There is this little gadget that no one seems to be talking about from an obscure technology company called Apple (formerly Apple Computing) named the iPhone. I am not going to buy one for a variety of reasons - cost, locked carrier, EDGE internet - but it is undeniably a cool device. It is also a “game-changer” in terms of what it means to the consumer electronics industry, even in the very first day of it’s release. The hype surrounding the iPhone is arguably well-deserved, but no other company on earth could produce such a vortex of public interest and media coverage. I have heard rumors that Apple will sell 1 million units this weekend alone at a unit cost of $500 or $600. Whether that is true or not, the fact that that idea is even plausible is a testament to how large Steve Jobs “reality distortion field” is in the scope of the business and popular culture.
Because I wanted to check out the hype for myself, I took a little field trip to three places in the Houston area selling the iPhone.
The first was the Galleria Mall - I got there around 1:30 and found the line around the Apple store wrapped around center walkway all the way to the elevators - about 90 people overall. I ran into a friend, Imelda Bettinger, who took this picture of me on the phone with Ed Schipul who was traveling and needed someone to buy him an iPhone (Imelda ended up doing Ed the favor). I sent a message that the Apple employees were shutting down the store at 2pm and Dwight Silverman picked it up in his blog.
I then went by the big AT&T store on 59. There were maybe 40 people camped out at 2:30pm with lawn chairs and umbrellas in the heat of a Houston summer. There were also two live camera trucks - ABC 13 and NBC 2 with some on the spot reporting.
By the time I got to the Meyerland Plaza AT&T store, 25 or so people had already set up on the sidewalk. I left around 5pm and the mood was upbeat, especially when they saw several boxes of pizza being delivered.
I went home and had to watch some of the live coverage over the internet - most notably the Higginbothams and iJustine in the Mall of Americas. After a quick trip for gelato with the family, I dragged them back to the Meyerland AT&T store so I could actually play with the phone itself. It worked as advertised from the moment you pick it up. The learning curve is effectively zero. My wife, not the most technically oriented, even remarked that it was cool and the interface was intuitive - which was a pleasant surprise. By 7:15pm they were completely sold out which indicates that the 1m unit number might not be so far off.
Overall, I thought it was fun to be a part of a historic moment in consumer electronics history, but I still think that I’m going to wait for version 2.0 before I buy one.