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Apple's iPhone Gets Mixed Reviews

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

On Mondays, we focus on technology. And today, the year's most talked about device is finally in customers' eager hands - at least, into the hands of those who endured the lines at Apple and AT&T stores to buy an iPhone when it went on sale Friday. There were those who said Friday should have been declared a national holiday. One tech blogger invented a weekend cocktail - the iPhonetini. And in case you're wondering, it's a type of apple martini. To find out if all the anticipation was worth it, we're joined by NPR's digital culture correspondent, Laura Sydell. Good morning

LAURA SYDELL: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And Laura, you were among the crowds at Apple and AT&T stores in the San Francisco Bay Area this past weekend, so describe the scene for us.

SYDELL: Well, actually, by Saturday, the lines were gone to actually buy the phone. The big lines were for people who wanted to try them, because they had it set up and they actually had a demo going on in the store where you could sit around and watch an employee show you how the whole thing worked. So everybody was really curious what was this thing going to be like, including me. I have to try one. And there were a lot of people - they were interested in trying, but not buying it. They were a little concerned about the carrier, AT&T, which is ranked number three by consumer reports, so it's not necessarily the best carrier. And they were a little suspicious of the fact that it doesn't have a keyboard.

MONTAGNE: You mean people waited in line and went through all the brouhaha just to test it out?

SYDELL: Well, I don't think they were waiting in line outside the store, but they were standing around and waiting just to try one.

MONTAGNE: Okay. And given the iPhone madness, what was the verdict from customers who tried it out or even bought it and started using it?

SYDELL: Well, you know, it's interesting. I would say that there were a lot of people - you saw these people, they loved it. They'll love anything Apple does. And it is - it's a pretty cool-looking device, but there were some people who are a little bit wait-and-see. They're not sure yet if they're going to buy it. It's a little slow, and people have commented on this and you noticed it when you tried it, that the network is a little bit slow. So some people were thinking, I'm not so sure about this.

They also don't like the fact that you can't put a memory card in it, so if you take pictures, you can't just put a memory card into it and look at the pictures you took on your camera. You can only look at the pictures that you took with your iPhone on it. And so some people didn't like that. So I would say there were some people who were a little mixed.

MONTAGNE: And even though it seems like everyone on the planet is enthralled with the iPhone, it's not available to everyone on the planet, or even everyone in the United States. Is that an issue you heard about this past weekend?

SYDELL: Well, yeah. In fact, there are certain states where there are no Apple stores and no AT&T stores. So if you leave in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, you just can't get one. So I feel sort of bad for those people. All this hype, and they have to go out of state to buy one.

MONTAGNE: And then with all the hype about how the iPhone will change the cell phone industry, Apple CEO Steve Jobs says the keyboardless screen would take phone technology to the next level. From what you saw and heard this past weekend, what do you think about that idea?

SYDELL: You know, it's hard to predict. Some people said, you know, I just - I've got to have a keyboard. But myself having actually tried the phone, there is something very compelling about it. It's got this beautiful three and a half inch screen. And when things come up on it, when you see a contact come up and you can just press it, it's so easy. So I guess I would say I could see how it could change things.

MONTAGNE: Laura, thanks so much.

SYDELL: Okay. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's digital culture correspondent, Laura Sydell. And if you think you really do need the iPhone, you might like to make a trip to npr.org where you can explore seven factors to consider before you buy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.