Friday, June 25, 2010

iPhone Fever!

My experience getting the first (and only?) iPhone sold on the west Olympic Peninsula

How I came to this sad state
By that I don't mean how I came to be still blogging from my old Blackberry 8310. No, I mean standing in my personal line of one at the doors of the local Walmart waiting like a salivating Apple fanboy or a Trekky to get my hands on an iPhone 4.

4:45 AM
Where to start telling this tale? Well, it goes back quite a way, but really, the decision was made in the dark, wet days of February, when my wife got her iPhone 3Gs, and I began secretly coveting it. Jealousy gave way to open envy, until I loathed my old Blackberry. No matter how much I tweaked my apps, learned about the BB "insider" tips and tricks, it was never enough. But I denied it vehemently. No iPhone for me!  I spent hundreds (yes, really), of hours in research. I usually do a lot of backgrounding before any big purchase, but this was extreme even by my standards.

I looked at cellular carriers- should I begin a migration to Verizon? After all, ATT is the new Bush, it is axiomatic that one has to loathe the misfortune that forces them to use the inept carrier.  But alas, I could not fault them. Sure, in the back of Walmart in Port Angeles my wife couldn't get her iPhone to work, and even my BB was very sketchy. But my phone worked in as many places as all my Verizon using pals. And the service ATT has provided me has been without issue. So really, I had no reason to leave them. That fateful decision would subsequently restrict my phone choices to a set of very good handsets, if you don't count Android.

What of Android? I am told it is the best. By nerds and geeks. It is "open architecture"! OK. I tried it, found there to be inconsistency in how various apps and functions work, and that if you don't have the latest build you are missing something, but build versions are restricted to handsets. Kinda like having to run Vista on Toshiba laptops bought at Best Buy, but being able to run Windows 7 on those bought from Radio Shack. The interface is OK, the web browsing good. The harfware itself is reminiscent of the PC wars of the 90's. Every week brings a better piece of kit that renders the rest obsolete. No thanks, Android.

Well how about Palm? I have always wanted Palm to be as good as it once was, in the days of the Palm Pilot. Now that was a great PDA crippled by tiny processors- in the heads of the leadership. So I travelled to phone stores looking for a hands-on experience. I found them and after a few times with the phone learned that the physical keyboard is too ill- designed, and there is no "soft" keyboard. Also, the funtions and apps are very elegantly designed to have a consistent and instintive interface. But to be picky, it all works together in a way that is just a bit too fussy for me. Oh, and user reports are not kind about the battery life. Not kind at all. Then there is the perpetual doubt about the future of Palm. When the CEO is panhandling for buyers, and then HP buys the company for the OS, you can be sure the device will be yet another quirky Palm device that will go into the box of wacky tech ideas we bought. No thanks Palm.

Blackberry. I have thought I would be upgrading the BB with a new one. The 9700 has a reputation for being the best phone RIM has ever made. The screen is beautiful, the keyboard is a tactile pleasure. It communicates really well. I made a list of all the things I do on a phone, and BB edged out the iPhone and everything else. iPhone was close.

 Then RIM started messin with me. New operating system coming to fixe the horrible web performance! A new piece of hardware that will replace the 9700 at the too of the line! Upgrades to the 9700 memory and camera! A new Pearl that is as good as the 9700! (Except that it isn't really available for some undisclosed reason. And the OS may or may not run on the current top of the line 9700. And if it does it may be a bit habdicapped. And since its introduction in February RIM has "gone dark"- no more updates. And the slider is coming soon to some carrier out there. And my damn BB keeps deciding to freeze or reboot itself. And so on.

Not that I couldn't like a new Blackberry. I could very much. But its kinda like the crazy chick you met in the bar. You have to go through a lot of shit in between the good times. So, if I wait a while I may stay with a BB. Its the next best choice.

But then the iPhone 4 is leaked. It looks interesting, and I am drawn into the hype world of Apple. Again. I love Apple products. They are superior as a package, and excel in key areas. I update my list of phone attributes- "What iPhone has to do to win me/ What BB has to do to keep me". And I wait.

A seminal event in the world of Apple followers I'd the Keynote address at the World Wide Developers Conference that Steve Jobs gives each June. I try to watch these because Jobs has such a great presentation and the new products are so interesting. This year was a must see after the never before experienced new iPhone leaks. Were they real? PR plants? Feints?  Would Jobs rail? Would he joke? Would he editorialize?  More important, would the new iPhone address the shortcomings on my list of what had to improve? 

The WWDC product introduction was not vintage Jobs. The illness has taken a toll. But as a fan of business, I am a fan of Jobs. The presentation proceeded to tell everyone what the experts had already concluded, but somehow Jobs made it sound like this was fascinating. Then he started letting us know what else was new. The battery life- fixed. The screen- vastly improved. The multitasking- Applified and smart. The email client- unified. The phone reception- strengthened. Overall, this would work out fine. Then he showed how movies could work and how good the camera is. If reality lives up to his spiel, I am convinced.

So on pre-order day, I try and fail to secure an iPhone 4. I posted my day recently.  I started re-liking Blackberry, and looking forward to sometime in the future when RIM would deliver on its commitments. Then the market started getting its hands on real iPhones and reviews came out. It seems the phone would live up to its hype, with a few teething problems (don't hold the phone in certain ways or your reception indicator goes away, don't drop it 4' on concrete more than 3 times, don't abuse the glass or you could scratch it.).   The reception is improved, the camera and video cam are as good as some dedicated devices, the screen is better than anything else, and the battery lasts and lasts.

I was curious, so stopped in my local Walmart. Luckily, I was met by the electronics department supervisor. He told me they have one, only one. It will go on sale on thye 24th, and the store opens at 6:00 AM. He has not yet had an inquiry about it. I say I will be back at 6:00 on the 24th. I call him back to reinforce my interest. I check at the other Walmart nearby. No one knows about the iPhone 4. They do have these other iPhone things- a 3Gs?  Have I heard of those?  I judge there to be something hinky there- someone has glommed onto their one iPhone, and it is already reserved. OK. I try Radio Shack. Despite the parent company's complete ineptitude, the employees at my "Shack" know what's goin on. No iPhone for them. Its a mess, they have had very light interest, and they don't know when they will get stock. I like that they know what they don't know. Too bad I don't like their answer.

So. Here it is. I feel like I have a chance at Walmart and I commit. I make my plan. Get there by 5:30, with coffee, muffins, a chair and jacket. If no one else I'd there, I have a chance.

About 4:00 AM I begin to exceed my plan. I am restless. Thirty minutes later it is getting light, this being day two of the solstice. I am up, making coffee. Kinda juiced, about like I am for fishing. When I pulled into Walmart, I see associates coming and going, but no line!  I settle in at the door, coffee and backpack. I use my BB to see what the lines are like in the outside world. Long. But I remain my own line party. Doors open at six, I go back looking for my supervisor. He sees me, offers a stool. I am in, number one. Now the hard part begins, the waiting.  

6:00- Doors open, and I am alone walking in.  Straight to the electronics department I go. I am offered a stool to wait out the rest of the time till they are allowed to initialize the phone.  Great.  

6:10 A girl comes in dressed in riding leathers- cafe racer chick, to ask about an iPhone. Sorry. 

Waiting.  Here is a look at the line, that's me in the front!

7:52, my guy starts the process.  With a single question for the folks at ATT.  He is going to have to call them!  Good luck on iPhone day- ha, I will just pour another cup....what?  Done already?  Wait, I am still texting on my BB....oops, not any more, the iPhone is active.  

I thank my guy and leave.  It was too easy, like takin candy from a baby.

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