iPhone 3G: The Unexpurgated Arrival-Day FAQ

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Dollars and Sense

What will I pay for the iPhone 3G? No offense, but that depends on who you are. If you are a current iPhone owner in good standing with AT&T -- you've paid your monthly bill on time -- the price tags are $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for the 16GB.

Not an AT&T customer, but new to the iPhone? You're in like Flynn: You also qualify for the $199 and $299 prices.

But if you're an AT&T customer now and using another phone, you might have to fork over as much as $399 or $499 for an 8GB or 16GB phone, respectively. Depending.

Depending on what? On your status with AT&T.

"Eligibility for the upgrade discount typically involves a number of factors, including how long you have been in your current service agreement, your payment history, for example, prompt payment of bills, and more," AT&T spokesman Wes Warnock said last week. "In general, you are more likely to qualify if you are at or near the end of your current service agreement and pay your wireless bills promptly."

Typically, consumers must fulfill their contract -- two years is the general rule in the U.S. -- before they're eligible to get a subsidized phone or purchase one at the subsidized price. In other words, AT&T's not breaking new ground here.

Current AT&T customers can determine their eligibility for the iPhone 3G's discounted prices online by logging in to their wireless account.

Will there be a line Friday? Does Steve Jobs like black turtlenecks? Although lines have already formed in some places and there will undoubtedly be crowds at some stores, especially larger stores in major metro areas, the buzz, noisy though it has been, is nothing like last year.

How's that for a non-answer?

We asked Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at JupiterResearch, this very question, and his answer beat ours by a mile. "I think we'll see lines, particularly at the larger Apple stores, like the one on 5th Avenue [in New York]. Will the line go around the block five times, like last year? No. It'll only go around the block twice."

Another analyst, Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research Inc., was a bit more cynical. "Sure, there will be lines, but that has nothing to do with the product," said Gottheil. "Some people just seem to like to stand in line with other people who stand in line."

How long will it take to get an iPhone, what with the in-store activation? Apple says no more than 15 minutes in its stores, while AT&T has pegged the time at 12-15 minutes in its outlets, not counting the time spent standing in line.

We'll see if that plays out. Anyone who has shopped for a mobile phone, even during slow hours, knows that the wait can drag on longer than that, with all the paper to shuffle, the phone to test and the like. Some, like JupiterResearch's Gartenberg, are optimistic that the 15-minute range will be on the mark. "Apple and AT&T have clearly had time to think about this," he said, referring to the in-store activation requirement, and will have staff in place -- hopefully, trained staff -- to speed up the process.

Apple's retail chief, Ron Johnson, told Bloomberg yesterday that the company's stores will handle about 30 customers at a time. No word from AT&T on its crowd management plans.

What do I bring with me to the store? To get out of the store with an iPhone 3G, you'll need a credit card to pay for the phone, and your Social Security number and photo ID for the credit check that's part of the process. (The credit check is something AT&T requires prior to signing up a subscriber.) Apple's also said you'll need your current mobile phone number and password or PIN if you want to transfer that number to your new iPhone.

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