The missed opportunity of… a lifetime?

June 30, 2007

Yesterday, my brother-in-law and his gf came up to spend the day in Boca, eating some crazy portabella burgers that we cooked up ala the directions of Rachel Ray and watching the Godfather with me after D left for work. The movie, immensely satisfying as always, finished up at around 6:15 and we started in on the second phase of our plan for June 29, 2007: go to the Apple store located in Town Center Mall and watch the craziness break loose. To our shock, what we found was minimal craziness, and instead a short, fast-moving line to be allowed into inner sanctum of iPhone. At first, only T wanted to do this and his gf and I busied ourselves with finding a restroom. When we got back, he was still inside and not answering his own regular phone, so when we got fed up with waiting and enticed enough by the little iPhone promo video they were showing, we queued up and were very shortly standing with our hands on display iPhones. That is when I fell in love. No suspense here–I did not drag out the credit card and fork over my 600 oysters for it, but part of me really wishes I had. Of course the joke would really have been on me, seeing as in my new unwired state of existence I don’t even have the Internet connection at home that it would take to activate it. Oh well. Next time.

For starters, apparently a lot of people didn’t get them last night, even after standing in line for hours. Our eyewitness in Miami said that lines stretched out of sight and that there were reports they had run out in all the non-Apple vendor stores. The NYT mentioned something about them being sold out in NYC and a couple of other places. Yet in Boca, iPhones walked out the door at a calm but steady pace. There didn’t appear to be any mad rush when we were there, and we could have easily marched ourselves up to the counter and gotten them. When I realized about an hour later just how coveted an item I had passed up buying on the first day of its existence, I was nearly drunk with the thought. There I was, so close I could touch. It’s a good thing I was pretty sure the line would have picked up, or I might seriously have gone back and gotten one. And this morning, when D’s phone rang at about 8am, I realized that I had been woken straight outu of a dream about iPhones and all I wanted to do was get to the mall and see if they had any left. I do have the money, if you count that thing called my savings account, and heck, didn’t I just cancel my trip to ALA? That would have run at least 500, easy. I had felt so close to magic last night, waving my fingers across its shimmering face and calling up the Lost season 3 finale, emailing Daniel, reading stories about the release of the iPhone on the iPhone itself. I wanted the magic back.

I’m not usually the kind of person to be overcome by such base materialistic urges, and I will admit that in my more cynical mode I can see the iPhone for what it surely is: one of the most beautiful, ingenious consumption-enabling devices yet created. You can shop the Gap online while you’re checking out sales at the store–and it won’t look like some funky text-based shadow website, it will look exactly like you’re used to see it at home. I’m guessing that movie and tv episode downloads from iTunes will shoot through the roof now that people will be able to buy and watch them at will, whenever they need to kill time.

I (and I know this isn’t very original, I’m just completely bowled over by my own response to touching the iPhone) also think that it’s a lot more than that, because just read that last sentence: with an iPhone, you will be able to download tv in your hands, wherever you are, whenever. (For a much more thoughtful and well-researched take on this holy grail called mobile Internet, see Farhad Manjoo’s discussion on Salon, which I didn’t really care to read when I was not an iPhone believer but now am hungry for.) You won’t just be able to do it, it will be easy, with no additional skills required. (I’m speaking in possibilities, ignoring the apparently valid criticisms that right now the network is running way to slow for that to be much, because the point is it is now kind of possible, and I remember when using the Internet to look up Shakespeare plays was kind of possible. I gave up the first time I tried because our dial-up downloaded the page way too slowly, but that problem obviously went away, and quickly. It was two years tops before connections got fast enough to live with after that.) It’s not perfect yet, but someone has gone and put Internet as we know it into our walking around hands. It might not seem like a big deal when you think about it, but I can tell you that when you have it in your hands it is a huge deal. The amount of dependence people feel on their Blackberries is going to be nothing compared to the way people will begin to mesh cells with their iPhones. Quick example: post-iPhone, Veronica Mars would never need to go home and do her sleuthing in front of even a laptop screen. She would just whip out her iPhone and go to town. Sitting in front of a computer for recreation is going to come to an end. Why would you? Once you’ve got the thumb keyboarding skills nailed, you’ll be all set. That alone will change our culture of information. I can also see the end of journalism as we know it (your move is looking better all the time, LCB!). As soon as a video is online, it will be in your hands. You will not need to wait to go home and open up Firefox. It will be in your hands–you will see the raw footage before anyone has even had a chance to write the notes for a story. Sure, we’ll still want the paper of record, but we won’t need it the same way. News, everything will travel faster. People like this guy bitching about the battery in the NYT are just plain missing the point: the iPhone is part of the future. Technical details will be ironed out later. This is a leap towards the way that we will come to live. You can get on the wagon now, or get on later, but the world around you will already be there.

And I was there to see it start 🙂

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