a limit of one per customer. The Apple stores did not say how many they would get, but had a limit of two per customer and were planning on staying open until midnight.
Based on this intelligence, we figured that the Apple stores would have many more iPhones, especially since they were staying open later and had a limit of two per customer. But, the Apple stores would be much more crowded. We were hoping to miss the initial wave of people who had camped out and get in on the second wave, assuming that there would be enough supply. While I was planning our iPhone strategy, I got a call from Alan who had picked up the 2nd to last 8GB iPhone at the AT&T store in Connecticut. Alan got there at 6pm. Reports were now starting to roll in that many AT&T stores were selling out but were willing to place orders for the iPhone to be delivered to your home. Nobody was reporting any Apple stores selling out.
My first try at 6pm was a drive by the AT&T store in San Francisco on Geary. At 1pm earlier in the day, they had about 10 people in line. Now the line extended down the block. I talked the people at the head of the line who said that there were 60 phones, 20 of which were already gone by now, at 6:20pm. I made a quick head count and got back into my car headed for another store. At that time, I met up with my friend who was also iPhone hunting. He started to call around to the different AT&T stores, and surprisingly they answered and most were optimistic about availability, although who knows how accurate that was. We finally were able to talk to the Apple store at Stonestown mall and they told us to come on down, they had plenty of the iphones.
At the mall, we were expecting a big frenzy with packed parking lots and lines reaching outside, but there was none of that. The crowds were relatively light and parking easy. Inside the mall, there was a line from the Apple store that led down a few stores and plenty of security. We tried to get into the line, which looked quite reasonable, but were told that the end of the line was outside. Our hearts sunk a bit, did the Apple employee forget about the outside line? When we got outside the line was just us, and we were quickly escorted back in. Things were starting to look promising.
While in line, we chatted with a fellow who was in line at an AT&T store that sold out, he was between number 40-50 in line. We tried to get an idea about how many had been sold already, about how many the store, had but there was only speculation. The security guard thought he heard that there were 600 phones, but didnít know how many had been sold. As the line slowly made progress, we could see the apple employees taking head counts of the people in line. These guys looked organized, at least they would probably let us know if the inventory got scarce. They did say that the 8gb model was outselling the 4gb by a significant margin.
About 15 minutes later, we were at the entrance of the store, escorted in, and I was clicked in at buying the 373rd iPhone of the day. Buying the iPhone at the Apple store gets you a nice iPhone bag, nothing for the AT&T folks.
Step 1: Setup an AT&T Wireless plan Ė I setup family plan with AT&T with the voice plan that fit my needs
Step 2: Port the numbers Ė I called the 800 number to port my numbers and immediately got a live human being who spoke English. She was very helpful in porting the numbers over, but was also very conservative in saying when the numbers would transfer over. She told be that it would done with the next day in the afternoon. As soon as I finished the call, I was already able to receive calls on my AT&T account with my old number. Not too shabby.
Step 3: Activate iPhone Ė As you all know, the iPhone USB driver doesnít support any 64bit windows machines. So out came the laptop running XP Pro. I had to upgrade my itunes to the newest version and then synced the iPhone. Within a few minutes I was entering my phone number and last four of my social, and choosing a plan. I was talking on my phone, using the AT&T SIM card at this time, and a minute or two after I submitted the activation, my phone died on me. It did take a few more minutes for my iphone to come to life, but overall it was a very pleasant experience without any of the headaches we have heard about.
What, no manual?
In preparation for this, I had watched the 20 minute Apple tutorial on the iPhone. Without a manual for the phone, that video is a must watch since it goes through all the basic features of the phone and how to access them.
At the keynote for Macworld, they talked about the phone being the killer app, how everything about this was targeted at making phone calls easier. Well using a phone is already pretty easy the last time I checked. With the iPhone, you donít have to learn anything new. There is the keypad and a call button, with the call button highlighted in green. Thatís simple enough. What is easier on the iPhone, as compared to all other cell phones before, is the integration with the contacts list. I can very quickly set a number that I recently called to the contact list. Placing calls on hold, switching between calls, or conference calling is very easy since the interface places these key buttons in the middle of the screen.
The contact list would be better than on any PDA that I have used, if they had a section for categories. Even in the original Palm OS, you could classify your contacts into groups, such as family or business, which would make scrolling through a long list much easier. Maybe we can hope for a software update on this one.
Visual voicemail is what voicemail should all be like. The ability to see all your messages and play them back with the ability to pause and repeat is quite useful. In the old days I would often have to listen to an entire message a few times just to write down an address or number at the end, with visual voice mail, you can choose to repeat just that one section.
As an iPod, the sound from the iPhone is pretty good. As a cell phone, it isnít very loud as a headset or a speakerphone. For me loud enough is the ability to use it in speakerphone mode in a noisy car, it really canít do that unless you hold the device very close to your ear. The included stereo headphones, however, are pretty good and when using those, the volume is sufficient.
In the Apple store, they spent quite some time going over how the Bluetooth in the iPhone was the un-crippled high data rate version. Unfortunately, I couldnít get the iPhone to communicate with my old Samsung t809 to transfer contacts over. I was able to get a Motorola headset to sync up though. Other people have mentioned Bluetooth problems. Once again, hopefully this will be addressed in a software upgrade.
It definitely does wifi well. It doesnít tell you what data rate you are connected at, but it will all be faster than EDGE. I was able to connect to my personal router with a hidden SSID and WAP encryption without any difficulty. I was able to connect at the Apple store without trouble, and it is surprising how many wireless networks you will run into as you walk through the mall. A local Lowes Hardware had an open wireless network with the default SSID.
No other PDA or smartphone has the same internet browsing experience as the iPhone. Most other devices arenít powerful enough to display actual webpages, relying upon streamlined, mobile versions to work. Since the iPhone uses Safari, it has the ability to display web pages just like on a real computer. The zoom function of the iPhone interface allows you read all web pages and navigate very well through a web site.
The beauty of the iPhone is that it doesnít need to have pages designed specifically for it. Pages load reasonably fast on the iPhone and you can start browsing the page before it has a chance to fully load.
The built in orientation sensor allows you to switch between portrait and landscape view nearly instantly. You can choose to rotate it clockwise or counterclockwise and it will still work. So the iPhone is ready for those places where they drive on the wrong side of the street and where the toilets flush backwards.
The LCD screen on the iPhone stands up incredibly well to direct sunlight. Iím not sure if it is just the backlight getting cranked up really high in direct sunlight, or if there is a transreflective component to the LCD. Either way, it works great. Some LCD screens turn black at 90 degrees when using polarized sunglasses, the current BMW 7 series had a problem with this on its navigation screen when it first came out. Rest assured that Apple checked this out, and the iPhone is viewable with polarized sunglasses in both portrait and landscape mode, even in direct sunlight.
Perfect thickness, although a little heavy
Great user interface
Note to crackberry addicts, watch out for Appleís X
With growing prevalence of this, true mobile connectivity is a very achievable goal. Many cities in the US are starting to provide free WiFi in public areas. Now if we could only get VoIP to work on the iPhoneÖ
If only the software could catch up to the capabilities of the hardware. 700,000 are betting on that right now.
Sweet LCD screen
I havenít seen an LCD that looks better in direct sunlight.
Reasonable data plans
$20 for the iphone plan with unlimited data and 200 SMS messages is pretty cheap. In comparison, standard unlimited data plans are about $40 a month.
No other touch screen is as sensitive and responsive as the iPhone. The inertial effects of dragging a web page around or flicking between screens is awesome.
Limited Bluetooth support
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