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Friday, July 11, 2008

Waiting in line for a insanely in-demand product: check

SO I DID IT! And I kinda really only did it because it took no extra effort to do and I always wanted to do it. I am talking about waiting in line and buying the latest iPhone from Apple, iPhone 3G. I went to the Lehigh Valley Apple Retail store to execute my fun. The morning started off sluggish but by around 6:45a Alex was today's early riser. I took him downstairs along with all that I need to head off to the Apple store.

Luckily, Grandmom Salerno (my Grandmom and Alex Great Grandmom) and my Mom are here for the next few days to help out and enjoy twin and Robert time while my wife is in Hawaii. I made my way over the the Apple store via a McDonalds for a coffee and egg McMuffin. I got to the Apple Store by around 7:15a. The line was about 150 people deep by then with the majority having arrived early this morning. The handful at the front of the line started a 6PM on Thursday. Their prized spots in line fetched $100+ before the store even opened.

In line with me was Josh (who didn't end up getting an iPhone), Glen, and a group in from San Diego visiting friends. I took the liberty of downloading and installing the iPhone 2.0 software on my first generation (2G) iPhone last night so was showing off some of the app store. By 7:45 we had our first pep-run from the apple store employees. Also had in-line-served Starbucks coffee from the local Starbucks. Starbucks is always a class act. They also gave out some free water to the line for about the first 2 hours of the opening.

There was no shortage of laptops, iPhone 2Gs and in line upgraders. After the first few waves of iPhone buyers between 0800-1000 eastern the line really began to slow. That's when we first new about the activation woes due to the line's constant following of tech blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo. Myself, I was on and off Twitter reading and posting status alerts. I was one of the early confirmers of the activation issues. Our Apple store manager "Pipe" was a cool fellow and did a great job communicating all the issues and status to the line. He had to "line-inform" from the back mid morning with local press. WFMZ channel 69 was on hand to take some video of the "festivities." It took about 3 seconds for the line to tell her what's going on as opposed to fighting for a never-coming apple employee comment.

Sometime between 1000 and 1100 we all met Phil! Phil was the "line crasher". And by crasher I mean he donted $200 to Josh's pocket and took his spot right in front of me in line. Phil was prepared. With pockets full of the cutest (yes I used that word) Coors light cans he was a guy right out of a Jimmy Buffett concert. Well buzzed and with about 3 hours less of a line he was good to go! WFMZ recorded and broadcast an interview with both Josh and Phil over the line position transaction. Phil was a trip and quite fun to have in line. He did disappear for a good 45 minutes to his car for some food and beers. He kindly offered but I decided to stick with coffee and water.Glen during most of this along with another gentleman and his 14-year old daughter were fighting with their laptops and finishing the activation portion of their iPhone 2G 2.0 software update. The same activation servers that handle the new iPhone 3G's activation also handle the upgrade process for the iPhone 2G 2.0 Software. It was some time we were about 10 people from entering the store that the activation servers came up for them to get their bricked iPhone 2G's working again. The App store is a hit.

The Cali crew were also a trip. There was a short blond in her mid-late 20's along with her brother, a former Marine and his wife. The short blond (I think was Amanda) was a loud chick. She was the mouth of our little group. The most interesting thing I learned in this group is how liked the white iPhone 3G 16GB was. They ate that one up. The Apple Store employees made their rounds in the line with some store demo units. The white one was sharp. I really laughed at it but there are plenty of takers out there for it. Apple Employee Josh sporting the navy blue employee shirt was kind to take our harassment, not answer our privileged info seeking questions and show us some things.

Side by Side the 3G iPhone killed the EDGE 2G iPhone in web page loads. It was a joke. Unless your wifi is connected to a strong cable modem, 3G is a total FTW!! The Google Maps, GPS chip and triangulation were very accurate. I also found the location on the iPhone 2G to have improved vastly from just the 1.1.4 firmware. I specifically asked to hear the speakerphone, my #1 bitch about the first iPhone. Unfortunately his Demo enabled phone had no voice service but a video sounded nice and loud.

Pipe let us know due to the iTunes activation portion of the purchasing process being down, that we would be able to buy our iPhones but would have to complete at home with our iTunes just like last year. To the tech savy group around me that was actually a win. The line crawled at least mentally until our admittance into the store around 12:05.

The in-store buying process was somewhat straight forward. The only AT&T issue MANY of us in line had is that if you got a employee discount on your cell phone plan or your cell phone plan was associated with a discounted account (FAN) such as a school or military discount the Apple POS (point of sale) system would error with and IRU account access error message from AT&T. This required a surprisingly fast call to 611, AT&T removed the FAN, the Apple POS completed the sale in realtime and I was off. The removal of the "discount" from almost everyone's affected AT&T account to complete the Apple sale was a non-issue. Everyone with a iPhone 2G already lost all their discounts last year so it was simply procedural. I will all out AT&T and Apple for an epic FAIL here though. They should have known the numbers of those class of customers going to Apple.

The iTunes/iPhone activation servers came back online around 3PM eastern and my activation process after that point was a non-issue. In my short time with the new HW, the Google Maps tracking with the gps trip was awesome. I used it to take a new road to the Pizza joint My Place. It showed me as I drove along Newburg Rd, E. Main and then finally onto Broad St. As I drove up Broad the "beating" blue dot tagged along and was only about 1/4 block behind my movement. Given this small test, I could see a turn by turn gps app for sure!

Given all of the events of today iPhone related for me is was a big success. For Apple/AT&T some of the activation woes signal EPIC FAIL in my book until about 3PM when they got their act together. All in All it should have gone smoother and Apple / AT&T should take some shit for that. For me, this was a great experience and I am very glad that I took the time to "enjoy" the line and buy a launch day iPhone 3G.