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The Announcement. The Wait. The Day. The Phone

by Ann Marie

The Announcement

From the day of the keynote address at MacWorld 2007 I started a mental countdown to the day it would be mine. I didn't have a date, but a window, and it was enough for me.

Watching the keynote address where Steve Jobs magically slid fingers over this amazingly sleek device, seeing how responsive it was, how intuitive? It was like watching something out of a dream. I sat and absorbed it all, pausing occasionally to call a friend and coo over this feature and that. I went from moments of ear-to-ear smiles to jaw-dropping disbelief at the technology that was being unveiled.

I waited for the "you can buy it..." moment. I waited and waited. I thought "tell me NOW!!" I was ready to plunk down the big bucks, to run and pre-order, whatever needed to be done... I was sold.

June. June? No, please say it isn't so. That's six months. Six months of torture.

To calm my nerves I printed out a full scale picture of it and tucked it in my bag. A placeholder if you will.

The Wait

I'm not a person who waits for gadgets. I don't line up for game consoles or run out and get the latest and greatest every time something comes out. I have a 3G iPod and never upgraded to video. I would have waited until it died or became unbearable. I'm not cheap, but I'm realistic. If something is working the way I intended, I don't need to upgrade "just because".

But this was different. I'd been looking for a new phone and considered some of the smart phones on the market. They met my needs without issue, but from using a couple (owned by friends) I was just not thrilled with them. They were ok, but still clunky. I hated the QWERTY keyboards, and text messaging on a conventional cell phone was a nightmare. I never got into the habit because learning Morse Code was never a desire of mine. I left that part of technology behind.

But now, this wonderful device could change all of that. It had it's own keyboard that changed per use. How unbelievably simple yet widely overlooked.

The 6 months went by slow as molasses, I hate to say. I devoured information on the iPhone. I searched blogs and tech reports. I read every rumor (only 40 per store on release?!), heard every tech spec and modification. I saw every leaked internal memo from AT&T and Apple. I called the Apple Store and talked with a Genius who mentioned some silly little "idea" he had about how maybe we'd just sign up for service through iTunes. We laughed about how great that would be, but such a long shot.

As the months went by and the pieces continued to fall into place, the anticipation built even more. I now had a date, a time, a plan of attack. I knew the battery had been improved, the plastic had been replaced with optical glass. The fact that you needed iTunes to activate the phone made that "funny idea" about signing up for service seem a bit more plausible. My faith was restored at every turn, but my nervousness about acquisition grew as things improved and the buzz built to fever pitch.

The Day

I had my plan. A walker's pass issued in order to gain entry to the mall early on June 29th. I am fortunate to live in an area with about 5 Apple Stores within about 40 miles of one another in any direction. I picked the one closest to me, firmly planted in suburbia, and was fairly certain there could be no overnight lines because of the mall location.

I arrived an hour later than planned on that fateful day. This cost me spot number one, but that wasn't my goal. My only goal that day was to leave with the phone. I was number 5 in line and it was glorious. I knew that I was getting the phone. I only had 10 hours left to my 6 month wait and I was bubbling over with excitement.

I was surrounded by other enthusiasts in our little section, which we affectionately referred to as "First Class". The first 10 of us in line were in a separate section from the rest and firmly planted directly in front of the store front.

The hours passed, we laughed, discussed the features and things we felt might be missing from the first generation. The store closed promptly at 2pm and proceeded to black out the windows. It was brutal to know that everything was right there, but we couldn't see a thing.

The employees came out to visit us a few times, they passed out water and coffee to those who were waiting. It was really a wonderful experience and clear that the Apple Store employees were just as excited for us as we were for the phone.

At 5pm the curtains came down, slowly. The employees laughed and waved as they teased us with tiny peaks that revealed nothing. It was funny and brutal all wrapped up together. When the first full curtain was removed it revealed the previous large scale iPhone display, but it now showed a countdown clock. 59:59 caused a pained groan from our First Class group, which sent a ripple of alarm and confusion down the waiting line. By now we'd amassed about 180 people down the mall corridor, and I was so glad to be in the front of the line. My waiting was almost over.

At 5:59:50 we did the 10 second countdown. Everyone did it. Security guards, people waiting in line, Apple Store employees, and mall onlookers. It was an electric environment. We screamed out "Zero!" and the rope line was lifted. All of First Class was allowed in at the same time, a request we'd made of the person controlling the flow. What a great group of people.

We entered in a straight line, down a corridor of employees who were clapping and cheering and smiling as broad as we were. We practically ran to the Genius Bar and whipped out credit cards to grab our prizes. The process was streamlined and efficient and beautiful. I was in possession of my favorite toy and it was a bittersweet process to wait so long and have it end in a matter of 5 minutes.

The Phone

So, it's all amazing and magical and I've waited forever. But what do I think of the phone? The iPhone - let's go through it.

