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iPhone Pre-Opened
Click the photos to see more pics of my new toy(s).

Here was me on Friday, June 29th:

  • Calling AT&T business services to find out how much exactly my bills for my company-paid phone service have been costing, and comparing that to how much I’d save with an iPhone plan;
  • Calling AT&T business services to see what I’d have to do about making sure I could get an iPhone with my same phone number and discovering I can only do that if it’s changed to a personal account;
  • Calling AT&T business services again to see about changing my business account to a personal account and if that was something I could do right then and there;
  • Not being able to do so because it is a business account and I am not in control of said account;
  • Calling the lady at work who does control my account;
  • Calling her again and finding out she had, between my calls, left a greeting saying she was out of the office;
  • E-mailing some guy at the lot to ask, hey, since we now have personal responsibility for our accounts and have to pay them ourselves, either by expensing the charges or eating the charges, is it not okay for me to just get an iPhone as a personal device and do the very same thing?;
  • Reading same some guy’s reply that, oh my goodness, no, because a corporate liable device is not the same as a personal liable device bleedy bleedy blee; Becoming resigned that, in fact, I would need to wait six months or more to get an iPhone through work.

Here was me once June 29th entered the five-o’clock hour:

  • Deciding that I was more than so over my busted Palm Tungsten and my wonky, failing, second Nokia 6230;
  • Making up my mind that it was worth it to pay for my own mobile phone service for six to nine months until AT&T allowed business accounts to activate iPhone-specific plans;
  • Wondering if I were to, say, head out for an iPhone that night if it’d be better to go to an AT&T store since they might be less crowded;
  • Realizing, with no hint of surprise, that the Apple Store in the so-called Fashion Square Mall was on my way home and would offer, without question, a better shopping experience than any AT&T store could ever hope to offer;
  • Half-assedly assuring the tiny, frugal part of my brain that it should relax because, hey, by the time I got there, I’d be so far back in line that they’d mose definitely run out of the 8GB iPhones before I got into the store;
  • Half-assedly priming the much larger, less-frugal part of my brain by asking, hey, how big exactly would the line even be at Fashion Square?;
  • Realizing, with some small sense of thrill and a bucket-load of tempered excitement, that I was going to go iPhone shopping.

And that, friends was me just setting the stage. To quell your desire for a cessation of the drama, yes, I got an iPhone on its first day of availability. I got two. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I got to Fashion Square at 5:30, half-an-hour before the Apple Store would re-open to sell the iPhone. The line was longer than I thought at first. It wrapped around one end of the second floor and then back the other way toward the food court. Once I got in line, I discovered that several people arriving at the same time as me had been waiting at the AT&T store to which I had considered going. After waiting there all day, the staff finally let the fans know that the store had not received its shipment of phones. They offered to overnight phones to those who’d been waiting in line, but what was the point of that? What would be the point of waiting in line all day to not get a phone at all? So the refugees had made their way to Fashion Square, and now were in the same place in line as me. We discussed the possibility of there not being enough iPhones for us all, which made me realize how frustrating that would be for anyone who’d waited for so many hours in the hot sun at the AT&T store.

This is only my second time waiting in line at an Apple Store. The first time was for the opening of the storer at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I wanted to go to that partly to see what all the excitement was about—for every Apple Store opening up to that point had been a big local event—but mostly to get one of the free T-shirts they hand out at every opening.

So on Friday, as at every Apple Store opening, the staff, in black iPhone T-shirts, were pacing the line and getting everyone excited. Shoppers from other realms of consumerland walked by, looking askance at the strange people in line for what they did not know. The few people who did stop to ask, though, when told we were waiting for the iPhone, knew exactly what we were talking about. Even the people who didn’t want an iPhone know what the iPhone was. That did not make them think we weren’t crazy, just a tiny bit less crazy.

Soon, the black paper that had been put up to cover the Apple Store windows was taken down. The “Coming June 29” that had been part of the large iPhone window displays had been removed. They think of every detail. At exactly 6:00pm, cheers went up from down the mall, rippling through the line. We could just see the glass doors open, and the first wave of people entered to clapping Apple employees and what even at this distance were unmistakably huge smiles. They let chunks of 20 people into the store at a time, so we had a wait ahead of us.

I keep saying “we” instead of “me” because a certain camaraderie tends to crop up at any Apple event. Every one of us in line was there, and just as geeky and excited to get one of these fancy devices as the next. Well, there was the guy in the orange shirt behind me who didn’t seem to know exactly what the iPhone was, even though he was about to wait hours for one. “Do you know much about it?” he asked me. Inside, I could not help but laugh. I knew too much about the damn thing. I had been keeping daily vigil by my NetNewsWire since January to catch every scrap of iPhone news. “Yes,” I said simply. A bit later, orange man asked, “What does it do?” I must have looked stunned. I did not know what to say, not because I thought it was a stupid question, but because the iPhone does so much. How do you describe it in simple terms… I mean, beyond the Apple marketing blather triumvirate—not untrue—of “revolutionary mobile phone, widescreen iPod with touch controls, and breakthrough Internet communication device.” Orange man tried to narrow his question down, seeing how I couldn’t answer. I told him what I could.

So we had a wait ahead of us.

