My phone's an iPhone, what's yours?

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 6:46 PM | 0 comments »


Merrick brown with his new iPhone

If you want to meet a real iPhone tragic, then Merrick Brown is your man.

The 26-year-old New York consultant who is on secondment in Sydney has just returned from a five-day, 32,000 km round trip to the east coast of the United States, ostensibly made so that he could be among the first wave to own one of Apple's new mobile phones.

A self-confessed gadget fiend, Brown says he has fixated on the touch-sensitive phone, with an in-built iPod that can also be used to surf the web, ever since it had its first public showing in January.

"I knew I had to get one," he says, proudly showing off his new acquisition. "I'm a bit of an Apple fanatic."

With the launch date set for 6pm last Friday, Brown rescheduled a planned trip to renew his driver's licence to coincide with the iPhone's release.

His plans was to buy the phone at an outlet near JFK International Airport in New York.

To maximise his chances of getting one and minimise the amount of time he would have to queue, Brown searched online before he left for a store located in the neighbourhood with the lowest median income within a 18km radius of the airport.

In the end, his mother offered to find a spot in a queue close to where she lives near Boston and bought the phone for her son and one for herself.

While it sounds obsessive, Brown is not alone in his infatuation with the gadget that bloggers have dubbed the Jesusphone.

Analysts in the US estimate that Apple and its phone company partner AT&T may have sold over 700,000 iPhones last weekend. And 95 of Apple's 164 stores and many of the AT&T outlets around the country are reported to have sold out.

The device, which comes in two models priced at $US499 ($580) and $US599 ($700), is only sold in the US where it can only be used on AT&T's mobile phone network.

Apple plans to launch the phone in Europe later this year and in Australia in 2008, and will almost certainly strike exclusive deals with one carrier in each country where the iPhone is sold.

But many gadget fans living outside the US are not prepared to wait - even though it means their expensive toy may not operate as its maker intended it.

"In some ways it's cool to be among the first to have it," Brown says. "The flipside of that is that people look at you as if you are a little crazy as you just spent $US600 to get a phone that doesn't work as a phone."

Scores of hackers and gadget enthusiasts have literally taken the iPhone apart in an attempt to discover how it works and - importantly - how the phone can be "unlocked" and used on other networks in the US and in places where it has not yet been released.

Some have pooled the results of their efforts into a collaborative wiki called the iPhone Dev Wiki, where each new discovery is shared and dissected.

Prominent hacker Jon Lech Johansen claims to have perfected a way of activating the iPhone without having to register it with AT&T. This allows the user to use most of the iPhone's functions, except the phone.

Johansen, who is better known by his working nickname - DVD Jon - publishing the findings on his blog, but his solution appears to require some degree of technical skill.

Mr Brown believes that it will only be a matter of time before someone cracks the code that will allow him to use his iPhone in Australia to make and take calls - a breakthrough that could lead to a flood of iPhones being imported into country ahead of the official local launch.

"I think it'll be unlocked in one to two weeks," he predicts. "Even if it's not, it's still fun as an iPod and wireless internet device. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get it working properly."

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