Picking up the IPhone 3G - My Purchase Experience

I was one of the million reported purchasers of the iPhone v2 (aka iPhone 3g) that was released on July 11th. I am going to be reviewing the iPhone after a bit, but there are some obvious first impressions that I wanted to share.

Day 1 Purchasing Strategy:

It is silly that I even had to think about how to purchase an iPhone. Apple and Nintendo (re: the Wii) seem to have cornered the market on making it hard to buy their products. We al know the reasons, but it is still annoying. Making it scarce does not make me want to spend more or buy more iPhones. I was interested before and I cannot imagine someone would be more interested if its harder to get one.

On the first day it was released, I went to the AT&T store thinking I would have a better chance at getting the iPhone. I was way wrong. I was about 50th in line and they only had about 25 or 30 iPhones in all. They were out after 45 minutes. I decided to scour the web sites and twitter to see how others were faring. It seemed that all of AT&T stores only have a handful of the iPhones in stock were very common. Many people were complaining about waiting in line for hours and finding out that they were not going to get one.

The news at the Apple stores was much different. Most Apple stores seemed to have a lot of inventory. Enough in fact that many stores that opened at 8am were still selling iPhones by 8pm or later that night. The Apple store in Tampa, FL was open til almost 11pm and the store in Brandon, FL was sold out around 8pm. The inventory at those stores was higher, but the activation process was very slow, causing it to take 30 minutes or so for some people just to get out of the store. The Apple employees at these stores told me the lines were taking about 4 hours to get through most of the day. Kudos to the Apple store employees, though, for their great attitude and friendliness. walked up and down the lines and offered water and Starbucks coffee to those waiting for hours.

A Better Purchasing Strategy:

I decided that I would go to the Brandon mall Apple store on the second day, 1 hour before it opened. I was shocked that I was the first in line (some people arrived at the stores several hours early the previous day). Unfortunately, the web page inventory for that store never updated on Apple’s site the night before so there were none in stock. I was very bummed out as were the people behind me in line. However we were told a new shipment might come in later in the day and if we stick around in the store they would tell us when they came in. it was a Saturday and I did not mind waiting since I was looking at buying a Mac Book anyway, so I stuck around.

While I waited I met several of the Apple store employees at the Brandon mall. They were all very polite, friendly, and helpful. I could not believe how friendly they all were, especially after dealing with a long day the day before with thousands of people, many of whom were tired and upset towards the end of the night. It might have been the best customer service I have ever received at a retail store overall.

By 11am the iPhones had come in (I got there at 8am and the store opened at 9am). It was not a bad wait because the first hour I talked to many of the other people in line and the next 2 hours I played with the Apple products and surfed the web in their store. The phones came in and I got 2 8GB ones for me and my wife. They only received a small handful however and sold out within 15 minutes or so. So we got very lucky.

The Best Purchasing Strategy:

If you do not need the phone now, and who really does, if you wait a few days or a few weeks once the furor dies down a bit and supply catches up, it will be much easier to get an iPhone. Plus right now the 16GB iPhones are harder to find as they seem to fly off the shelves first. When you do get one, be sure to bring your driver’s license, credit card, and old account number and password from your former carrier (if switching carriers). This will speed things up if you roll your number over.

My wife …

… wanted nothing to do with the iPhone. She knows I am a gadget freak and figured there was no reason to get this new gadget since her RAZR worked fine. She was going to take my Motorola Q and use it for texting. I convinced her to get one and told her there is a 14 day return policy so she gave it a try. She loves the phone now. She downloaded some apps like Sudoku, I set up her email, used Mobile Me to sync her contacts and calendar. She loves hitting YouTube, using the maps, and all of the other cool features. So far its a big hit with her. Downside for her are the big battery drain and the small web browser. Not much we can do about the web browser, its just the nature of a small screen. Yeah we can zoom in but its still not easy on some site to get around. In the end she is loving the new phone.

