Home > iPhone > The Long, Grueling Wait for an Expensive Gadget I Don’t Need But Really Want Is Finally Over

The Long, Grueling Wait for an Expensive Gadget I Don’t Need But Really Want Is Finally Over

July 12th, 2008

Yep, I finally got my hands on an iPhone. I should start by stating that this post is a narrative about getting and setting up the phone, and not a review of the features and usability; that’ll come in my next post.

As I reported a few days ago, SoftBank called me and cheerily arranged for an appointment. They seemed pretty open about when I could do it; they first suggested the 12th, but when I asked for the 11th, they agreed, and even happily changed the times as I became indecisive. As I had several months previously inadvertently scheduled a review class for my students just an hour after the official release date. No biggie; waiting another day would have annoyed me, but waiting a few more hours wouldn’t.

So I held the class and did final work at the office before heading home at about 3:15 pm. And on the way home, ran out of gas. Naturally. I had noticed it as I passed a gas station, but then thought, there’s a cheaper one just ahead, and my remaining gas spurts will take me there. Indeed they did, except for the small detail that the cheaper gas station had shut down, and the closest one after that was a half kilometer ahead–up a steep hill. Great.

By the time I got home, I did not have any time left to walk leisurely over to the SoftBank store, so I hopped on my bike and pedaled over–and therefore arrived nicely drenched in sweat. Fortunately, I had a hand fan and the shirt I was wearing didn’t show it badly. Sachi was waiting for me, and we walked in. In a few moments, we were taken to adjacent service counter stalls and waited on. Apple juice and tea were served, and candies were out on the counter.

Then they brought out the phones, and I noticed that they had the white iPhone for me. I asked if they had a black one, and it turned out they did, so I made the switch. It is exactly for this reason, however, that I strongly prefer seeing what something looks like before I buy it; only after the box was opened and the phone was in my hands did I notice that hand grime shows up rather significantly on the black finish. At least, it seemed that way, but later it turned out my hands were just grimy from all the exertion earlier. But even now, after using it for a while, the idea of the white back would be less of a color distraction than I imagined it to be, and the white surface, while more easily scuffed, would (probably) show hand oil smears a lot less prominently.

No big deal, though–it’s not as if this is a deal-breaker or anything, just a very mild case of color-related buyer’s regret. But that was the biggest disappointment, and not a very big one at that.

A few things about the shopping experience surprised me. First, they didn’t ask for my gaijin card or my passport as they had insisted they would, nor did they make a deal about my visa ending soon. I have no idea why, and didn’t intend to bring up the subject; maybe it was because I presented them with a driver’s license. Perhaps the gaijin card is expected because most foreigners don’t have DLs, and perhaps a license fills a prerequisite for trust that you won’t skip out of the country or something. Whatever.

Another surprise was that you get to choose your phone number with a level of precision greater than I have ever seen before. When I got our current home land-line number, I was not given any choice. Usually they give you two or three numbers to choose from. But with my phone (Sachi ported her old number to the new phone), I was allowed to choose exactly the last four digits. I chose the year of my birth, dead simple to remember, and more likely to be open than popular four-digit codes. And sure enough, the gal returned with three or four different prefixes I could use. One of them had a very nice sequence–3693–and so I chose that. Very nice; I will remember this number instantly, whereas I still don’t remember the PHS number I have used for the past ten years.

The last surprise was that they did not activate the iPhone in-store; they simply installed the SIM and told us to activate it when we got home. Probably this had to do with the fact that their instruction papers sucked and they didn’t want to deal with it in the store, I don’t know. Whatever the case, we would have only bricked iPhones that told us to connect the USB cable to a computer until we got home.

As it was past five p.m. when we left the store–the whole process took an hour and fifteen minutes–Sachi and I were looking to eat dinner soon, but figured we’d activate the phones first. So when we got home, I set out to do exactly that. There were a few hiccups involving the iTunes Store and our apparent location (Japan or the U.S.), but the activation part was easy enough–just connect and before you get to the iTunes Store, you receive an SMS message telling you that your phone number is active.

O-IphonesLet me depart from my narrative here and give a quick set of impressions. From the rather shoddy-looking artwork to the right, you can see the difference between my new iPhone and my old PHS. Sorry for the poor image, but it’s late and I’ve been too busy to really work up a nice graphic. The iPhone is a lot wider and flatter than a standard cell phone; it comes across as solid and slick. Of course, all I have to compare it with is my 5-year-old piece of crap PHS, next to which it appears almost magical.

