Getting an iPhone 3G in Australia has been a long wait with a wonderful surprise at the end. Like so many things Steve Jobs has done in 30 years of innovation, there’s a strange combination of secrecy and publicity surrounding every launch. It was that way with the Macintosh in January 1984. It was remarkably similar last year with the US launch of the iPhone. Anticipated, much speculated in the press, almost no pre-launch PR from Apple. A huge frenzy of pent-up demand among the customers.
I decided against standing in line on the night before the iPhone 3G became generally available in 20-odd countries around the world. July in Melbourne can be a wintry time at the best. The night of July 10/11 was particularly cold, windy and damp. As it turned out, that was a good decision. Systems melted down on July 11 with the rush and there were delays in all 3 of the Australian carriers offering iPhone 3G. Some phones couldn’t be activated for many hours after purchase. Apparently, this happened all over the world.
I did go into a telco retail shop in downtown Melbourne on the following Saturday morning. It was a very circumspect affair. We were 2 of the 8 people waiting for the door to open at 9am. When we got to the shop 5-10 minutes beforehand, there were only 4. We were immediately served by a nice young lady who explained that the day before there had been system difficulties. She tried to manage my expectations down to a level she could easily deliver to, but I was impatient and persistent. I had waited for an iPhone for 4 years.
Eventually, after a couple of attempts, my number was ported from a competing telco and my iPhone 3G was activated. I selected a few accessories from the very limited range in the shop and went to the point-of-sale. We were out of the shop in about 2 hours very relieved that I had a functioning device and service. The combination of excitement, frustration and satisfaction was intense and unfamiliar. I can’t remember getting that emotional about a technology toy in many, many years.
After a short drive home, I got all the accessories unboxed and plugged in. I then proceeded to register the phone through iTunes, buy some music and apps and subscribe to MobileMe – Apple’s re-branded .Mac service to do push email, calendar, contacts and cloud-storage. It was absolutely simple and straight-forward. Everything was done in a few minutes without looking at a manual or touching a customer support service. Satiated and hungry, we went out for lunch.
We drove up into the country for a Saturday night in a Manor house near the mountains. The 3G service from the dominant telco in Australia performed flawlessly. The iPhone 3G on this network ran at full speed in all the locations we stayed at – including a ski-resort on the Sunday. At no place along the way did I ever lose signal entirely (no mean feat for a network that’s only a year or two old). I managed to use 1GB of data traffic within the first 24 hrs and most of that was in the bush. The GPS + 3G location finder found me in a bedroom in a manor house in the country on the weekend as easily as it did in my living room at home yesterday.
Facebook and The New York Times were the first two applications I used heavily. I downloaded the Facebook app thru iTunes on my work (Windows XP) PC connected to my home broadband. I did the NYT app over the air in the country on the 3G network. Both recognised me as an existing Internet customer of some years instantly and almost without intervention. I was posting mobile photo-blogs within minutes. The resolution of the iPhone screen (160 dpi) makes reading the paper a dream. I even found out how do to a screen-shot yesterday:
Since the weekend, I’ve been filling out the content. More music, video, podcasts and audiobooks. More mail & contacts in MobileMe from the various email services I use – Lotus Notes at work, Google gmail, Yahoo mail, MSN LiveMail, email from my local broadband provider. Getting the relationships between services right and functional has been rather more straight-forward than I’d imagined. There’s even a pre-announcement from IBM’s Lotus group about a forthcoming product for Apple’s iPhone.
There’s a ton of free Wi-Fi hotspots around that the phone recognises. Getting my home Wi-Fi network in order proved to be a much bigger challenge than I’d imagined. Someone from the telco will be coming to fix that next Monday. It seems that my PayTV, home phone, home broadband and now home wireless network – all from the same company – need some special attention to all work together. Good thing they’re not charging me for that remediation service. That would be something to complain about.
I’m waiting for my next phone bill with some trepidation. I’m sure I’ve been a heavier user of the 3G service this month than I plan to be over time. No Wi-Fi at home will do that. After the home & work Wi-Fi issues are sorted out, I’m sure I’ll be as satisfied economically as I am functionally. I never thought a phone could have so much of a computer in it, despite all my time in the industry. Undoubtedly, my next step (excuse the pun) will be to the SDK to write my first app. But that’ll be another post.
The game has been changed. The device you carry in your pocket has now become the phone, email, browser, blogger, social-networking and location-service device. No other device seems to have captured the public imagination like Apple’s iPhone. The iPhone 3G is a wonderful upgrade to a wonderful concept. Sure, the camera could be better – but I already have a really good (12 MP) camera. Sure it could do videos, but my other camera does that just fine. Sure there’s always more to do, but I figure they’ll get around to that in successive releases, For me, I’m delighted.