iPhone 3G makes Brett a legend

Matthew JC. Powell
11 July, 2008
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Brett Howell did not intend to be the first person in Australia to purchase an iPhone 3G. He didn’t want to become an instant celebrity, mentioned on blogs the world over. He just wanted a phone. But such is the power of the so-called “Jesus Phone” that its fame touches everyone with whom it comes into contact, whether they want it to or not.

Howell reports that a “friend” told him he’d heard there were 50 or so people already waiting outside the Optus “Yes” Store in George Street, Sydney, yesterday at lunchtime. A short while later the reported crowd had grown to over 80. With supplies of the iPhone rumoured to be scarce, if Brett wanted to have any hope of getting one, he’d better get there fast.

He got there at 1:15pm. He was the first person there. The second person to show up didn’t arrive until half an hour later.

Where were the 50 people? The 80? They were in the same place as the rumoured scarcity of iPhones — the land of fantasy, rumour and speculation. But, since he’d arrived, he may as well stay.

By the time the “Yes” Store opened its doors at midnight-ish, there were few in the Sydney media who had not interviewed him, taken his photo, and asked his opinion on the merits of Apple’s new device. (Unsurprisingly, he thought it looked pretty good.)

Of course by then he was hardly alone in the queue. By 10:30pm the line had 200 people in it, and by 11:30 the queue stretched nearly the whole way around the block. Optus staff provided bright yellow scarves to protect their customers against the nippy Sydney night, as well as pizza, doughnuts and coffee.

As the Store opened, Brett was invited to cut a ceremonial yellow ribbon before proceeding in to buy the phone he’d waited 12 hours (and 12 months) to buy. The media throng followed him closely, in a scene reminiscent of a paparazzi frenzy around Britney Spears (though it seems most likely Howell was wearing underwear).

The cameras followed him into the store and watched every agonising minute of the 20 or so it took to get his iPhone activated (his six-year-old SIM needed replacing, which prolonged the process). Then as he left the shop the cameras still followed. And there were more waiting on the street, lights flashing, microphones poised.

And all he wanted was a phone. Plus, by that stage, some sleep.

The media attention, coffee, food and warm woollens lavished upon customers at the Optus Store were in stark contrast to the scene up the road at the Apple Store, where by midnight about a dozen people had assembled with sleeping bags, unheralded. With no hope of being the first to own iPhones, they just wanted to be sure of an opportunity to buy one on the day of release — numbers being so very limited, we’re told reliably.

But wait, there’s more. Believe it or not, the iPhone 3G was not the only new thing happening last night. iTunes 7.7, required for synchronising data between your iPhone and desktop computer, is also available for download. The App Store, by which applications can be bought and installed on your iPhone, has gone live. And MobileMe, the replacement fore .Mac that lets you back up your vital data between iPhone and Mac, has also made its debut. Oh yeah, and also you can now get the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade for your old iPhone or iPod touch.

It was a busy night for Apple’s customers.

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