The must-have iPhone lives up to its hype

It has been almost six months since Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off the iPhone, which has been touted as a game-changing device for the mobile phone industry. Since then, the buzz machine has turned the iPhone into one of -- if not the -- must-have pieces of hardware for 2007.

With that in mind, Computerworld sent two of its writers out Friday to join the huddled masses in line waiting for the official launch of the iPhone at 6 p.m. local time. Michael DeAgonia stood outside an AT&T Inc. store in Orlando. Seth Weintraub queued up outside an Apple Store in New York.

They were among the first to buy iPhones and spent much of Friday night testing out the devices to see how well they deliver. Both stayed up late -- DeAgonia finally called it a day at 5 a.m. -- and wrote up their early experiences with the iPhone.

The phone is available only through Apple and AT&T stores, and through each company's Web site. While some AT&T stores reported that they had sold out of the iPhones Saturday, Apple still had them in stock Saturday morning -- and said they would be available Sunday as well. Buyers can also check for themselves online.

The iPhone goes for US$499 for the 4GB model and $599 for the 8GB version. A two-year contract with AT&T is required, with monthly plans ranging from $59.99 to $99.99.

A cautionary note for those porting telephone numbers from other carriers and hoping to activate their iPhones right away: A customer service representative at the AT&T activation help line said that for existing AT&T customers porting a number could take three to five hours. If a user is porting a number from another service, that process could take up to 24 hours. If a new iPhone owner is getting a new number, regardless of whether he is an existing AT&T customer or not, activation is almost immediate.

Computerworld will be offer additional looks at the iPhone after everyone has had time to put it through its paces. In the meantime, for those trying to decide whether to buy one and wondering how well it works, we have two reviews that come to a similar conclusion: The iPhone largely lives up to the prelaunch hype.

DeAgonia's review is available here: "First look at the iPhone: Tomorrow's technology today."

Weintraub's first take is available here: Hands on: Five things I love, and three I don't, about the iPhone."

Gregg Keizer contributed to this report.

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