Despite my reservations about AT&T, which were well founded and widely documented, I did go to the AT&T store at 38th Street in Tacoma, Washington, yesterday to buy an iPhone. Several "spectacular" features of this launch deserve mention.
The hardware iPhone: Spectacular.and OS integration is spectacular. Matthew Miller covers many of the basic impressions I have, as well. I'll just add:
Hardware performance. Except for some delays when loading a Web page and you click the Home button, the UI is fast. There is no slow transition from one screen to the next. iPod functionality doesn't interfere with system performance and running applications while playing music or video doesn't create any stutter in audio or video playback.
Durability. The system is satisfyingly heavy in the hand, rigid and, I believe, durable. Buttons seem solid. I have some concern about the Home button, both because it feels slightly softer than I'd expect and due to my beard and the oils from my hands and face already on the screen. This is, however, a phone you can put in your pocket and not worry about. Your front pocket. Don't sit on it. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points some durability tests on video.
OS and applications. I don't like that I can't seem to reearrange the applications in the three main rows on the home page, but overall, this is the best PDA, best phone and best iPod I've ever owned. It delivers on the promises of the EO Personal Communicator, the Newton (particularly the wireless Motorola Marco version of the Newton), General Magic and other forward-looking PDA/network integration projects that failed. The practical applications, such as calendar, Google Maps, contacts and so forth, are better than the Palm OS ever delivered. Simple things like the Trash animation are delightful and smooth. There's no waiting for this phone to handle computational tasks.
One negative. I am getting interference from the iPhone on a wired telephone, which I've never had happen before. This needs to be investigated further.
Then, there is the spectacular quality of the launch. I expected long lines in places like New York and San Francisco, but not on a strip mall in Tacoma, Washington. At least 80 people were in line. I assume most were buying the phone for their own use, but perhaps some were hoping for a killing on eBay. When this kind of crowd turns up at this location, something significant has happened to the the industry.
The fact a rainbow appeared over the store as the doors opened was eerie. But Steve Jobs didn't descend from on high, so no one got a free phone. But, even if he had, Steve would have sold phones, not given them away....
Finally, my prediction that AT&T was the weak link in the chain did prove true. With people waiting 24 hours ore more to get their numbers ported from other carriers, there is room for frustration. Fortunately, you can do other things with the phone while waiting to get your first call.
I didn't have that problem, as I got a new number from AT&T. The credit card POS system at the AT&T store I was at failed to process my signature, but otherwise the sign-up, both online and in the store, was smooth. There were at least 50 8GB phones at the Tacoma store, contrary to the experience of people at other AT&T locations, where only a few of the high-end iPhones were in stock. AT&T botched its inventory management, turning people into lines of disappointed people at many locations, while Apple stores were well stocked.
The question is, can you use an iPhone without AT&T? I think the answer is yes, but we're waiting for the VoIP hack to make it happen.