And I …

… decided to return the 8GB model I bought on Saturday and pick up the 16GB model. I had 2 reasons: (1) I put a lot of videos on my iPod and the 16GB made more sense and (2) the black iPod shows a lot of smudges while the white one hides them better (The 8GB only comes in black).

Again, I got very lucky … I went to the Tampa mall because it is much larger and has more inventory. There were lines on Wednesday (6th day after launch) of over 2 hours. The way the line was moving, I expected to be there for over 3 hours, though. I decided to try the Brandon mall again. There was a small line of about 5 people but no phones yet. I decided to wait for 1 hour at most. In about 15 minutes they got in some phones so my wait paid off. This time they had the 16GB models so I returned my 8GB black for a 16GB white. Easy process, wiped my old phone, and when I got home I restored my backup of the first iPhone to the new one. No hitches at all.

Overall the Apple employees at both stores were just awesome. It was like being at Disney World … if you have ever been there and stayed at their hotels you know what I mean. They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.

My First Impressions .....

... of the iPhone are good and bad. Mostly good ... but there are some issues that I am disappointed in. I promise to do a full review in a week or so once I get through more of the features thoroughly. The App Store itself is awesome. Its not limited to the new iPhone though, so I will leave that out of this. I will say that the App Store needs a trial service. There should be some way to try the app out before buying it.


  • Battery life is terrible. I can't even get through a single day of usage without it dying. If you use any of the 3G, GPS, Locations services, push email, or even fetch email at tighter intervals, the battery just drains tremendously. The Apple web site offer that you can save battery life by shutting of these features and not using the apps from the app store. Um ... yeah, and if I do that then why even buy this thing? Then its just a phone and I should have just stuck with my RAZR. Apple could have made a removable battery or a larger one. I just don't believe they couldn't have since so many other phones with features like this can exceed it. 20 demerits for Apple.
  • If you have any accessories like a iPod integrated car hookup, it may no longer work. I had ipod integration installed in my car and it works great with my iPod Touch. It plays it (video and audio) through my car stereo screen and shows the menus. It also charges the Touch. But when I hook the iPhone in, it plays everything but it will not charge it. That just sucks. I know the reasons, but come on, I shelled out some good cash for that system and it just sucks. 10 demerits to Apple!


  • App Store is awesome. You get this with the old iPhone and the Touch, so this is not a pro for the iPhone 3g. However what is a pro are the cool apps that you can use with the iPhone that are better with 3G. For example, location services and other features that use data transfer are faster on 3G (twitterific, brightkite, and so on too).
  • 3G is awesome. Its not new, but its new to Apple's iPhone. I do a lot of data transfer on my devices and EDGE was just horrible for me.
  • MobileMe ... its not as stupid as I thought originally. This app allows people like me without an Exchange server to store contacts and calendars on a server and synch them between computers and your iPhone and back. Its very nice. I have over 1000 contacts and I often change them on the phone or one of a few PCs. This is a nice app. Keep in mind that is push almost instantly from the server to your phone and back, but with your PC it can take 15 minutes or so. Its a noted issue they are having and they have since sent emails to customers saying they are working on making it truly push, but for now they are sorry and adding 1 extra free month to everyone's service.

Other stuff ...

  • I'm not thrilled that the back is now plastic instead of metal. I cover mine with a silicone case so it matters less to me, but bare naked the iPod gets scratched very easily. I have seen several brand new ones marked up within the first hour!
  • Some apps cause crashes on the iPhone. Man, that really sucks when you get a new gadget and it crashes on you. I had 3 crashes so far and 1 that caused a restore from a backup. (This was on my first 8GB model). I am convinced it was the apps and not the phone, but still ... someone has to test these apps better.


I'll be going through more in depth review of the product later, of some apps, and of some accessories for it. But these were just some initial impressions and sales experiences.

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Hi, I'm John Papa. I author this blog, create courses for Pluralsight and am a Google Developer Expert and Microsoft Regional Director. I travel speaking at events and train technology thought leaders