For the Apple faithful, today marked another significant unofficial holiday: the official launch of the iPhone 4. Having skipped out on the launch of the 3GS (only 1 year into my contract), my only previous events to which I can compare are the iPad launch (sorta) and the 3G launch (2 years ago). Since the announcement up until the day of the pre-order, I wrestled with the decision to get the iPhone 4 versus stretching as much life out of my fully capable iPhone 3G as I could. After all, it is another $200 investment for a phone (that basically does the same thing my current phone does, or so I wanted to convince myself.)
In the end, as always is the case with anything Apple, I'm a born sucker and I loves me my Steve Jobs and if Uncle Steve says I need a new phone, well... I need a new phone.
Pre-order day (becoming like Christmas Eve to the Apple fanatics) was an absolute mess on account of AT&Ts servers getting hammered with "upgrade eligibility requests" and for thousands upon thousands of people, it was a frustrating experience. Fortunately for 600,000 people (myself included) it eventually worked out and I was able to secure a reservation at the Apple Store in Westfarms Mall through Apple's Apple Store App released on the App store that same day.
Then a brilliant idea hit me. Why don't I sell my iPhone 3G on Craigslist? I listed it on Tuesday of this week, sold it last night roughly twelve hours before I would get my eager little hands on a shiny new iPhone 4. I managed to get two hundred dollars for it from a guy who was going to unlock it and slide his T-Mobile sim card in. So, those of you who are quick with math just realized that my iPhone 4 cost me nothing to upgrade. Score one for the tech savvy there.
When my alarm went off this morning at 5:30, I rolled out of bed, threw on shorts and a shirt, and was out the door on my way up to West Hartford. A quick trip through the drive-thru at McDonald's for a coffee and then I pulled into the parking lot at Westfarms near the Apple Store entrance. Much to my surprise (though, at this point, it shouldn't surprise me at all) the lot was bursting with cars and news trucks. "Good thing I have a reservation", I thought to myself.
I walked inside to a Disney-world-esque line of winding ropes and a small horde of people. At this point, the reservation-only line was much shorter than the non-reservation line, so that was some good news. I estimated that I was about 150 people deep when I got there and it quickly swelled to double that within fifteen minutes. It seems that I had a little luck with my timing. The walk-in line continue to swell as well prior to the official 7 A.M. opening.
While in line I chatted to some very friendly people (as are most of the people at Apple launches); a older gentleman who taught political science in Hartford, the head librarian at the Loomis Chaffee School, and a systems engineer with Pratt & Whitney. We talked about Apple products, education and technology in general. So, basically, the content of this blog. Meanwhile, the Apple Store employees were assisting with what would be the most well-run launch that I've ever seen (going all the way back to working at Electronics Boutique for the PlayStation 2 launch). The employees were very well organized, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Constantly they were wheeling around a coffee cart populated with fresh Starbucks brew, water and other beverages. They had large picnic baskets full of Kashi bars, Nature Valley granola bars, coffee cakes and other breakfast type items. From what I heard from friends around the country, this was the standard fare at every other Apple Store as well. Talk about going above and beyond what would be acceptable for a company to provide to people who would stand in that line regardless. Does Droid do this? :)
Once the store officially opened to a roar of cheering, the line moved fairly quickly. Shortly after 8 I was inside the store with my personal shopping assistant (or whatever the term Apple uses for them). He had previously been helping out with line control and so I was his first customer. He got to start with the difficult problem right away. Since I'm a Premier account holder (read: discount), the basic system that Apple uses at the Apple Store didn't really appreciate my complex account situation. Short of the matter is that when you had to select a mandatory data and message plan, the current txt message plan that I have (a feature code that nets 1500 messages for 7.99) wasn't coming up. After talking with the on-site AT&T rep, we took a chance and selected "No messaging" with the hopes that it wouldn't override my feature code (which is now expired and unable to be added to my account again). No dice, my code was overridden and I lost a really sweet txt message deal.
I was slightly upset but I knew that it was probably going to happen. The alternative was to walk out of the store without the iPhone at all. I completed the transaction, activated the phone, and walked out of the store still thrilled to be a part of the experience and having the latest and greatest piece of communication hardware. I walked out to the car and immediately called the AT&T Premier customer service line and talked with a rep. After doing some digging around, he confirmed that my feature code was removed but he couldn't add it back on, so he escalated the case (although it is estimated to be completed on July 5th). In the mean time, because the 1500 txt messages for $15 was added to my account (basically doubling the cost), and the inconvenience of the difficult activation without asking he credited my account $25 to cover the increased txt message cost for the month and the $18 activation fee moving to the iPhone 4.
Even AT&T got it right today!
All in all, it was fun to be a part of another "cultural event" involving an Apple product. I'll write some more later about the actual iPhone 4 itself. I will say that Steve wasn't kidding around about how good the retina display is. That, alone, is worth the upgrade.