June 19, 2009

iPhone 3GS Day

I call this: mac,phones — Posted by KP @ 5:39 am

4:32AM (Yawn) Good morning! Almost time to go! Jean-Alfred will be picking me up at 4:40. I’m not really tired, but I had no idea what my alarm was doing going off at 3:30.

4:58AM We timed it well. One guy arrived about 10 seconds ahead of us. We’re 2nd & 3rd in line.
After a couple minutes we’re up to about 6 people. The security guard is letting us wait in the vestibule cause it’s raining. The doors will open at 6:00.

5:20AM I don’t think you can tell from the picture but they’ve set up some velvet ropes outside the store.

5:40AM We are in the mall now and in front of the store. A friendly Apple employee is chatting us up. He has the new phone to do all their sales stuff. Here’s a picture of the compass. He said there’s 400-something reservations here!

The current topic of conversation is the Palm Pre. People surprised they went with a plastic screen.
The view from my spot in line:

As has been reported elsewhere, there are two lines — one for reservations and one not. I’m glad we’re at the front since we don’t have reservations and there are over 400 people who do. I heard a rumor that they will pull people from each line in turn (I believe 3 reservations to every 1 non-reserved). No idea if this is true though.

Many more employees showing up, wishing us good morning as they pass.

6:20AM Lost you there for a while. Man this WordPress client sucks. Had to delete and reinstall.

They came around serving coffee a little while ago. The line is now getting substantial. It hasn’t gone outside the ropes yet. Jean-Alfred is estimating about 40 people.

Apple employees inside look like they’re having a meeting.

The giant iPhone in the window next to us is showing demos of the software, including MMS. Ummm. Are they trying to antagonize AT&T, or too lazy to have multiple videos for different regions?

6:37AM Employees still meeting. Nothing much is new. The line has only grown a little bit.

6:50AM. Meeting over. Employees manning battle stations. We may be going soon!

Manager heard asking employees if they’re ready.

Looks like they may just be waiting on the clock.

Employees look as restless as we are!

And we’re going!!!

Because they are taking more reserved, I’m the 1st person who didn’t get immediately to a salesperson.

Being helped. The guy went to get it.

Having problems with upgrade pricing. On hold with AT&T. I think Jean-Alfred is done. Looks like he went for the white one.

No he’s done with purchase, now has to activate (he’s switching from Verizon).

Jean-Alfred is done, now waiting for me! Still on hold after at least 20 minutes.

Apple Store still unable to reach AT&T in excess of 45 minutes.

The plan now is I pay full price and can return the phone within 30 days if they establish that I paid too much. Just waiting for my original salesguy to be free. Employees here are great, keeping those of us at the problem desk in a good mood. I feel bad for them being on hold with AT&T all day.

8:55AM I’m home now with my new phone. Sorry I couldn’t update, but once my phone switched over, I didn’t have all my apps on it yet (and didn’t want to bother downloading them). Setting up the phone now.

Jean-Alfred tried to take a picture of me leaving the store with my phone, but he took a video instead. It cracks me up, so I will share that.

9:20AM Looks like the Apple servers are having some problems (maybe AT&T’s). My phone restored, but doesn’t seem able to register. iTunes is hanging at “Connecting to iTunes Store.” It restored my icon placement and bookmarks on the springboard, but hasn’t restored any of my apps or music. I hope it’s not a repeat of last year where I had to wait hours for my phone to be able to sync. I hate that they make it so that you can’t accomplish anything with the phone until it’s registered. Oh, it just gave up with an error message. Now it looks like it’s letting me sync anyway.

Oh, P.S. at the store they also were pushing a 30% discount on MobileMe when you buy the phone. Good deal. Jean-Alfred signed up for it, and I bought it as well, since I can apply that to my existing subscription, basically giving me a discount on my next year.

