Steve Jobs owes me nearly two hours of my life back. Or at least he would do if I wasn't so chuffed with the iPhone that finally became mine after a bum-achingly long period propped on stool in an Apple Store yesterday.
Actually blaming Jobs or even Apple is probably unfair, as short of building their own 3G infrastructure, and fabricating a time machine to go back and bid for a spectrum license, there was no way to avoid having to work with one of the mobile operators.
I've been lucky enough to have a free work mobile for the last five years so had forgotten what an interminable process signing up for a mobile contract is. Actually not just that - even before you get to that stage, the shiveringly dull task of getting your head around all the purposefully obtuse minutes, talk-time and other bunkum terminology employed by the mobile operators is enough to kill a bull elephant stone dead from sheer exasperation.
But I digress, the specific torture I had to endure to become an iPhonista, was wallowing through the 02 registration and sign-up process in the Apple Store. If you have been following the hoopla surrounding the launch, you'll know that Apple was forced to run a virtualised version of Windows on all its in-store Macs in order to integrate with 02's sign-up software - which is web-enabled - but unfortunately only for IE - a platform Apple and Microsoft have chosen to abandon on the Mac. (I am not sure where the motivation came from for that - probably apathy rather than anything approaching strategy).
Having been on the receiving end of this dastardly 02 application, I really wish Apple hadn't bothered jumping through those technical hoops. I am not sure what the alternative would have been but it surely would have been better than the barrage of banalities I was forced to sit through. After having to dictate my email and address no less than three times to the Apple salesperson, things went from frustrating to farcical.
As I hadn't been in my present or previous address for long enough, the 02 system demanded that I pay a £100 deposit to be paid back to deductions from my next three months bills. ( I opted for the 8G, £35 month tariff which meant the handset still cost me £99). This meant the Apple man, or boy in this instance, phoning up the 02 call centre on his iPhone in the middle of the Apple Store, and shouting out my card details to the presumable ex-artilleryman now gainfully employed by O2. The card was declined, so we repeated the process again with Apple boy now shouting my credit card details across the Apple store trying to make himself heard over the lunchtime throng of teens and bored office workers. The second card was declined - despite me pointing out that there was nothing wrong with either card and the fault probably lay in the perfect storm of Apple Store circus noise, crap phone reception and possibly brain-dead 02 call centre drone.
We tried again with another 02 drone and finally cleared the deposit hurdle. Great, the finishing line in sight, I started to relax. Only to face another barrage of online forms, insurance questions and no end of bar-code scans and cross-referencing of codes. Honestly, my last mortgage application was infinitely easier than this, in fact I bet the last space shuttle launch was a darn site was less fail-safes and cross-checks
The process did finally come to an end, not as I feared with me slamming the nearest piece of designer IT onto Apple-boy's coiffured head, but with the appearance of a natty little black cardboard box with a silver apple log on either end and the familiar icon-strewn surface of the iPhone embossed on its lid. I should have told them where to stick the box and marched out of there, a consumer who will not be messed with, but I was weak. They had me at "just take a seat on this uncomfortable stool please sir".
But I can honestly say that having spent two days with the pocket Mac now - calling it a phone is like calling a Sabre-tooth tiger a cat, technically accurate but dangerously misleading - I don't regret my bout of meek consumerism one bit. Forget all that you have read about 3G connectivity, Outlook integration, video-playback - using the iPhone makes you smile. My first train ride and serious play and I was literally grinning to myself like a chimp in a banana factory. Looking around at the other commuters toying with their Crackberrys and other so-called smartphones, they might have well have been using 1980's brick-phones complete with batteries in a handy suitcase.
And anyway, I did manage to salvage some consumer pride out of the whole affair -- 10 percent off the carrying case - which was a snip at just £25. Proof, if proof is needed of how good the iPhone is, is that I don't even that bit of daylight robbery. However I do have a bloody good idea where Apple should direct its flair for simple and elegant user interfaces next and it's not a consumer gadget, a registration application for mobile operators that doesn't make the client want to commit suicide five minutes in would be a start.