Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My iPhone Arrives

This post has nothing to do with stitching, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see my progress on Flower Fairy.

This post is about gadget lust. Some things you need to know about me in order to appreciate this story. First, I have been involved with computers since 1968. I have always loved technology. First I only worked on "Big Iron", huge IBM and DEC machines that could support dozens (then hundreds) of simultaneous users. Even though I lived in Silicon Valley, I was fairly snobbish about those tiny PCs that people were building in their garages. Why program in assembler when I had a Texas Instruments keyboard with an acoustic coupler that could log into huge machines hundreds of miles away? Then in 1986 we got our first Macintosh computer, a 512K machine. One of the first things my husband printed out was the sign hung above the desk, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fonts". I was hooked. We have dozens of Macs now and regularly attend MacWorld in San Francisco in January. So I was there at MacWorld last January and ogled the new iPhone just like thousands of other Mac fanatics.

I had finally won a long and stupid argument with T-Mobile, where they refused to credit me with a check I had written them in June, 2006. Every 30 days they shut off my service and every 30 days I faxed them a copy of the cashed check. This went on for six months. I was ready for any wireless service except T-Mobile. But, like everyone else, I had to wait until Apple was ready to unleash this marvelous beast.

The rumors were flying for six months. The phone would be released June 16 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, no earlier, no later. When the final date and time was announced, I was disappointed. At 6pm, June 29, 2007, I knew where I would be and it wouldn't be standing in line. I would be in the Program Ops room of Westercon handing out Program Participant packets. Since I was Division Manager of Programming and had set the schedules, there was no way that I could hand this job off to anyone else on the first day of the convention. I sat at the desk and talked to all the program participants picking up their table tents and schedules and watched video on my MacBook Pro of happy people walking out of Apple stores with their new iPhones. I wasn't worried yet.

At noon on Saturday enough people had checked in and I had enough backup staff that I could take off and get an iPhone. My friend Tycho just had to come with me when he found out where I was going. First we hit the local AT&T store. They had had a small line on Thursday, and now were completely sold out. So on to the Burlingame Apple store. Yes, they had iPhones, but only the smaller 4Gb ones. Tycho bought one and spent the entire ride back to hotel almost licking the packaging. My friend Deirdre showed me the one she bought at the Palo Alto Apple store on Friday night. She even volunteered to get one for me, but it was now a personal quest. Surely they would have one in some of the dozen Apple stores in northern California in the next week. The clerk in Burlingame said they would be getting shipments every day. I checked the Apple website for availability. On Tuesday, July 3 only two Apple stores in the entire United States had iPhones; Tigard, Oregon and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia. No stores west of the Mississippi had them on Thursday, July 5. And no local stores had them on Friday, July 6.

By now I was very unhappy with Apple. I even wrote them to tell them so. But there was still one marketing channel that was supplied -- Ebay. On Friday, June 29, some iPhones sold on Ebay for over $1000. Crazy stuff! I hunted around for a bit and decided that I could probably get one for around $675 (the retail price was $599 and with California taxes would cost around $650.) It didn't seem that unreasonable to pay an extra $25 for a product I couldn't obtain anywhere else. But the first three auctions I bid on, I lost. Now I was starting to wonder if my attempt to buy this device wasn't being blocked by some cruel fate. But finally an auction from Salt Lake City garnered no other bids but mine and I won the iPhone I was dreaming of for $640, even less than the retail price plus tax. Of course I would have to wait for it. Even that seemed unusually torturous. Watching the UPS tracking, the package went to Colorado, Louisville, and California before being put on a local truck and delivered here yesterday.

And here it is. There was enough battery charge that just opening the box activated it enough to show off its gorgeous display screen. I plugged it into my MacBook Pro, told it I wanted to sign up for AT&T service and move my old telephone number to my new iPhone. In about five minutes the phone was registered with Apple, my contacts in Address Book were loaded and my iCal calendar was replicated on my iPhone. But wait, this is a gorgeous device, but it still isn't a PHONE. When AT&T had not transferred my old number by 11 pm, I called them and asked how long this would take. They said it would take up to 24 hours and almost exactly 24 hours later I got an SMS message (and email) that the phone was active. My husband called me to test it. Success!

But what about this phone. Is it worth all the hype? Does it work? Aren't I unhappy about the features it lacks? Yes, it is wonderful. Yes, it works for me. Yes, I knew what features I wanted before I bought it.

