June 28, 2007 in Business

Spokane on the fringes of iPhone hype

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Local consumers may get their hands on Apple’s much-anticipated mobile phone Friday evening.

But unlike its ubiquitous cousin the iPod, the iPhone won’t be on sale at big box stores or most electronics shops. Would-be purchasers are limited to buying online or visiting four Spokane and Hayden AT&T retail locations when the phone debuts at 6 p.m.

While people in New York already have waited in line for days to ensure they get one of the devices, which combine the MP3 and video features of iPods with Internet-browsing capabilities, local iPhone enthusiasts may be willing to wait a little longer.

“If I don’t need it right now, I can hold off,” said 24-year-old Kevin Edwards of Spokane.

Edwards, his father and two brothers all want the phones, Edwards said, but he plans to wait a few months for Apple to work out any bugs. While Edwards thinks the iPhone’s price — $499 for a 4-gigabyte model or $599 for 8 gigabytes — is a little steep, it’s a “revolutionary new product.

“It does everything a computer does, and more,” he said.

Area AT&T stores will be fully staffed and will close temporarily Friday at 4:30 p.m. and reopen at 6 p.m., said Chad Disney, Eastern Washington marketing director for the company. Customers should anticipate longer wait times through the weekend and plan to come before the release if they are interested in other products, according to a recorded message at the Hayden location, located just off U.S. Highway 95.

“We are anticipating some crowds, just with the excitement around the product,” said Disney, who’s based in Spokane. “The hype of the release has definitely been out there for quite awhile.”

AT&T’s personal service plans will cost $59.99 to $99.99 per month.

Spokane resident Gloria Wood, 60, said she plans to buy one from Apple’s Internet store and activate it from her home computer using Apple’s iTunes audio player. Activation requires an Internet connection, iTunes Store account or credit card, a Social Security number and a recent operating system.

Users will need to sign a two-year contract with AT&T. Both Edwards and Wood said they plan to switch from other carriers.

People looking to leave an existing contract, which can carry hefty fees, to get an iPhone can try services like Celltrade, www.celltradeusa.com, which links contract sellers with buyers for a $19.99 registration fee.

While Mac Odyssey, a Spokane store specializing in Apple products, won’t sell iPhones, it intends to sell accessories, said employee Chris Sherwood. The release will increase visibility for the shop, he said.

Sherwood contended the iPhone’s operating system, not its touch screen, is its defining feature. The system will better handle the Internet and will allow more options for future software development, he said.

Sherwood predicted that most stores would sell out within a week, then have limited availability for as much as a few weeks before new stock arrives.

“This thing isn’t going to follow the normal distribution patterns that other Apple products have,” he said. “There’s a lot of demand for immediate access to it.”

The iPhone’s capabilities could replace a laptop for business, said Wood, who also anticipates using the iPhone’s “Virtual Voicemail” to listen to messages in the order of her choosing.

“I love Apple products; they’re beautiful,” she said. “I like the beautifulness of it. It’s a beautiful piece of technology.”

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