Having just got back from the UK iPhone Launch, here is the lowdown of my experience. In addition to the coverage we will bring you later from Regent Street, London, I headed on down to a local O2 Store. It was my endeavor to bring you some alternative coverage to the normal Apple type launch, so a local angle should give you an insight into how many people across the country view the iPhone.
Things got off to a bad start, with the Kent store due to open at 6:02pm (GMT), it was only 20 minutes to go and still not a sole to be seen. I had a quick chat to the store manager (through a closed door) and was told that they could not answer any questions (fair enough). Then, with about ten minutes to go, there were around six people milling around the front of the store, which extended to around eight by the opening time.
The Good… Once in the store I was greeted with great enthusiasm. The specialist that had travelled down for the launch was keen to talk to me, saying that it was a "fantastic device". I was allowed to take some photos and also advised I could talk to customers (after they had left the store). So I headed back out onto the cold street and tried to catch the first purchaser. He was in a rush and too busy to stop, so I hung around for the second person.
He was very happy about his purchase and had been waiting for the iPhone launch to replace his dodgy phone. When I asked if he would have bought an iPhone had his existing mobile been OK, he said "no, it was only because I need a new phone anyway". A PC user at work, but with a Mac at home and a MacBook Pro on the way, I think this represents the typical buyer. Apart from those who love their iPods and don't mind spending a bit more, this is a very serious purchase. Credit to the O2 Store for handling things in a very cheerful manner.
The bad... This award goes to a shop just around the corner. I popped into Carphone Warehouse who had also opened for the launch. I milled around listening to the specialist, who didn't even know the iPhone had a camera, and had to ask someone else how much memory the iPhone had. He also told customers that the iPhone would work only on O2 and if it was unlock it would be rendered useless as soon as it was plugged in. I suppose he had to say that, so I will forgive this comment. Poor show though, the lack of knowledge was not excusable.
The Ugly... Well, the same shop gets this award too. When I finally got the managers attention and handed my card over, it was greeted with a sneer. I asked if I could take a few photos and was told that I couldn't. Then when the lady in charge actually looked at my card, she mumbled something about not even being bothered that I was there. This is a shame, as my visit could have resulted in some good publicity and some nice photos.
All in all a mixed bag. For the ultimate buying experience, head on down to your local Apple Store. Rest assured though, wherever you buy, the iPhone is a superb piece of kit. Probably the best purchase you will make this year.