To elaborate on what my problem with AT&T was…
A while back I checked my eligibility for an upgrade, and the Apple and AT&T sites were showing only the option to pay $699 full price without a contract extension. I emailed AT&T customer service about this, and it was explained that if I signed a new 2-year contract I could get it for $499. Well when I went to buy the phone of course that option does not come up. As I said, the customer care guy was on hold with AT&T for an hour before I left, and none of the store employees had successfully gotten a call through to an AT&T rep since sales began. So they couldn’t straighten it out, but I bought the phone for full price, with the promise that I could return it within 30 days if I later was able to establish that I was wrongly charged, and then re-purchase it for the lower price. So I have just sent an email to my AT&T person, asking if there’s something wrong with my account file that needs to be corrected to allow the sale to go through. As I said at the Apple Store, I’m starting to believe she may have just pulled that story out of her ass, since none of the Apple Store employees knew anything about the policy either.

10:20AM Done syncing for the moment. I think maybe the speaker is just a touch louder when playing music. I’m listening to the same song on both phones side-by-side. The 3GS just sounds a little “fuller” somehow. Entirely possible it’s my imagination.

I’m still not able to access the App Store. Also my MobileMe SMTP server isn’t working. Incoming mail seems fine. Hardly surprising, I’m just really frustrated that no decent push-enabled apps have shown up in the store yet, and I want to see if more have been approved!

I may go back to bed now. I need to be still awake and calling a show in about 12 hours, and that just ain’t gonna happen! Maybe the server traffic will be better when I get up.

4:00PMI slept for a couple hours. By the time I got back up, OS 3.0 jailbreak is available for the 3G. Did that. All is well and the 3G works fine with the 3GS’s SIM card. Not sure what AT&T thinks of that. I’m sure they have some problem with me using the SIM card for the phone I paid $700 for in the phone I paid $500 for, for which service I pay $100/month. Those couple KB of data must really be causing some irreparable harm to their business because I used a different but almost-identical piece of hardware to consume it. I’ll be cautious with my data usage until some time passes and there are no horror stories from other people.

Also, I got a response to my email from a different rep at AT&T saying my problem is being forwarded to a “specialty group” and I will be contacted within one business day for more follow-up.

UPDATE: Just a couple hours later, somebody from AT&T called me, which I appreciate. Turns out I’m actually NOT eligible and the customer service lady who originally handled my inquiry, in her “extensive review” of my account seems to have neglected to check that I was eligible before telling me I was eligible. Well the good news is that it will all come out in the wash next year, as by paying $200 extra this time, I will be eligible for $400 off the next model.

I haven’t touched on this now because unless one wants to do complex testing, it’s kind of hard to objectively test speed. But lest you think the phone is not faster, let me just say it is. It’s snappy. I also noticed a speed boost with 3.0 on my 3G, but I wasn’t sure if that was simply because I was using a non-jailbroken firmware. Jailbreaking adds some background processes, so a legit firmware always runs a little faster anyway. Which is why I hope AT&T gets their tethering plan together quickly so I will never need to jailbreak again.

But with the 3GS, there is a definite speed improvement above and beyond the performance of the 3G. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to upgrade. Annoying splash screens on apps that almost made me want to delete them are now gone in just a second or two. The camera takes pictures faster, everything just kind of zips along. To me even a couple seconds’ difference is a huge advantage in usability, because I will now make decisions differently. If I only have a couple seconds to take a picture or jot a note to myself, I may now bother to do so where before I would have thought I wouldn’t have time.

I can’t wait to play with the camera more. I think this is the best thing about the phone for me. I take a lot of pictures, in situations where a phone camera is not really the best choice. Almost all the photos in this blog in the last 9 months or so were taken with my 3G iPhone, as well as my entire Flickr photostream. One of my Flickr photos of the St. Louis arch was even chosen to be published in an online travel guide. I have been very impressed with the ability of the iPhone to take decent pictures and upload them instantly and with GPS coordinates to various places on the web. I think it has changed the rules of casual photography, especially for bloggers. The 3G does pretty well for a phone camera, but I think the 3GS will close the gap between phone and real camera even more. When I’m someplace more interesting than my apartment I’ll start taking some pics for a later post.

Important Tip!
gpsI was about to write a strongly worded post about how the Maps app doesn’t show the direction you’re facing to take advantage of the new compass, but TUAW has a post explaining all. You just have to hit the location button twice to toggle it on, and then you can spin around and the map will rotate so that the direction you’re facing is always “up” on the map. As someone who is frequently away from home and in unfamiliar places, this may be the greatest feature ever. I feel like a character in a video game now.