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(photo credit: Bloomberg)
I'm not the line-standing type, so I guess it's a good thing we didn't have any iLines here in Israel (yes, that's what they're calling them stateside). In fact, if I had been anywhere near an around the block queue to plunk down hundreds of dollars for an iPhone - with the denizens of such queue practically begging the shop clerk to please, please, please take my money - well, let's just say my cynical side would have emerged, probably to my detriment, since I would have probably made an unappreciated comment within earshot of a big, burly, i-tough guy, earning myself a bruised ego, or nose (probably nose).
I can afford to talk - literally, because I didn't even have the opportunity to spend $600 to buy an iPhone, even if I wanted one. So I can laugh at the i-rubes who stood on line for hours to buy one. You can, too, if you live in Israel and weren't visiting the US on June 29, when the iPhone came out of the closet. (plenty of iLiners can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/2zcqwg, if you want to know just who these people are).
Let's not get too uppity, though: The real question is this: Would I - or you - have been able to resist the lure of the iLine if in fact one had been available for Israeli residents?
It's a question I've been wondering about. The truth is, I like gadgets, and the iPhone is about as gadgety as it gets. The reviews of the finished product have been wonderful, for the most part, with even the few naysayers admitting that they are looking at an early caveman version of the product. If Apple's development cycle in the past is any indication of what to expect from the iPhone, the 2008 or 2009 model is likely to be much more user-friendly, with whatever little quirks reviewers and customers have noticed being worked out. It's a pretty pricy item, too; but actually not more expensive than its closest competitors (if they can indeed be considered as such) from Nokia or HTC.
And in my (very) humble opinion, based on my previous (extensive) experience with Apple products, it pays to wait until Rev 2 (or B, in the case of the original iMac) before buying - in order to give Apple engineers time to work out the bugs. Not that you'd necessarily be stuck with a buggy device if you went for 1G (first generation) - Apple is famous for its commitment to customer service, so they would certainly fix things up right if it came to that. But of course, you'd want to have your iPhone working out of the box - and maybe by the time they get around to this part of the world, the initial iPhone bug set will have been fixed up. So the fact that iPhones aren't available here yet actually works in our favor, no?
Yes it does, from that perspective. And it's not like you really need one, anyway. And maybe the price will come down, too (but given the iPod's pricing history, combined with the price levels set by local Apple importer Yeda, I wouldn't count on it). And even if you were to buy one in the States, you couldn't really use it as a phone here (although, of course, it would work in non-phone network "flight mode"), because you couldn't even stick a local SIM card in one (I understand the AT&T SIMs are a different size than what we're used to - although it is a quad band GSM phone, which means it would work on an Israeli network with no problem). No question about it: It's a waiting game, if you want an iPhone in Israel. You really don't have a choice.
But still - wouldn't it be cool to have one? "iPhone is a revolutionary new mobile phone that allows you to make a call by simply tapping a name or number in your address book, a favorites list, or a call log. It also automatically syncs all your contacts from a PC, Mac, or Internet service. And it lets you select and listen to voicemail messages in whatever order you want - just like email." It's like one of those things you look at and say, "why hasn't anyone thought of this before?" No question about it - the iPhone is as close as we've come to a truly mobile, pocket "data center" - e-mail, Internet, data storage, and entertainment unit, as has been invented so far (details at http://www.apple.com/iphone/phone/).
Indeed, it would be very cool to have one - but it's just not practical, at this point. The best we can do right now is to go for an iPhone "clone" - several of which are available right now, and will work with local GSM networks! Before I get insulted or sued, let me explain: By "clone," I don't mean a ripoff edition of the iPhone, back-engineered by Far East scientists and repackaged in pink plastic. Even if such a creature existed (it doesn't; I looked real hard), it just wouldn't be the same. The iPhone, like most Apple products, is more than the sum of its parts; for one thing, Apple products are designed to work with each other in the most intuitive way possible. If you own an iPod and a Mac, you know what I mean. No doubt iPhone syncing is similarly simple, and that's something a clone will never be able to duplicate, try as it might.
When I say "clone," I mean a product that can provide some of the hardware features of the iPhone, as many as possible (forget about the data/e-mail/iTunes part). For me, it would be enough to get hold of a phone with a touch screen, that would let me dial numbers by pressing on the name of the contact, and an easier way to input data. It's not really an iPhone clone that I'm looking for - such a feat would just not be possible, in my opinion - but a reproduction of some of the Apple product's features, even if they aren't executed as elegantly as they have for the iPhone (even a clumsy soft-touch screen on a cell phone would be a vast improvement over the way most of us have to input data, in my opinion).
So, are such things available? Well, yes and no: There are phones that claim to have some of the iPhone's features, but it's hard to tell, unless you read (or at least understand) Mandarin. The most promising model are the HTC Touch (http://www.htc.com/product/03-product-htctouch.htm, includes Israeli-style 900/1800 GSM), and the Meizu Mini-one (http://en.meizu.com/, http://tinyurl.com/28tk2d).
The rest - led by the CECT P160 (http://tinyurl.com/yw2dsw) - seem to be so-so.
So we wait. Can anything be done to move things along? Sure: Just ring up your local cell phone service provider and tell them just how you're itching to throw even more money at them. Sooner or later, they, and Apple, will get the hint.