Monday, August 6

Activating an iPhone in Australia, and first impressions

Can't believe it's taken me so long to commit this to the blog, but here's my iPhone story...

Good friend Ben Keighran very kindly stood in line several times at Apple Stores across the Bay Area to finally snag me an 8Gb iPhone at the end of July. For the man in the midst of securing a Series A finance round from a big Valley VC firm, setting up offices in the US for the first time and recruiting an exec team, this was no small time penalty for him, and I thank you again, Ben!

Then Wyatt Zoi, a relative of a Bluepulse staffer, very kindly agreed to schlep the iPhone home to Sydney for me a week later. Wyatt and I had never met before, so we agreed that I'd meet him at the arrivals gate with a sign with an iPhone on it, so he could recognise me.

So there I was, at 8am on a Sunday morning, only one day back in Sydney myself after trekking in the Himalayas, and half-dead from the 'flu. But I had a big colour laminated sign with an iPhone on it, and for every arriving traveller who assumed I was insane, there were two who looked at me and grinned, figuring out for themselves why I was there and what the sign was about.

Excuse me, would you be the man bringing my iPreciousss?
Waiting at the airport with my custom iPhone sign so Wyatt could recognise me.

Wyatt, Bearer of the iPrecioussss
Wyatt, bearer of the iPreciousss, grinning at my lunacy.

iPhone, out of the Apple bag
Transferring the iPreciousss from Wyatt to me. Fortunately, he was immune to its power, and I didn't have to gnaw it from his cold, dead fingers like you'd have to do to take it off me at this point.

Got the iPrecious!
I have the iPreciousss! See how its magical powers are making the reflective panels on my backpack glow with a spectral silver light? (OK, that could be the flash I guess).

At home at last. The box is so small! How does Steve cram so much geeky goodness into such a tiny box?

Alec points to indicate how awesome the iPreciousss is
The unpack experience is a whole new level of geeky deliciousness. It looks so fantastic in the box it's a shame to take it out. I felt like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone.

Sadly, I had heaps to do when I got home - friends coming around for a party, food to prepare, garden to prep, beer to chill - so I really didn't get to play with the iPhone until 48 hours later, which nearly killed me.

iPreciousss! pre activation
It already had some charge when unpacked, but I had to leave it here for the rest of the day while I entertained friends. Curse them!

Getting the iPhone activated in Australia wasn't too bad, once I found iActivator, a gui app that puts it all together and even gives you an interface so you don't need to use command line. Step-by-step instructions and a download here.

However, I found I kept getting an error message on the final activation step. So if you try this at home kids, make sure you (1) use Activity Monitor to quit iTunes Helper as well as iTunes before you begin; and (2) make sure you launch iTunes again before doing the activation step in iActivator. Then it should work like a charm.

Update: thanks to Steve Fenech over at the Daily Telegraph for the heads-up on iNdependence, another new GUI activator app. Haven't tried it yet, but worth a try.

iPhone? Nah, but awesome as the first PDA/Video iPod
It's an extraordinary device. The presentation when I took it out of the box made me feel like I was stealing something from the cold, dead hands of an alien astronaut from the remains of his ship, or removing the sword from the stone that would make me King of all England!

So many things have been well thought through in the industrial design. I love the resolution and brightness of the screen most of all, and the way the necessary external buttons are tactile, but really low profile so they don't distract from the beautiful shape at all. I love that there's absolutely no gap or difference in height between the chrome metal casing and the glass, god knows what the failure rate must be at that point of assembly.

The touch interface and supplied apps obviously have some more evolution to do but hell, this is version 1.0 people! I can't believe how polished it all is for version 1.0.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if I can get this iPhone to work with my .au SIM card at some stage, but if I can't, I'll be happy to have this as my main iPod until the .au iPhone is released.

Since it's not 3G and I can't run my own Java apps on it, use a cut-down fast mobile-specific browser like Opera Mini or even install a custom ringtone, it's not much of a phone, and so I've decided I don't actually miss that functionality a whole lot. And the camera in my SE K800i phone craps all over the iPhone's camera.

But as an iPod, I'm totally comfortable with what it cost to buy - it pwns the rest of the iPod family. I can't believe Apple wouldn't make this the interface for all future video iPods.

If I was Apple was rebrand and restructure iTunes. It's way more "iSync" now than "iSync" is, and obviously "Tunes" doesn't really reflect everything it now manages. The interface stiller flects playlist management, and that's only part of it now.

I'd rebuild iTunes from scratch, since some of the core may still be third-party stuff they acquired to get iTunes built in a hurry. It's still mentioned in the copyright notices for the product so I'm guessing it's still in there.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if I can get this iPhone to work with my .au SIM card at some stage, but if I can't, I'll be happy to have this as my main iPod until the .au iPhone is released.

Tell me, have you played with any third-party apps yet? Has anyone you know tried to reskin theirs? (like, why? but still, some people have!)

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