Apple and Mac OS X

The iPhone 3G experience

I’m very glad my wife waited a year to get the second-generation iPhone. It has been quite difficult to actually get one, though. For a while, I thought it was some ploy by Apple to generate more demand and hype by pretending to have a limited supply and thus make the iPhones appear harder to get than they really are. After all, that worked for the Wii, except that Nintendo couldn’t get its act together even a year after demand for the Wii had swelled.

The long lines were a big put-off, and I kept thinking, “Why is there such a long line? Don’t they just sell whatever stock they have and then just tell people they’re sold out?” This thought came to me especially when I called one Apple store to ask if they had iPhones in stock, and they said, “Yes, we have them, but there’s a line, and it’s about a four- to five-hour wait right now.” Excuse me? Four- to five-hour wait? Who would do that? That’s crazy! I waited in line for three hours for the Uffizi in Firenze, but that’s because my friend who was studying there at the time said the Uffizi was the only tourist trap worth going to.

Well, today, my wife finally got her iPhone. She went to the Apple store downtown, and they said they didn’t have it. Then I suggested she try the new Apple store in the Marina, and she got there just as a truck full of iPhones was pulling up to the store. A line immediately formed in front of the store, and she was about the fourth in line. What was this line for? Why did the process take so long? Well, first they had to individually “pre-screen” each customer to make sure they had an AT&T account (yes, we’re in America, and AT&T is the only provider you can use with the iPhone) or knew the appropriate account information to switch from another provider. Then they had to take each customer and set up an account and activate the phone specifically for that account. In other words, it was all this AT&T business that made the lines so long. The entire process of waiting to be pre-screened, being pre-screened, getting the iPhone set up, and purchasing the iPhone took about an hour and a half… for one customer (my wife, in this case). Talk about inefficiency. But, hey, at least AT&T knows Apple isn’t selling iPhones to people who will just unlock it and use it with another provider. No, you’re locked into their two-year contract. They have their claws in you.

That said, the iPhone’s pretty slick. I wish they had a Linux-based (and pay-as-you-go) phone that was this slick. The only things I don’t like about it (user experience-wise) are

  • You can’t easily remove apps you don’t care for.
  • You can’t easily install random apps, and a lot of the specifically-made-for-iPhone apps cost money.
  • A lot of the menu items do not have a back button to return to the main menu. I prefer a back button to pressing the main menu button.

So, buying experience—lame. Actual user experience—pretty cool. I think my wife will have a lot of fun with it. I’m happy with my crappy Virgin Mobile phone, though. I don’t need all that fancy stuff. I just want to make phone calls and occasionally check when the next bus is coming.