After a long, unsuccessful day of trying yesterday, I headed back out this morning at 7:45 to try once more to secure an iPhone 3G. I got to the Bay Street shopping center in Emeryville, CA around 8 or so, and there was already a long line at the Apple Store - my best estimate had me staring at a 3 or 4 hour wait, minimum. Then I remembered that there's also an AT&T retail outlet in that mall. So I walked down there and found only a dozen or so people lined up outside. The store wasn't scheduled to open until 10 AM, but an AT&T rep had apparently told the people in line that he had about 60 iPhones to sell. So I took my place at the end of the line and waited.
90 minutes later I had my iPhone. Phew. The process was quick and easy once I got into the store - AT&T had me pick my service plan, and they activated my new phone number but didn't actually open up the packaging and activate my phone. That part I did via iTunes on my home computer just now (Apple's servers seem to be back to normal after yesterday's mega iFail).
So how is iPhone 3G? Uh ... it's good. Seriously, it's quite nice. The black glossy plastic back panel looks and feels good, though I wonder how quickly it'll scratch up, and the flush mounted headphone jack is a long overdue improvement from the recessed version on the original. Apple no longer includes a dock in the packaging, but the new USB AC charger is much smaller than the first-gen version, which should make travellers happy.
The big news here, obviously, is 3G and the App Store. I just finished activating the device and immediately started browsing through the 500+ applications already available on the App Store. This is going to be huge, I think - Apple knows design and marketing, and while Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Symbian users have been installing 3rd party apps forever, the mainstream public has not. Apple has this way of making people think they've reinvented the wheel, and they do so in large part by way of slick design and ease of use.
Purchasing/downloading and installing an iPhone app is the same easy process as buying music or movies from the iTunes store, and people are already familiar with it. But now instead of being able to hear the new Fleet Foxes album they can extend the functionality of their phone into true mobile computer land. It's nothing new, but it's looks all shiny and new thanks to Apple's second-to-none knowledge of manipulating consumer's mindset.
That said, I'm psyched to delve in and see what this baby can do. Much, much more to come, so stay tuned.