Update: As announced, the iPhone is to be activated with iTunes, in the comfort of your own home/office/local Starbucks. So much for the unboxing anxiety.
You've saved your pennies, and then thought better of the whole penny-centric strategy. You've moved on to cashing in your savings bonds. You've figured out which AT&T store is furthest off the beaten track. (Google Earth has a suggestion -- try Key West, FL.) You've considered the delicate balance between on-queue caffeine intake and the likelihood of line jumping when you dodge out to the restroom. You've planned, thought, considered, and strategized pretty much everything about getting your hands on that iPhone.
But have you considered whose hands will handle it before you do? Well, have you? Reader Chris Freitag, a fan of the Apple unboxing experience, had a panic attack earlier today and did the only reasonable thing. He told us about it.
A horrible, terrible thought crept into my head today as I fantasized about what it will be like to actually get to the counter of my local Apple Store the evening of June 29 and finally get my hands on my iPhone.
What if the first hands to touch *my* iPhone aren't my hands?
Unfortunately, judging by comments on Erica's post, the contract and activation process will almost certainly involve hands-on time with store personnel. Unless Apple's magic mojo arrangement with AT&T includes online contract setup and number porting via iTunes (now that would be quite a trick) it looks like the first hands on your iPhone won't be yours.
I've been a Cingular customer for over 3 years, and every single time I have purchased a new phone the customer service rep opens the box, removes all of the plastic wrapping from the phone, battery, and battery cover. They put the SIM card into the phone, power on the phone, then proceed to futz with the phone for a few minutes while they're setting it up. This has never been an issue for me because I have never had an attachment to the packaging nor to the product being opened. I like cool new phones but none of them have ever had much of an emotional impact on me.
Now compare that with Apple products. If you're as into Apple products as I am, then you understand what it means to come home with your shiny new Apple toy and open the packaging. The good folks at Apple always take such great care in packaging that it is a true joy to open the products. Everything about the presentation just leads you to that moment when you actually utter the word "whoa" as you finally get to the product you've lusted after for so long. It is without fail sleeker, smaller, slimmer, and sexier than any picture could convey. It's part of the Apple experience.
And if an AT&T employee unwraps all of that Apple-designed packaging goodness right in front of me, and then mauls my new iPhone with their grubby mitts, I'm going to lose it right there at the store.
Chris, we feel your pain.
Update: Some readers have suggested that buying the iPhone at an Apple Store will be a closed-box transaction; you would then have to take the iPhone to an AT&T store or activate over the air. We don't yet know for sure how any of this is going to work.