Let the iPhone Bashing Begin

The hype cycle often looks like a sine wave. Starting out, everything is on the rise. At its height, though, there's nowhere to go but down. So it is with the much-hyped iPhone, the center of the tech world's attention for the past few weeks. Now, that the first shipment has been sold -- over a half million flying off the shelves of Apple Stores and AT&T Phone Centers this weekend -- comes the inevitable second-guessing, the technical glitches, and the sticker shock. The Associated Press today prominently leads with a report on new owners experiencing trouble activating their iPhones. Of course, unless you can activate the device, you're stuck with a handsome paperweight -- costing US $500 to $600.

Representatives from AT&T told the AP that the widespread problem is due to server overload over the weekend, as nearly a half million new customers all tried to do the same thing at the same time, open an iPhone account. The telephone giant's reps said today that it was making technical adjustments to its activation system so that new subscribers wouldn't face the same delays.

"We are working on any issues on an individual basis with customers who were impacted," Michael Coe, a spokesperson for AT&T, told the AP.

Reuters carried a similar story yesterday. While most new users gushed about the merits of the new device, some were not thrilled about the delays in getting their iPhones to work. "It's a real buzz kill," said Brad Bargman of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who waited nine hours on Friday to buy his unit. "Now I'm soured on it a little bit."

And the technophiles at C|Net offered praise and caution together in their comprehensive technical review of the new smart phone. They note that the "iPhone has variable call quality and lacks some basic features found in many cell phones, including stereo Bluetooth support and 3G compatibility. Integrated memory is stingy for an iPod, and you have to sync the iPhone to manage music content."

However, their reviewers' final word is largely positive:

Despite some important missing features, a slow data network, and call quality that doesn't always deliver, the Apple iPhone sets a new benchmark for an integrated cell phone and MP3 player.

So, as usual, the ultimate judges will be individual consumers who are shelling out top dollar for an unproven device with plenty of potential but just now taking its first baby steps in the real world, where things don't always work the way they're expected to. Give Apple credit for putting together a clever, sophisticated handheld in version 1.0, but don't be surprised when you hear a little moaning coming from the ranks of anxious early adopters who were expecting a little more for their money.

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