Well, of course I bought one. I went to the Bay Street Apple Store in Emeryville (who are we kidding… it’s Oakland) Friday night. Even though there’s an AT&T Store practically across the street, and the line was much shorter, I somehow suspected the atmosphere wouldn’t be quite as festive there. Turns out I made the right choice. About fifteen minutes after getting in line, a group of people walked over to join us because the AT&T store had already run out of 8gb phones. It was around 6:45. The line moved quickly. A chilly wind blew in from the Bay, but the crowd was upbeat. I watched as people emerged from the store carrying their black iPhone bags. There was a look of bewildered euphoria on their faces.
For me, it was a bittersweet occasion. The iPod interface that we’ve come to know and love is officially a thing of the past. Sure, we can still find those quaint old clickwheels in the stores and on the streets, but let’s face it, they’re going the way of the cassette tape and trans fats. They’ve had their day. Time to make room for the Next Big Thing.
Apple’s not even giving us a smooth transition. Suddenly we have CoverFlow, lists you flick with your finger, and little index guides running down the side of the screen. What happened to the “virtual scroll wheel?” Would it have killed Apple to give us old-timers something nostalgic to hold onto?
But what really has me so conflicted is this: My new iPod is a cell phone.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of people in the world, iPod people and cell phone people. The iPod people are happy to go about their business, listening to their music, not bothering anybody. They make a little world for themselves away from the noise and distractions of modern life. The cell phone people are the noise and distractions of modern life. They’re crowding you on the bus, swerving into your lane, or walking right into you on the street. And always talking, talking, talking. They’re the reason you’ve stopped going out to the movies. They’re the reason you can’t enjoy a quiet afternoon in a city park. They’re the reason you bought your iPod in the first place.
You might have guessed, I don’t identify as a cell phone person. I’ve always had my carrier’s ‘free’ phone, and used it as infrequently as possible. I’ve never synced it to my computer or had the desire to text someone. I’ve never changed the background photo. I wouldn’t even check the voice mail if I didn’t absolutely have to. Heck, I forget to pick it up as I leave the house most days. It’s always been just a tool to me. No different than my beige, rotary-dial phone twenty years ago. All that has changed.
Apple has done something that no other phone maker has been able to do: They’ve made a phone that I’m excited about using. Yes, I know that many of iPhone’s features have been standard on other phones for quite some time. I’ve used those phones. They’re about as much fun as using an ATM. Apple knows that the ‘fun factor’ isn’t trivial.
Does this mean I’m a cell phone person now? I don’t think so. My iPhone is still an iPod first and foremost; a hand-held web browser and email client second; and coming in a distant third, a telephone. As long as I keep telling myself that, everything is right in the world.