Tumbleweeds outnumber punters, as iPhone's First Night flops
Let me through - I'm a journalist
Journalists and PR minders outnumbered buyers on Friday night as interest in Apple's iPhone miserably failed to live up to the pre-launch hype in the UK.
The iPhone went on sale at stores operated by retail titan Carphone Warehouse, exclusive operator O2, and Apple's own retail chain. The days preceding the launch had been filled with pages of coverage from posh papers and broadsheets alike. O2 announced it was employing 1,400 extra staff to cope with the short-term demand. Even Carphone's PR staff were dispatched to far corners of the land, to provide expert advice to the masses clamouring for iPhones.
But now it looks as if a tight-knit group of media and PR people got caught in a feedback loop. The "event" they imagined simply failed to take place.
The first signs that reality was not following the script came at 7pm, from a Reg reader at Brent Cross. Perched by Wembley on the North Circular, Brent Cross is a shopping hub reaching into millions of affluent punters in Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, as well as the metropolis itself. He noted that the Carphone and O2 stores were empty of punters, with only "the usual" smattering of shoppers at the Apple Store, playing with iPods.
Reader Ian Ferguson fought his way to the front of a non-existent queue at Carphone Warehouse to get his iPhone, he reported in our comments on Friday night. He was outnumbered by extra staff trying to "upsell" him insurance and over-priced accessories.
Up in Manchester, it was safe to go to the pub at 5pm, an hour before "launch" then get soaked in the rain.
An hour later, bored staff outnumbered prospective purchasers as the stores stood empty.
"An average Wednesday afternoon", reported AximSite.
Dial-A-Phone's Nick has a gallery of the non-existent iPhone mania that was failing to break out, here.
RE: Yes the N95 is technically superior
"Sure you have an 18 month contract but then I'm sure a lot of people have 18 month contracts that are around the £35 a month mark"...yes that's £35 for a frankly crap contract thanks to Apple's revenue sharing but I suppose at the end of your 18 month contract you could always go to....erm....O2 again and continue paying the £35 a month until Apple decide they want to move to another provider. Or you could always use your £900 iBrick as a paper-weight or doorstop.
And, it's sorta unlocked!
If you already have an O2 SIM or just want to pop a PayG one in, it's now possible to Jailbreak, upgrade to 1.1.2 (proper) firmware in iTunes, and "activate" (or rather, patch so the phone appears to be activated) so it will work on the network it is locked to - O2 for the UK. Unlike previous (i.e. 2 days ago), this patch process allows full sync/iTunes and is reboot-resilient.
Which brings me to another point about the iPhone, as everyone bleats about "it costs £900!" and what it doesn't have. I am no less irritated by Apple's official route of sales and operation, but when you DO use it, and look at how it behaves, it's a bargain for £269 - especially if you are a Mac user waiting for a workable PDA.
You would struggle to get a PDA with 128MB RAM, 400MHz CPU, 8GB storage, WiFi AND Bluetooth (albeit useless, feature-crippled Bluetooth) for £269. And it would be practically impossible to get it with exceptionally good build quality, the fantastic touch screen, pretty good audio quality (teenagers will love annoying people with the volume it puts out). Added to that, you get a phone built in too!
Industry supply people have estimated the build cost at a couple of hundred dollars in terms of component price. It should, with R&D, taxes and so forth - and profit - taken into accout, be a £399 product - at which stage it would be rather akin to the old HP HX4700 but nowhere near as clunky. And fully Mac compatible.
3G is important; I use it a lot. I think it's meaningless on the iPhone since the iPhone cannot act as a modem or create sufficient content to require that bandwidth to upload it. At least, not yet. The third party apps are Palm-esque in appearance, not the heavyweight Windows Mobile "Pocket Artist" class.
Call quality is good, too. It's actually quite a nice phone.
Essentially the complaints must stem from people who are merely sick of the hype and want to make noise, and people who actually really WANT the iPhone, but cannot justify (and it is very hard to do so) the costs of terminating a contract, taking a mediocre deal from O2, and can see that certain key points in the spec are missing (like 3G) without taking into account that the phone itself is not overpriced per se - it's just that the subsidy model is the wrong way around.
That N95 everyone loves actually costs £364 (street price, retail is higher) and you can add £60 to that to get the 8GB storage. For that you get a lower-resolution screen (smaller, too), arguably lower build quality (and certainly a less pleasant interface), but critically, you get the ability to choose your network and add third-party applications.
If Apple were to make the iPhone "open" and unlocked, you'd still need to buy a contract to get good value data and phone use, so to say the iPhone costs £900 is a bit incorrect unless you intended to use it without any phone functions yet signed up regardless - for which the iPod Touch is a great alternative (and can be hacked to have the better iPhone software with editable contacts and calendars, making it a PDA). What is frustrating is that a clearly excellent device is hamstrung, rather than Apple having produced a poor device in the first place.
If you're prepared to spend 15 minutes or so (plus 1/2 hour of digging around for files and utilities) then the iPhone is a bargain £269 Mac friendly PDA which also conveniently integrates a phone, admittedly still tied to O2 but perfectly able to use a PayG SIM and GPRS data (if you get the cheap O2 contract with the "Web" package, it will use EDGE if available; PayG data is more of a hassle).
And it runs OS X, with all the proper unixy bits underneath. What's not to like? Your phone not only has a shell, it has a keyboard that works well enough to use it!
(Strangely enough, it also works VERY well in the car connected to an iPod-friendly head unit - the smaller memory, or perhaps Flash memory, makes it a lot more responsive than my 80GB iPod on the same device, and if I have a bluetooth headset and don't want to initiate calls, I can leave it in the glovebox and forget it - when a call comes in it pauses the music with a typically Apple "soft" fade instead of a hard pause, and resumes when the call is ended. Again, good call quality, too. And video playback on the device is very good; I've got a couple of converted music videos in iTunes which stutter when played unconverted on my Ameo, yet the iPhone plays them back perfectly).
"However, everyone is comparing the..."
So I will make the same comparison without justification as well.