Summary:

I’m sitting on a fold-out chair in the middle of a very crowded Apple store, watching the elephants dance and trying hard not to get stomped…

imageI’m sitting on a fold-out chair in the middle of a very crowded Apple store, watching the elephants dance and trying hard not to get stomped. Given that AT&T (NYSE: T) and Apple have had a year to get this right, the number of elements that can go wrong is close to startling. Then again, people are still lined up nearly four hours after the store opened, eager to own Apple’s latest even if the jury is still out on greatest. We were in line for about an hour to acquire a 16G white model for my partner but knew we would get a phone because we had the very important line card; we’ve spent more than that actually getting the sale through — hence the folding chairs.

Wannabe buyers peeled off as Apple reps went down the line doing a pre-qualification to screen out problems like corporate accounts — can only buy at AT&T, discounts in a previous AT&T life — ditto. (Some people are still waiting for activation after what was supposed to be a 72-hour delay that started on launch day.) After all that, our process wound up in trouble because, of all things, we had push to talk on the phone number being ported over and, of course, that’s not supported by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). Instead of a message that said that feature won’t work anymore, we got an inexplicable error that took a half-hour to resolve. (Irony, we were going to switch that phone and feature to another number but we’ll follow AT&T’s lead and save the money.) Then, just when we were through the whole process, turned out someone matched the ticket with the wrong model and we have to go through at least part of it again. Our salesman is working hard to make it right … but nearly three hours into it, Ed’s not experiencing that iPhone magic yet. More after that happens.

Guest reviewer Ed Kohn chimes in: After a noisy, jangly and lengthy process, we finally left with the very sleek white model — and a $25 gift card to ease the pain. I’m finding the switch to the 3G iPhone from my Nokia (NYSE: NOK) clamshell model to be easier and more intuitive than I’d anticipated. I started with the easy stuff — finding the virtual “keypad” and placing a phone call. (Naturally, I called the home answering machine.) I put that number into the phone’s directory. Moving all of the phone numbers to the iPhone from the Nokia just will have wait for another day — in another sign of the chasm between the two companies, the Apple store says they must send people to AT&T to copy numbers from an existing AT&T phone to the new one. I moved on to more important tasks, such as finding material on the Web and reading it. I downloaded the iTunes software from Apple, let it search my hard drive and set up the music library, and, after some errors that kept me out of the iTunes store, began to pick and choose from among the screens of freeware (apps from the New York Times (NYSE: NYT), Bloomberg and so forth). The syncing was almost flawless and the music quality played through the speaker was surprisingly good. Two glitches: it wasn’t clear which boxes had to be checked to sync music and when I ran into a problem with the NYT app, deleted it, downloaded again and started to sync, all of my new apps were uninstalled. Luckily, it only took a few steps to correct. The battery indicator still reads fully charged. We’ll see how that goes.

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