Not long after the doors opened, the line had moved up and we were queued next to a cart selling those “amazing” windows you see on TV, the kind that are double-paned, energy-efficient, and swing open to be washed with ease from inside your abode. An older woman manned the cart. She was lively, if worn. We apologized for blocking any view of her cart from the “normal” shoppers, but she didn’t mind. We all had a good laugh at hundreds of people lining up to drop $600 on a cell phone. Window lady suggested that, had she known today would be special, she would have made it a party. Brought margaritas. Fireworks. When she had a chance, she would try to get us to at least give her our names and numbers for a free window installation estimate. The only guy (we were all guys in my recent vicinity) that seemed to actually live in a house was some tall, young, incredibly hot guy with long hair pulled back in a pony tail, wearing flip-flops and a wife-beater. He humored the lady a bit, but he had no more interest in buying windows than he did in visiting Nigeria. Not that I knew whether he wanted to visit Nigeria or not. He just seemed too cocky to want to visit such a place.

After quite a long stay at the window cart, and after much joking about how very few of us “did Windows,” the line moved on. Each of us took breaks to go get Wetzel’s or pizza or cookies or hit the poorly-maintained restrooms. Places were saved with a smile. I brought back a small bag of Mrs. Fields to share, but not a single person wanted any cookies. That’s L.A. for you. Carbs? CARBS!!! A young guy directly in front of me, though, said he used to work in this mall, at the Abercrombie, and so mall friends had often come to give him loads of end-of-day cookie leftovers. He never wanted to eat a Mrs. Fields again.

From time-to-time, the subject of iPhone supply came up. Would they run out of 8GB phones? Would we be willing to buy a 4GB phone if that’s all they had? Who was buying two, and who just one? The limit was two. I hadn’t intended to buy two, but as I waited there, I thought, geez, if they do sell out of these things, I’d get a pretty penny for one online, and then the pain of paying for my own would be lessened significantly. Would I buy one or two? Well, like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you already know the outcome, so there’s no need to reveal once again that I did, nearly at the last moment, decide to buy a second phone.

Two iPhones! Two!

We rounded the last corner. Then we inched up toward the 20-person holding point. Everyone was pretty damn excited. I even said to the people around me, “You know, I feel pretty stupid, but I’m incredibly excited about this! Look how close we are!” Just like the approach of Christmas, the closer you get, the longer it seems to take. Finally, at the front of the line, waiting to be let in, our group of 20 stalled. Or did we? It sure felt like it. We were there for a long time. Or were we? We were all very excited that we were going to actually get a phone, that they hadn’t run out. When would we get our turn?

A subtle signal from one security guard to another, and off we went! It was after 8:00pm, but the Apple people were still clapping and smiling and greeting every person who came in. The store was not packed, but was brilliantly arranged just for this night. The line went to the left side of the store, where we could finally touch an iPhone for the first time. “I don’t know if I’ve ever come to buy something I’ve never even tried before,” I said. Which was the same for every person in that line that night.

Waiting in that last stretch, in the store, I picked up an iPhone. I gave it a few pokes. It was fantastic. Already. The weight, the build, the feel, the screen, the animation, the UI… It worked exactly like the commercials and the vids on Apple’s site demonstrated. I held it for no more that 45 seconds, then gave it to the next person. I was so glad I was there. This was going to be great.

A very happy, smiling, joking fellow was at the head of the line, waiting to send us to a cashier to purchase our phones. As each person left the store with phones in hand, the employees at the door clapped them out. Then we got to take a turn at the register. When I got to my slot, I told the girl there I wanted two 8GB phones. Guess that was when I made the final decision. “One bag or two?” “Oh, two.” Everyone who bought an iPhone got it in a very nice, fancy bag. I’m sure they were made just for this occasion, and once they run out, there will be no more. So I imagined. If I was going to sell the second iPhone, having the bag would be a must.

While the runner was getting my phones, the girl was talking to me about something. I can’t for the life of me remember now what it was. This is due to a mix of my early-onset Alzheimer’s, and the excitement of the moment. She was very friendly, though, and we had a good chuckle or two. She swiped my Amex, handed me my bags, and that was that.

The brilliance of the store set-up was this: They were only letting people into the store who had been waiting in line to buy iPhones. The line went straight to the back of the store, and you bought the iPhone without any delay. After that iPhone purchase, then you could browse the rest of the store for cases, headphones, Macs, iPods, whatever else you wanted, and pay at a second register (the Genuis Bar, annexed tonight for this purpose only). I chose not to buy a case, but did get some protective film for the screen.

Once out of our line, my temporary iPhone friends dispersed amongst banter such as, “Have fun!” and “Enjoy that thing!” As I walked out of the store, my two fancy bags and precious boxes of phone in-hand, I was clapped out by the employees, and thanked. I thanked them back, with a huge smile.

I rushed back to my car. It was all I could do not to run. A big, black guy commented on my stash, and I smiled. Some ladies in a car asked me how much I wanted for them. I mumbled an answer. Why had I parked so far away? What if someone stole these before I even got to my car? Where was all the security to protect we iPhone buyers?

Oh course, there had been nothing to worry about, and I got to my car, got on the 101, and headed home.

This is not the end of my iPhone postings. Oh, no. The phone is a marvel, and I will be sure to post my thoughts here eventually. I’m already on my second phone, and the other one I bought has found a good home… There’s a lot more to say.

Holding My New iPhone

1 Comment

The Wren Forum » Obsessions Expounded Thusly:

[…] the past few weeks, has been the iPhone. I have loved my iPhone somehow even before I owned it. I waited in line for hours to get one on June 29th last year. I have used it and, despite its few shortcomings, loved it for over a year […]

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 • 1:23pm • Permalink • This is a Pingback


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