Sunday, September 22, 2013
A crooked path to an upgrade
When the first phone came out, I was traveling on the day of the release. I had some time in the afternoon and stopped by an Apple store in the city I was in and saw it was virtually impossible to get in the line. I flew back home and went by an AT&T store right when they were closing. (Literally the manager of the store was locking the door.) I asked him if he had any phones left and he said no. But he did say if I came by right when they opened they would have a new supply. I came in right at the opening and got my first phone (which is still in use as an alarm clock!) I have purchased every version of the phone and about three versions ago discovered that I could sell my prior version(s) for cash. So that is what I will do with my remaining 4S.
On the second version I was in Pasadena and actually got in line and spent a full day waiting to get a phone. It was an interesting opportunity to speak to all the other people in line about why they would wait in line. At one point I was a minor celebrity because I asked a kid who had just graduated from college why he would wait all this time and he said he liked the technology AND he had bought the original one because a guy named DRTAXSACTO had written a post responding to a Wharton professor who had argued that the phone was too expensive to sell well. When I pointed out that I was DRTAXSACTO a couple of people actually said "wow."
About the third version, they allowed you to order the phone in advance and avoid the lines - so since then that is what I've done. But on this round I screwed up. I got on the Apple site at midnight and I checked that I wanted a Black phone and 64 gig but mis-checked the carrier and so ordered the wrong phone. When I rechecked it Friday morning I found I was going to get a T-Mobile phone and so cancelled the order. I then reordered the right phone and saw that my delivery time moved from the end of September to the middle of October. I fretted about it for the morning and then decided to go by the AT&T store (the same one where I had been lucky on the first phone) and see if they had any units left. Apple stores get the most phones but cellular carriers have a fair supply. I went in about 2 PM and found they had one left - the sales person said a "Black, 64 Gig model" - I said that was what I wanted and got it.
AT&T has a new program called NEXT which allows you to in essence lease the phone (in the case of the 64 gig phone) for $37 per month but at the end of one year you can get a new phone. At the end of 20 months you own the phone (so the retail price is $740). I decided to do that. For the last several years I have had two phones and eventually want to get down to one. The cost of having two phones means that one of your phones is out of contract about the time the new phone comes out but you pay for an extra line and the cap cost is about half of what a phone would cost retail without a contract. We'll see if this new plan is a good idea.
After having the phone for two days I have two comments. First, the new phone's major feature is the fingerprint lock - which is handy and as Walt Mossberg said in his review -
works very well. This is one of those interim releases so while the outside is a bit nicer than the existing iPhone 5 and the chipset is better - I have not had a real chance to run the phone through its paces. But all of the reviews have been positive. It is hard to separate the new features of iOS 7 from the new phone. iOS 7 is likely to build stickiness in the Apple ecosystem.
The second issue is sales. On Friday I confirmed that the 5S was selling better than the 5C but as the sales person told me - since the 5C could have been preordered that is not surprising. The store I was in sold out and evidently the 32 gig model is the most popular and the gold phone sold out first. I like the new colors of the black phone. Hard sales numbers have not been released. There has been a lot of speculation (and depending on whether you are an Apple supporter or not the numbers vary) about initial sales. As I have said several times I suspect the need to upgrade phones constantly is reaching a smaller and smaller number of users (witness the underwhelming sales of the Galaxy 4). Based on the sample of looking at other stores, I suspect Apple will meet its numbers.