My iPhone Doesn't Work, but I Love It Anyway
Inside the mind of an Apple obsessive.
Stab me, punch me, kick me, scoop out my guts with a spoon—do what you must, but please don't touch my iPhone. That's what I was thinking as I walked through the less-than-mean streets of my Washington neighborhood at around 5 a.m. Saturday morning. I was returning home from a party where at least half a dozen guests fawned over my shiny electro-bauble. All the while I felt my self-esteem grow. Not since I purchased my first iPod have I felt so warmed by the reflected glow of a shiny object.
I should note that I'm not a completely neutral observer. Ever since I belatedly hopped on the iPod bandwagon, in mid-2004, I've rapidly descended into Applemania. Since then I've purchased seven iPods, an iBook, a Macbook, and a 24-inch iMac. Strange as this may sound, I've even taken to buying and eating actual apples. I'm thinking seriously about getting a couple of enormous Apple Cinema Displays (check out Al Gore's fancy setup), and I'm eagerly awaiting Apple's 90-inch keyboardless multi-touch computer sensorium of my dreams. You might be wondering why I've purchased all of this stuff. Well, I killed one (month-old) laptop by spilling water on it, a few items were gifts, and, yes, two of my iPods did fritz out on me Poltergeist-style. But did I kvetch and moan? Not at all. I saddled up and went back for more, and I don't regret it in the slightest. Apple's products have made a material contribution to my life. They have quite literally brightened my days with their elegance and ease-of-use.
As soon as Apple announced the iPhone in January, I knew I had to have one. Verizon kept calling me—at work, no less—to suggest that I renew my contract. But I let my contract lapse, despite Verizon's peerless wireless coverage. I was planning ahead. I knew I'd be jumping ship.
When June 29 rolled around, I was ready. After exercising and stretching, I armed myself with a backpack full of protein bars, water bottles, an old laptop, a couple of books, and the 60GB iPod I use for long trips. A reconnaissance mission Thursday night led me to choose an AT&T Wireless store that was relatively close to my house and close to a wide array of local businesses and restrooms. The five hours went by like a dream—several of my cronies came by to cheer me on, and in one case to bring me ice cream. Meanwhile, the line burbled with rumors. Did each store only have 10 units? Twenty-five? I was No. 11, so this made a difference. Somehow, though, I knew that Steve Jobs wouldn't let me down. He didn't. By 6:30 p.m. on Friday I had my iPhone. By about 8 p.m. I had more than 7GB of music on my 8GB iPhone, all of my contacts were loaded, and I was ready to make my first call.
I chose my parents as the lucky recipients. My mother, who calls me "Pritu," picked up the phone. (The following dialogue is translated from Bengali.)
Mom: Hello, Pritu?
Reihan: Hello? Ammu, I jssssshgggrrrrrfzzzzzzzzzzzz the iPhone! Isn't beeeeuuuuwmmmmkhhzzzzz great! I can merge calls! Seriously, phhhhzzzzzzzzzz!
Mom: Wha? Hellooooo? Prit-ooooooo? What did you bbbrrrrrrzzzzzzz? Pritu, are you underground?"
The conversation continued maddeningly in this vein. I finally told my mother I'd call her back after investigating the ffffffrrzzzzzzz.
You may have heard that AT&T's wireless network is not so hot. That is the understatement of the century. Right now I can't make or receive calls inside my house. With Verizon, I could get calls inside, outside, anywhere. The service was so good, in fact, that I never bothered to get a landline. With AT&T, I must retreat to the backyard, where mosquitoes drain me of blood. Worse yet, my iPhone often takes five minutes to even detect service in the backyard. After figuring this out, Irecounted some of these difficulties to my mother. She suggested that I keep my Verizon service as a backup. This led to a brief argument in which I angrily defended AT&T, claiming that the telecommunications giant was making major infrastructure upgrades. My mother hung up on me. Yes,AT&T's crappy wireless coverage is tearing my family apart.
Reihan Salam is a writer in New York.
Photograph of an iPhone by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.