Opinion: After the iPhoria

There were glitches and problems, but far fewer than anticipated

It's official. Steve Jobs hit another one out of the park on Friday with the super successful launch of the iPhone. There were glitches and problems, but far fewer than anticipated.

Out of an initial batch of approximately 3 million units released into the US market, Apple sold 525,000 to 700,000 iPhones the first weekend the device went on sale, exceeding most predictions and more than doubling Apple's own published goal of 200,000. Anecdotal observation shows overwhelming preference for the 8GB model over the 4GB unit.

The sheer number of new activations created delays and other problems, but they affected just 2% of iPhone buyers, some of whom waited two days or more for activation.

A six-hour AT&T data network crash on Monday stymied some, giving users trying to access the internet with the iPhone's Safari browser the erroneous message, "Could not Activate EDGE: You are not subscribed to EDGE."

Some iPhone users reported crashes. (Pressing and holding the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button at the same time for 10 seconds reboots it.) Security experts are uncovering a few bugs, including one that makes it easy to spoof Caller ID and access the voice mail of another iPhone user.

On Monday, Apple released an iPhone software update (iPhone Firmware 1A543a) that resets the devices to their factory-fresh state.

User and media reports on battery life appear to show that some iPhones get much better battery life than others.

A consumer group called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights complained in a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Friday that the company's iPhone battery replacement policy, which requires customers to turn over their iPhones to Apple for a few days and pay the company US$85.95 to replace the battery, is unacceptable.

A variety of users and analysts rushed to smash or "tear down" new iPhones to reveal their innards. Companies found to be contributing components — such as Intel, Samsung, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, Infineon, Skyworks, Marvell, Cambridge Silicon Radio and Linear Technology — were rewarded with stock price spikes this week.

One analyst estimated the costs of manufacturing iPhones at US$200 and US$220 for the 4GB and 8GB versions, respectively. Another estimated the cost at US$265.83 for the 8GB device — meaning Apple's profit margin is 55%. The launch itself didn't do much for Apple's stock price, but news of the high profit margin drove Apple shares to new highs on Tuesday.

Fears of shortages and distribution problems, including worries that some Apple and AT&T stores would sell out, drove brisk sales on eBay and CraigsList. Sales on those websites are still strong; the going price is US$500 to US$600 for the 4GB version, and US$750 to US$800 for the 8GB model.

Hackers are working feverishly to "unlock" the iPhone to make it work on other networks in the US and abroad, where the phone isn't for sale. Some reports show the SIM card has already been successfully unlocked. The iPhone's "root password" has reportedly been cracked.

The iPhone has been found to be incompatible with a variety of websites and desktop applications, most glaringly 64-bit Windows Vista.

Some users are complaining about the 20 ringtones that come with the iPhone and are griping about the fact that they can't add their own or even use MP3 files.

Apple reportedly bought the web domain name iPhone.com for an undisclosed, seven-digit price. Some 450 iPhone-related domain names were registered after the January announcement, and hundreds more have been registered per day since the Friday launch. One analyst predicts there will be about 8,000 iPhone-related domains registered by the end of the year.

That's all the major iPhone news in 600 words!

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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