As an Apple follower, I am starting to feel a seasonal instinct towards waiting in line for iPhones during the first part of summer. This must be what it is like to be a Swallow heading back to San Juan Capistrano.
I snuck in late on the first day of the original iPhone launch and got one in about 25 minutes. Last year, instead of waiting in line on the first day, I waited until things cooled down. A buddy at the Apple Store called me a week later when the line was only a few minutes long. I hopped in on my lunch break and was out with time to grab a sandwich.
This year, I am hoping to forgo the lines altogether. Apple, AT&T, and most importantly, Best Buy are all taking pre-orders, though everyone but Apple has already run out of their pre-stock inventory. Strangely, Walmart hasn't even alerted its customers that a new iPhone is being launched. The point is that there are many more places where you can now pick up an iPhone.
With so many more distribution points, my feeling is that the lines will be shorter. Also, Apple and AT&T have had a few practice runs at this so there shouldn't be too much activation time. At both previous launches there have been activation glitches which slowed down the process (and soured the experience for many people).
Oh, and you might have heard something about AT&T's stiff pricing guidelines for current iPhone owners. If you are a current iPhone owner, the price you pay for an iPhone 3G S, drops significantly on the anniversary of your purchase. While this may infuriate some people, it does space out buying patterns a little, assuming not everyone bought their iPhone 3G during the opening week.
On the other hand, some of that initial cost can be covered by selling your current iPhone. On Ebay, people are getting $300-$500 for their soon-to-be older models. For many, that will all but eliminate the barrier to entry.
Finally, we know Steve Jobs is heading back to the helm at Apple and we've been hearing all of these wild reports about how he's been on his couch testing a media pad tablet that will eventually go onto Verizon's network.
I am also appalled by AT&T's 3G network coverage of New York and the surrounding areas and the cost of their iPhone plans. I'd feel like a bit of a sucker if I ran to the store and signed up for another two years on the first day of availability.
Perhaps it is a good idea to wait and see what develops on that front. I can go a few weeks without a video camera and a compass built into my iPhone, or rather a video camera sanctioned by Apple.
This story, "iPhone 3G S Launch: Cut the Lines" was originally published by Computerworld.