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iPhone 3G Sold Out in Moscow, Idaho

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 11, 2008 11:50 AM PT

Even though the sun is up at 5:30 a.m., it's darn cold when you're waiting for an iPhone 3G in the shade of the AT&T store in Moscow, Idaho.

iPhone 3G Sold Out in Moscow, Idaho

I should have worn pants, not cargo shorts. Still, I had the forethought to snag a chocolate chip cookie from the kitchen before I left the house, but by the time I started eating it, it was already hard from the early morning chill.

The store was set to open at 8 a.m. and if early reports were true, it only had 40 iPhone 3Gs in stock. By the time I got there, I was 15th in line -- several of those ahead of me had camped out the night before, snuggled into sleeping bags. Most everyone had a lawn chair.

Lucky for all of us, there was a Starbucks next door. Even if we weren't drinking coffee, the puzzled looks from the Starbucks regulars was almost worth standing in line for. By 6:30 a.m. the line had grown to 50; by 8 a.m. it was approaching 70. I don't think anyone had the heart to tell the stragglers they'd have to wait a few days to get their iPhone 3Gs shipped in.

Too Bad for Them!

Apple's iPhone 3G has been dominating the news for months. How could they not know there would be big lines? The iPhone 3G not only has AT&T's much faster 3G service for quicker Internet usage; it also sports built-in GPS, which is its second biggest new feature. The other new features -- better audio, a better headphone port, and a little less weight -- aren't exactly compelling enough to inspire an upgrade. The new software -- 2.0 -- is now available for original iPhones, so those phones can take advantage of the Apple's new App Store, which is packed with well over 500 iPhone applications already (125 of them are free). Better enterprise support and security are also part of the 2.0 software, as well as connectivity with Apple's new .Mac replacement, MobileMe. So really, why was I standing in line, wasting a couple hours of my life?

I seriously considered bagging it and heading home. I could wait a few days, right? Mow the lawn, maybe hit the river with a cooler of cold ones and kick back in a lawn chair with my feet in hot sand and my face in the sun ...

I'm dedicated to my craft, though, so I stuck it out -- I needed the new iPhone 3G in hand so I could write about it. And, oh yeah, to keep me from getting lost. The GPS is a killer feature. I'm hoping to put it to good use this summer. It's close to the only reason I decided to upgrade -- and the fact that I should be able to sell my old iPhone for a decent price.

This Year the Line Is Bigger but Faster

The guy in front of me was set to become a brand-new iPhone owner and AT&T customer. I told him a story about the launch of the first iPhone and standing in line at the AT&T kiosk in the middle of the mall. That line was much smaller, but what was really irritating about it was the new AT&T customers who mulled over AT&T's service plans, wasting time and trying to figure out which phone they should buy for their spouses on their secondary lines of service.

"Just pick a plan!" I said. "You can change it later!"

Most of the men and women in front of me for the new iPhone 3G, however, already had original iPhones, so they were simply upgrading to the new 3G version. Interestingly, the guy behind me had just bought his second iPhone in March -- the first went to his wife (who dropped it often and broke the screen in several places) and he was still eligible for the US$199/$299 upgrade pricing despite the March purchase date.

A little after 7 a.m., AT&T employees came outside with some fliers to try to up-sell new lines of service. One guy held up a Jawbone Bluetooth Headset. "Hey everyone," he shouted. "In Washington they have a new law against using a cell phone while driving without a hands-free headset -- and I'd hate to see anyone get pulled over on their way home while they're using their new iPhone. If you buy a Bluetooth headset, I'll let you see the new iPhone 3G right now," he announced, then hastily added, "Oh, you can't touch it -- but you can look at it."

The crowd erupted in laughter.

New Kid in Town: 3G Service

I'm in the Pacific Northwest, and 3G service from AT&T has been spotty at best in the West. I mean, we still have fields and trees in between our cities and towns, so I didn't believe I'd even be able to use 3G in Moscow. I checked the coverage map last week and called to confirm it, and -- wahoo! -- we've got 3G coverage. The guy next to me said his friend saw it come online when his phone automatically switched from EDGE to 3G.

So AT&T's claims of broadening its coverage area are apparently no exaggeration, at least not here.

Problems in Paradise

Once I was allowed into AT&T's swanky new store, I was whisked over to a checkout area and started the new purchase quickly and efficiently. It didn't take long, however, to learn that the mandatory in-store activation wasn't working.

"Take the iPhone home and activate it via iTunes on your computer," the AT&T rep told me. "The servers are down here, probably from all the activity," he said.

I took it home, and two hours later, I still wasn't able to connect the new iPhone 3G to the iTunes Store for activation. Searching the Web and Apple's own support forums, it's clear that both Apple's servers and possibly AT&T's servers have either crashed or have been crawling under the weight of a million or so activations.

This launch, for Apple at least, is worldwide, so it must be massively more difficult than before. Still, I was hoping for something as smooth as last year's activation system, which simply had the user activate everything from home.

Wait!

As I'm typing this, my new iPhone just came up live with 3G service and and the familiar home screen, complete with the new App Store icon ... uh, gotta go!


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