My two main reasons for buying any new phone was to get off the T-Mobile network and to get rid of my Palm PDA. Yes, my old phone (Sharp TM150) was a "smartphone" with a good camera and video, SMS, calendar, email, web access, etc. But none of these features (except the camera) were usable. Nothing from the phone would sync with a Mac operating system. The web access was slow and frustrating. Even though they said they would look up flight information, the only reliable web access I had was sports scores. I never used my phone (or Palm) for email. The reception inside our house in Nevada was spotty. On bad days I would have to stand out on the front walk to get even one bar of service.

The first thing I noticed when the phone was activated was that I had four bars of service -- in the house. Even though incoming calls were still being routed to my old T-Mobile phone, in testing outgoing calls, I could get service from most of the house, even areas that were previously dumb. Hooray. I'm sure I will have good service in San Francisco, but I will have to wait until the end of July to test the service in Maui. The other ways that I want to use this phone are also looking good. I spent a long time downloading phone numbers and address from Eudora and my Palm into Apple's Address Book. I still have more editing to do, but the numbers were all there instantly! The iCal calendars synced perfectly with the phone and the camera takes pictures (not much difference there -- I never took videos with my old phone). The stocks and weather widgets look just like the ones on Dashboard. Setting them up was easy, but it's still fun to flip from one weather forecast to another with just a flick of a finger.

The Google maps ARE amazing. I can even get a satellite view of our house. And the first time you get a real, live web page on an iPhone is nothing short of a miracle. No more dumbed down cellphone web interfaces. I've only used our house WiFi so far. I've heard the Edge network is slow, but since I'm not used to looking up more than sports scores, I probably won't miss that much. I will just have to keep my MacBook Pro Safari bookmarks up to date. Like most people, I use Firefox, but probably wouldn't want my hundreds of Firefox bookmarks on my phone anyway. I'm using a really stripped down set. My old phone never had any games for it. I've tried a few web-based games for iPhones and they are OK. I'd rather have non-web-based games, but since I never had games on my last phone I can live with this.

The only complaint so far? My screen is full of smudges and the small cloth they included does not clean them off. I haven't tried anything stronger yet. Maybe that is why I find myself using the earphones rather than the built in speakers. And my biggest surprise? YouTube videos. Yes, I've seen a few videos on my larger machines, but I wasn't that interested in watching tiny people on a huge screen. Maybe the fact that the video fills the screen and is bright and sharp makes the YouTube videos on the iPhone so compelling. I haven't downloaded any other videos yet, but I can see where I will eventually. I already have a bunch of TikiTV video podcasts, but haven't watched many of them. My husband has a video iPod and has watched most of them. Maybe I'll even start downloading television shows like many tech geeks I know.

Actually I don't intend to use my iPhone as an iPod much at all. I have a 20 Gb 4th gen iPod that suits me perfectly. I can use it for days before running out of battery power. Since my battery in my old phone could barely hold a charge for 15 hours of standby time, I am still paranoid about running out of power on the iPhone. I'll keep my podcasts on my iPod. Just being able to replace my Palm and T-Mobile is enough for now.


Kendra said...

LOL, I got lost early in this entry, but I can tell you're in "Geek Heaven" with your new iPhone. :-) New toys are so much fun, aren't they?

Other than my cell phone, the whole wireless world is quite foreign to laptop, no wireless network here (we still have to use dial-up...and at 40 kbps, at that). I'm technologically slow. :-)

Susan said...

Thank you so much for your analysis of the iPhone. I couldn't really understand why people were so crazy about it, but now I can see.

I have an iBook, but no iPod (which totally exasperates my son) and my cell phone is just a cell phone. My PDA stayed in a drawer for 2 years until I gave it away. =)

Itching To Stitch said...

Wow, I got more information from you on the iPhone than I did the website you gave me. Sounds like you're going to enjoy this immensely ;)

Jennifer said...

Oh how I want. I want!! :) Sounds like you had a serious hunt, and you scored!

I was on Oahu, but AT&T had by far the best coverage on the island. Hopefully, it will be the same on Maui for you. My T-Mobile didn't even work in my house in Hawaii. But, my AT&T worked everywhere!

Chiasmata said...

Early adopters of any technology get the sharp end of the stick. But then... there's the thrill of waiting, then hunting it down, then holding something shiny and new that no one has! I did the same the end of last year with my Wii. Enjoy your new toy. :)

Anonymous said...

THis is a good review by CBS...though they can't seem to decide...

Trish said...

I have gadget lust too - I just don't do 1st Gen. I'm not so keen about phones, so that's another reason why I haven't gone after the iPhone. I like my cell phone to be a phone and nothing else.

Meari said...

My SO's friend got one and let us 'play' with it. It's very cool!