iPhone Choked Me 10 Years Ago Today

Sept. 5, 2007, was a Wednesday. As today, it followed Labor Day.

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend 2007, I drove my wife and son to the AT&T store in Lakeland, Florida. I was familiar with the former Cingular store as a customer with a Motorola StarTac. Carol and I had a matching pair. AT&T was discontinuing the TDMA network on which it relied.

I finagled the $600 of upfront money to buy an 8 GB iPhone. Apple had released it June 29. A friend from work endured a first-day line to get his iPhone. I checked it out closely and repeatedly.

Carol wanted another flip phone, lightweight and straightforward. Our son, Mihai (me-HI’), was just starting high school. He was getting his first cellphone. Favorable tech reviews and good tryouts at the store led them to get a pair of Samsung Syncs — blue for Carol, bright red for Mihai.

Mihai lorded the Sync’s 3G reception and free month of graphical AT&T news service over the iPhone’s lesser Edge connection.

I cared not. The iPhone was the future.

What I did not know was that briefly, three days later, it would seem like the end.

After a morning of editing and fielding phone calls from Lakeland readers of The Ledger, where I was editorial page editor, I opened my lunch. My routine was to eat a sandwich at my desk while reading the Mac web.

Favorite reading back in those days — from a February 2008 Firefox bookmark backup from my Windows work machine — shows my lunchtime lineup: Macworld, The Mac Observer, MacNN, MacMinute, Mac Rumors, Mac OS Rumors, Think Secret, Daring Fireball, Apple Insider, 9to5mac and The Apple Phone Show.

BIG GULP

The reading already promised to be good. By early afternoon, news from Apple’s “The Beat Goes On” product event in San Francisco would start trickling in.

I had packed a tuna sandwich at home. Two bites in, I saw a Macworld article by Philip Michaels. Headline: “Apple slashes 8 GB iPhone price by $200.”

My $600 iPhone was worth $400, three days after buying it.

I gasped. Took a big breath. Then tuna. No more air.

For the first time in my life, I was choking — on the iPhone, or at least the news of its price cut.

Soon, the importance of breathing overtook that of financial loss. I calmed myself. Respiration returned.

The experience made a big impression on me. That moment’s view of my office remains clear: computer, lunch box and sandwich — dropped on the desk, still wrapped halfway in its plastic bag.

“It’s clear customers want the 8 GB model — it’s not going to sell for $599 anymore,” Steve Jobs said at the Apple event, as reported by Ryan Block on Engadget’s live blog at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 in Florida). “ ‘Starting today, effective immediately, we’re pricing it at just $399.’ HUGE applause.”

Applause in San Francisco, maybe, but none in my little corner of Florida. As I caught further details that night, news came that recent iPhone buyers could apply for a $200 rebate.

REBATE, BUT HOW?

I arrived at the AT&T store when it opened Thursday morning, ready to retrieve $200.

The clerks knew about the rebate but had not been given a method for providing it. They summoned the store manager.

He brought out an official AT&T fax about the rebate. He tried to follow the instructions, but no approval.

The manager checked with the regional office, then the national office. The procedure was written but not in operation. He told me I was the first to ask AT&T for the rebate.

He was friendly and cooperative, as were the others at the store. After a bit of thought, he asked if I would accept the rebate in the form of no monthly rate until a total of $200 was reached.

Done.

The iPhone, with Safari and email, traveled back and forth to work daily, and across the country on vacation via Google Maps.

The phone was still going strong in early 2010, most useful when it had Wi-Fi access.

One spring day, I bent over with the iPhone in my shirt pocket. The phone slid out and landed on a floor of large tiles, one of which was set poorly. An upward-pointing corner of the tile skewered the screen when my iPhone belly-flopped.

The phone continued working, despite the puncture just below the earpiece. As summer came, the hole enlarged and the phone slowed. Reliability receded.

By the end of August 2010, Mihai was entering college. He was eager for the newly released iPhone 4, as was I. We bought them at the same Lakeland AT&T store.

Carol stuck with her Samsung Sync, as she does to this day. She has limited mobility with her hands because of multiple sclerosis. The lightweight phone with buttons is easier for making calls. She does have an iPad for substantial use and a hand-me-down iPhone 5 for favorite apps.

The original iPhone lies on a shelf next to my home-office desk. It charges fully and boots. Take it off the charger, though, and the battery level dives into the red. See the video that accompanies this article.

The iPhone received its last message Aug. 30, 2010.

Those were three good years.

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