Choosing Where to Buy an iPhone 3G

Next week, the iPhone 3G will become available in both Apple and AT&T retail stores.  With both Apple and AT&T stores within a reasonable drive or my house (in fact there are one of each in the same mall), I find myself leaning towards purchasing at an AT&T store instead of the Apple store for a handful of reasons:

  • In-store activation - The iPhone 3G will require in-store activation.  Although activation will be available in both AT&T and Apple locations, it can be generally assumed that AT&T has more evolved processes in place for the process in managing changes to my existing account, processing the upgrade process (since I'm upgrading from an existing iPhone), and dealing with any account or network issues that might arise.  For anyone in line in front of me new to AT&T the existing store processes are likely tried and true for such things as credit checks and porting an existing number for a carrier.  This hopefully will mean a smoother and faster activation for me or others in front of me.  
  • Potentially shorter lines - No, I'm 100% sure that AT&T stores will have shorter lines.  But, I do remember seeing a rather large line outside the local Apple store prior to last year's launch of the original iPhone while one floor up at the other end of the mall, only three people were waiting (quite comfortably in lawn chairs, I might add) at the AT&T store.  Somehow, I wouldn't be surprised to see this phenomena repeated.
  • More and potentially less crowded stores - There are a handful of nearby AT&T stores that will be offering the iPhone 3G near me.  I'm gambling that the closest one (and thus the shortest early morning drive) will be less crowded since it is in an outlying suburban strip mall and neither the strip mall itself nor the AT&T store ever seems particularly crowded.
  • SIM card for old iPhone - AT&T's recent iPhone 3G material indicates that if passing your existing iPhone on to family or friends, you'll need a replacement SIM card for it.  Since this requires a trip to an AT&T store, why not kill two birds with one stone.  

While the AT&T store may (I hope) end up being the faster and more problem-free way to go,  I do admit that it will probably be less boisterous.  One thing Apple is good at is creating launch events in its retail stores.  So, I wouldn't be surprised if I end up missing out on some fun by choosing an out of the way AT&T store for my purchase.  

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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