Activation: I had the phone activated within five minutes of attaching it to my Mac at home. I was changing providers, and the transfer of my number was complete about 40 minutes after my initial activation. They alerted me, on the phone, via text message. I must say, that was exciting. I was official now!

Phone Calls: I called a friend, quite by accident, when entering numbers and tapping one to see what happened. The call was clear, loud, and worked in my home. That's certainly not a quality of the phone, but no previous provider's service worked in my rural area. It was a nice surprise to see bars on my phone, and put any fears I'd had about the rumors of AT&T service to rest for the time being.

Syncing: This was very easy and thankfully, as most things with Apple, very customizable. I was able to choose what I wanted to sync from features to folders and manual or automatic syncing. I have specific folders and playlists for the phone only, so they automatically sync when I connect the phone. It's wonderful, easy, and seamless. The only issue to date is that if you attempt to sync when the battery is very low, it generally fails. I read about this issue on the site and as soon as you charge up the battery a bit, you're able to sync without issue. No really a problem, more a finesse issue in my estimation.

Battery: I know this is an issue and concern for many, so I'm just going to go through my experience so far. I have had over 4 days of standby with very little change in battery. I have used it for heavy browsing on wi-fi for over 6-7 hours that has brought me down to about 25% battery life. My goal was to be able to get a full average day of browsing, calling, texting, and music out of this phone without requiring a charge, and so far that is fully within grasp. I think I could probably get two days, but I'm someone who's much more likely to plug in at night so I don't have to worry about it. I do not have a car charger yet, but I will sometime soon in case I have a need for a mobile charge session.

I love just about every feature, but I'll mention a few that have proved useful and impressive to me so far.

  • The 2mp camera is great. It takes really good shots, especially in ideal natural light. Inside the shots are a bit more grainy if it's darker, but that's to be expected from most digital cameras. Overall, I was surprised by the quality and quite pleased.

  • Continuous text messaging is lovely. I don't have a pile of random messages clogging things up, everyone is in their own segment and makes navigation much easier and cleaner.

  • You Tube on your phone. Okay, I admit, when they first added the You Tube interface I was confused and thought "nice, but... necessary?" Okay, no, it's not necessary. But it really is fun. I've found myself waiting and stranded and able to bring up a few Family Guy tidbits to entertain me while I wait. I can't find a thing to complain about with that It's a fun feature, and I'm glad it's there. Even delivered over Edge, it's fairly fast (I got a 6 minute clip to start playing in less than 30 seconds) and reasonably clear. Over wi-fi it's crystal clear and downright speedy. Either way, you win in my estimation.

  • The new iPod features are fun and impressive. I love Cover Flow, I never get tired of "flipping" through album art.

  • The screen, while constantly covered with fingers, is rarely smudgy looking. I still can't get over this part. When you turn the phone off, or put it to sleep, you certainly notice the finger marks and it's easily cleaned up. But somehow when it's on and I'm using it I rarely am distracted or noticing smudgy marks all over the place. I clean the screen about once a day on average and then just start again, it's very low maintenance.
These are things I think are lacking and hope to see improved with software updates or in next generation versions.
  • I'd like to see the same reorientation at work in web pages and images applied to text messaging and emails. I'm not sure why it wouldn't work for those and it's something that, the more I get used to using and flipping the phone, I seem to be missing as a feature.

  • As I mentioned above I like the camera, but I would like to see it have a flash for those times when you just need one. I

  • I'd like a way to copy and paste text. I haven't had a direct need to do this yet, but I can see the possibility of it in the future, and I think it would be helpful.

  • I'd like a way to have an event alert prior to 2 days before. I'm thinking in terms of a birthday or anniversary. 2 days reminder isn't quite enough to get something in the mail. Again, it's a bit nitpicky, but something as simple as a user entered reminder date would be really helpful.

  • I want to be able to add ringtones. Enough said.

  • I want to be able to customize the alert sounds for new emails, voice mails, and text messages. The sounds they provide are fine, but it would be nice to be able to set your own - even if it's only out of the provided ringtones.

  • I want to be able to send a picture via text message. I have friends who do not have smart phones, would not be able to access their email from the road that way, and therefore I'm unable to share a picture "on the fly" with them. It's a frustrating oversight, or choice, in my opinion.
Now, with all that said, I love this phone. It's a fun, functional, seamless product that does exactly what I need and want. I find the Edge network adequate for most browsing that I need to do on the road, and the wi-fi makes things fly right along when it's available (quite often so far in my travels).

My six month wait was worth every minute, and the price tag seems fully in line with the features, style, and slick interface that I've come to know and trust from Apple. I can't wait for the upgrades and improvements and I know now that I'm a lifer with the iPhone. Once you start using it with regularity you realize that you've changed your phone habits forever.