A Mac in my Pocket™. That’s what the iPhone is. One year of discipline later (I did not buy the first generation iPhone), I stood in line for hours to get a new iPhone 3G. This may have been the last of the long lines to buy an iPhone on the planet.
For those Mac users who live in the middle of nowhere, far away from yesterday, yet ever so close to tomorrow, buying an iPhone in Hawaii is a mixed blessing.
Yes, we have electricity, DSL, cell phones, use the dollar, speak English, and we don’t live on grass shacks along the beach. We have two Apple Stores, good coverage by AT&T’s new 3G network, and long lines.
Time zones being what they are, Hawaii residents watched Apple’s launch of the iPhone 3G on television, ready about it online, but we were the last Apple customers in the world to actually buy a new iPhone.
I woke up early Friday morning July 11th and read online about Apple and AT∓T’s activation problems and hoped they would clear up by the time I was ready to buy. I was ready. After I dropped my wife off downtown I drove by a large AT&T store. At least 100 people were in line before 8:00 AM.
Apple’s Ala Moana Center store was just two minutes away. I figured they would have sufficient stock to last the day, so the earlier I got in line, the better. When I arrived at the Apple Store nearly 300 people were already in line.
Apple provided bottled water, Starbucks’ coffee, and popsicles for the 3 1/2 hour wait. About every 10 minutes an Apple associate would stroll through the line to update everyone on the status, explain the problems, answer questions.
At 8:00 AM the doors opened and a few dozen iPhone customers were herded into the store. The, nothing. It took almost an hour for more than a few customers to leave the store with an new iPhone. The activation problems were the culprit.
By 9:00 AM the line began to move regularly. We were entertained with applause as new iPhone customers walked out of the store, phones raised for all to see. The did exist.
A few arguments broke out in the line before I made it to the Apple Store. A few people reserved a space in line for friends. We call them cutters.
By 11:00 AM we were hot and tired and thirsty but near the entrance to the store.
Once inside the store I had to wait another 30 minutes as the line snaked through the crowd. We were encouraged to check out and pick up cases, MobileMe accounts (discounted $30 with an iPhone purchase).
By the time I was greeted by my Apple Store handler, I was tired, sore, very thirsty, and in need of a bathroom break (not necessarily in that order). The whole purchase and activation process took a mere 12 minutes, about half of that was informal chit-chat with the Apple employee as we waded through the steps to complete the purchase.
I walked away with a new iPhone and headed home to sync it up with iTunes. The horrendous problems that plagued other iPhone users seemed to abate for those of us who bought our iPhones last. The sync was fast and easy with no glitches.
The iPhone is truly a Mac in my pocket. Almost.
What’s next? The App Store, MobileMe, and the first time my iPhone crashed and needed to be restored. Stay tuned. Hawaii may have been the last place on earth to buy an iPhone on that fateful day, but the experience was memorable, if not a little painful.