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The iPhone arrives.

July 5, 2007

The big day has come and gone, and now it seems that as many as 700,000 people have one of these things in their possession.  That makes it the biggest debut of a phone ever, and ranks it up there, hype and all, with the biggest consumer electronics roll-out ever.  That’s pretty impressive, and it’s only just begun.  Many of the people who say they would like an iPhone are either stuck in contracts with carriers other than AT&T, or are wisely waiting for the next generation, which will be better and cheaper. It’s actually quite awe-inspiring to consider that 3 days after  the thing was made available, one in every 300 or so Americans was holding it in their hands. Considering it costs more than $500, that’s a lot of people.

I don’t think the full impact of this product has been understood at this point. Truth is, it’s not a phone.  This is a hand-held computer, and while there have been hand-held computers around before, the bar has been raised.  This one has a full version of OSX running on it, and really is meant for full-scale web-browsing. As is the case with so many Apple products, the user-interface is a big step forward, and the critics seem to be hard-pressed to be critical.  The touch-screen interface (there are no buttons on this thing), the automatic rotation of the screen, the high quality of the images, and the usual variety of convenient features has meant that other producers of cell-phones had begun copying aspects of it before it was even made available.  Of course, it’s also a beautiful object, and people seem to want to possess one.

The real genius of all of this may very well be in the marketing. Apple managed to keep a large number of people on the edge of their seats for six months while the iPhone was being developed and going through approvals. An entire industry revolved around speculating about the product, and Apple let out little bits of info as the time approached (it will have a glass screen, its battery will last 8 hours … all things which were certainly known many months ago), and only allowed four phones to get out to reviewers ahead of time (who were sworn to secrecy).  Then, of course, on roll-out day they dramatically closed all Apple and AT&T stores, so that the phones could be delivered, and then re-opened so that the folks who had been lining up for days could swarm in and pay their $500.  The only thing that critics could think of to say was that perhaps Apple had not managed to sell out of the phones … of course, that would have been a very Playstation kind of thing to do … so, if it turns out not to be a revolutionary piece of consumer electronics (and it may very well be), the iPhone will most certainly be noted as one of the great marketing achievements of all time.

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