Long Lines and High Hopes Mark New iPhone's Debut
Friday, July 11, 2008
Here it is, again. Apple's new iPhone, along with a new online store selling software applications for the device, meets the public today. And chances are good that the next-generation gadget, which comes with a faster Web connection than its predecessor, is already sold out.
It's an open question which will prove to be the more significant development -- the new phone or its online store.
The iPhone 3G fixes one complaint that some users had about the original device, that its Web connection was too slow. On the other hand, the software at Apple's newest outlet, called App Store, could change how owners use the product -- or give them new reasons to buy one in the first place.
At one Japanese retailer, hundreds of people were waiting in line to buy the phone yesterday. One California-based Mac repair company sent a worker to New Zealand to pick up and disassemble one of the first iPhones as soon as it went on sale. The company's Web site, Ifixit.com, was sluggish yesterday as techies around the world logged on to gawk at the first public images of the new gadget's microchips.
Closer to home, a few enterprising people auctioned off places in line at Washington area Apple stores. The new iPhones cost $200 and $300, but that doesn't include the cost of a place in line for those not willing to spend the night standing outside an Apple store. The going rate for a space ranged between $50 and $100 on Craigslist yesterday.
A typical offer: "I will have the rest of the family stay in line so i will have FOUR (4) extra spots so you dont have to camp out. you give me $75 cash and you will have a spot in line."
Gadget lovers have engaged in online debates all summer about the device. Some were pleased to read in early reviews that the new iPhone has a louder speaker. Others worry that the faster Web connection will hurt the device's battery life.
Michael Gartenberg, with the firm JupiterResearch, said that he thinks the upgrades Apple has made are "important and nice" but that the new App Store is more significant.
"The value of the device increases exponentially for consumers because it increases the functionality of the device," he said. "That's huge."
There was a flood of announcements yesterday from developers declaring their iPhone software debuts, as blogs and social networking sites revealed new versions of their services that can be easily used on the iPhone 3G. Apple's Web site advertises more than 1,700 applications. The company had previously announced that about a quarter of the initial 500 applications were free, and 90 percent cost $10 or less.
Among the first applications to become available are Internet radio stations. Web-savvy music lovers have long appreciated Web sites like Pandora, where they can tailor music channels to their tastes. To use those services, though, many users have had to stick near their computer's speakers.
Pandora founder Tim Westergren said having his company's service available on the iPhone could be significant.
"It's a really big deal because it allows us to finally offer something comparable to broadcast radio," he said. Westergren planned to get up at 3 or 4 a.m. today to line up for the new iPhone.
John Carnett, an iPhone owner in Philadelphia, bought his last year at the initial price of $600. He said it was never a question whether he would buy the new phone because he wants the faster Web speeds.
But he's not going too far out of his way to land a new one; Carnett said he plans to do a "drive-by" at his local Apple store this morning.
"If I don't see a line around the block, I'm going to park the car," he said. "If it's a freak show, I'm going to drive away."