I had been warned that the phone could slip out of my hands, but after handling it, I just don’t see it happening, unless my hands were so wet I wouldn’t want to touch the phone anyway. But one warning was more true than I thought: the thing smudges like a sonuvagun. I find myself wiping it a lot; I will either get used to the smudges, or I’ll get used to the wiping. Minor inconvenience. The Home button clicks nicely, and the volume and off switches are easy enough to use, but I have yet to figure out how to make the ring/vibrate button work. The touchscreen takes a bit of getting used to, and Sachi has been having a hard time with her nails being long–we’ll have to pick her up a stylus and right quick. I’ve had little trouble, although the “o” key on the virtual keyboard is hard to get–it always ends up as a “p.” I’ll give a more extensive review of the phone in my next post, as promised.

So Sachi and I played with them for a few minutes before heading out, and the obvious first choice was to use the Maps feature to see what restaurants were nearby. Sachi wanted Italian, and when we searched, we found one virtually across the street from our building, well-rated and relatively low-priced ($55 for us both), and as it turned out, the food was great. Sitting next to us was a group of four Japanese businessmen, and although I was not following the conversation, I could not help but overhear them talking about the iPhone more than once. I had to resist the urge to whip out mine and show it to them–Sachi expressly forbade me, and I’m not even sure I would have had the guts to anyway–but it was a big temptation nonetheless.

It was after we got back home that the real sussing out began. I should have foreseen that there would be difficulties, as I remember my sister having some trouble figuring things out. Complicating matters was the fact that Sachi was impatiently asking me about stuff every few minutes as she tried to work out her iPhone, and seemed miffed that I didn’t know all the answers. It’s hard enough to figure out setup processes for any device, even an Apple machine, without having to set your own machine down and work out what someone else has been doing when you were not paying attention, and then untangle their knots. Sachi was anxious to get email going so her friends could stay in touch.

We spent about an hour updating our Address Books; Sachi had to retype hers by hand, whereas I had to join and then pare down the two disparate address books from my desktop and laptop Macs, deleting the duplicates and updating numbers and addresses that had been neglected. Then we tried to sync, but hit a snag: Sachi’s phone had not yet been registered, and it won’t sync until we could get it registered–but it turned out that the iTunes Store, which you need to have an account with to register, was down from the huge surge of traffic. Sachi wouldn’t seem to accept this and kept expecting me to do something–the perils of being useful most of the time.

We occupied ourselves with testing and learning the other features of the phone, had fun with SMS, and learned a bit more about the settings and basic features. We also learned about how much SoftBank was unprepared when we tried to establish our SoftBank email accounts–they didn’t exactly work well.

I had already registered my phone, so it was syncing–and it synced all of my Mail.app email accounts (about a dozen of them). I had trouble figuring out exactly how it had handled each. Most didn’t seem to be working, but I think that’s more because they just didn’t get any mail, and so seemed inactive. There was trouble figuring out which account was being used to send what, what accounts worked, and so forth.

Sachi grew ever more impatient that we could not get SoftBank’s email to work, so I created a GMail account for her and got it working both in Mail.app and on her iPhone. She was pleased when the Mail.app version worked with her address book and we could do a mass mailing to all of her friends. Soon after that, we finally got her new iTunes account to work, and all was better, at least nominally in terms of functionality.

So from now, we’ll probably spend the weekend figuring things out. I will likely spend a horrific amount of time on hold with SoftBank’s service people as we try to figure out what’s wrong with their email service, and might even wait on hold with Apple to figure out a few other things. But already it’s been a lot of fun.

More details in the next post. Forgive me for not reviewing and editing this post as I usually do.

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  1. July 12th, 2008 at 03:36 | #1

    …I have yet to figure out how to make the ring/vibrate button work.

    If it’s like the 2G iPhone, it’s not button, but a switch which moves forward and back.

  2. Luis
    July 12th, 2008 at 04:18 | #2

    Aha! Makes sense, now that I see it. But not naturally intuitive. Thanks!!

  3. Paul
    July 12th, 2008 at 12:13 | #3

    Here in the US, they originally planned to do the full activation of the phones in the stores… because they’re sold with a reduced price if you agree to the two-year-with-AT&T deal. In other words, they want to be sure you really activated the damn thing on AT&T. (When you consider the dollar’s reduced value, it makes sense; they don’t want people buying them at a subsidized price and them immediately shipping them out of the country.)

    But thanks to some server-side snags, they were telling people to just go home and do the setup (or finish the setup) there. I would imagine that Apple has been working furiously all day to solve the server issues.

    It’s surprising, because with the original iPhone, setup was an absolute breeze; I not only did it new but ported over my phone number from a different carrier, and the iPhone was fully functional within about 90 minutes (immediately after doing the wizard I could place calls, but not recieve them- that took a bit for my phone number to get over to AT&T from Verizon.)

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