iPhone 3G: The Unexpurgated Arrival-Day FAQ

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Hurry Up and Wait?

I'm going to wait a day or two to buy. Is there a way to tell whether a store has stock before I spend my grocery money on gas? Apple will fire up its inventory tool -- which it used last year with the first-gen iPhone and then earlier this year after the launch of the MacBook Air -- so you can check online before you leave the house.

The availability tool will be here and will reflect next-day's status after 9 p.m. local time for the store you're checking.

AT&T doesn't have anything similar and, in fact, explicitly says that just because a store pops up on the locator doesn't mean it has iPhones in stock. "To make sure iPhone is at the store closest to you, call that store's number," AT&T said.

How do I transfer the names and messages and my other data in my old iPhone to the new one? iTunes is your best friend here.

Apple posted a support document last week that spells out the steps you'll need to take to move information from an old iPhone to the one you're buying. The short version: Sync the original iPhone to iTunes -- you'll need iTunes 7.7, the just-released version to complete the process -- then connect the iPhone 3G to the same computer and sync that from iTunes.

AT&T, meanwhile, offers tips on how to transfer data on non-iPhone phones, whether they're associated with a current AT&T account or not (download PDF). According to that document, AT&T will even transfer contacts from a non-AT&T phone to a new iPhone at an AT&T retail store.

What do I do with my old iPhone? If the words "toss it" bring on a flashback to the $600 you plunked down a year ago, don't sweat it: You can pass along the old iPhone to a family member or friend.

Apple's provided some help here, reminding users that they should delete all their existing information from the old iPhone -- after transferring it, of course, to a new model -- by tapping "Settings>General>Reset>Erase all Content and Settings>Erase iPhone."

AT&T's advice is a little more detailed -- not a surprise, really, since it wants that old iPhone to stay in business as a cell phone. If you give the old iPhone to someone who is already an AT&T customer, they can simply take the SIM card from their old phone and stick it in the iPhone, then activate using iTunes, as early adopters did when they bought the first-gen model.

People new to AT&T will have to head to an AT&T store for a SIM card that they can insert into the old iPhone.

Of course, if you transfer your number to your new iPhone 3G and don't want to give away the old one, you can use it as a pseudo-iPod Touch for surfing via Wi-Fi hot spots and your home wireless network, taking and viewing photos and playing tunes.

Throw me a bone here: Isn't there something for those of us who have a first-generation iPhone but don't want to blow another $200 on a new one? You get iPhone 2.0, the long-awaited upgrade to the iPhone's software, or firmware. iPhone 2.0 adds two important capabilities. First, it lets you download and install third-party applications from Apple's online App Store, which debuted -- sort of -- on Thursday.

Second, the firmware update also allows for sync with corporate Exchange mail servers, and for consumers, provides the iPhone-side tools for connecting with MobileMe, Apple's revamped online service that now offers push e-mail, push scheduling and push contacts. Before you grab the 2.0 update, install iTunes 7.7; that's needed to download App Store applications to your Mac or PC. Then, plug in your iPhone, fire up iTunes, click on it under Devices, and click the Summary tab. Click "Check for Update."

Be prepared to wait if your broadband connection is on the slower side: The iPhone 2.0 update weighs in at 225MB.

Should I buy a new iPhone 3G? It's your call, of course. But the early reviews -- in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today -- were somewhat dismissive, mostly talking up only the faster connection speeds of AT&T's 3G network.

JupiterResearch's Gartenberg agreed, to a point. "The iPhone is a revolutionary product that's going through an evolutionary period," he said. "It's true that the hardware hasn't changed all that much."

But dwelling on the hardware, Gartenberg continued, misses the point. "If you're not talking about the App Store and the introduction of Exchange support and MobileMe, you're missing one of the most important parts of the story."

The App Store, in particular, adds what Gartenberg called a "tremendous functionality" to the iPhone, and makes Apple's device the one to beat and the best around. "Wow," said Gartenberg. "The iPhone is really a software platform."

This story, "iPhone 3G: The Unexpurgated Arrival-Day FAQ" was originally published by Computerworld.

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