Quest for a Phone

As a slave to technology, I just wasted spent an afternoon acquiring and activating a new (almost) iPhone 4. It turned out to be a much more arduous task than I anticipated, but I think it was worth it.

When the iPhone 4 was first introduced last summer, with great fanfare, I abstained from purchasing. AT&T was still not providing 3G service in Bourbon County. In spite of their promises that it would be here soon (first they said “this summer”, then “October”, then “by end of year”), I didn’t want to lock into another 2 year contract until it actually happened. Verizon already had 3G service here, so if AT&T didn’t deliver on their promises, I was considering waiting to see if the rumored Verizon iPhone appears in January, and possibly switching to Droid if it didn’t.

Then stars started aligning. Radio Shack announced a special deal, available this week only, only in brick/mortar stores, not online. $50 off the cost of a new iPhone, plus $75 tradein on a 3G model. Net savings of $125 if I bought one this week. I was beginning to think it was worth the savings even without the certainty of 3G service in Tatertown in the near future.

Then Thursday night I came home from work and noticed the 3G symbol on my phone. I ran a speedtest, and got download speed of about 2.5 Mbps. Sure enough, 3G was here, just in time for me to save on a new phone.

I’d already planned to play hookey on Friday, since it looked like it was going to be the only nice day in the middle of a streak of ugly weather. I needed some saddle time. So I figured I’d sleep in a little, ride in the late morning, run into town and get a phone, and still have the afternoon left to play. So Crossbo and I had a pleasant hack around the farm, and then it was time to start the quest for a phone.

Since I was going to trade in the old iPhone, I wanted to erase all my personal data from it. So I plugged it into iTunes and clicked “Restore Phone”. iTunes told me that it would have to install new software before it could restore it. I didn’t want to wait while it downloaded a new OS, so I opted for Plan B. I opened the phone settings and selected “Erase all settings and media”. It told me that would take 2 hours. On to Plan C. I just deleted my email and calendar accounts, and deleted any apps that contained data I wouldn’t want hackers to have. Anybody who got their hands on the phone and wanted to steal my music or pictures could have them. Then I headed into town.

When I walked into the Paris Radio Shack, there was a couple in front of me who had just purchased a pair of iPhones, and the clerk was taking way too much time teaching them how to use then. Fer crying out loud, give em the phones and the URL to the online instructions.

After he finally finished with them, and they left clutching their precious phones, I found out just how precious those phones were. They were the last 2 iPhones in the store. He had no iPhone to sell me.

So I figured the phone quest would be just a little longer than expected, and headed to Lexington. At the Radio Shack at the north end, they had no iPhones, and told me that no other Lexington Radio Shack had any.

So I drove to the Eastland Radio Shack, and got a slightly different story. When I asked about iPhones, the guy said “maybe, let me check, they come into the computer in spurts to let us order them”. So he consulted his computer, and told me there were 2 16GB iPhones in a warehouse somewhere. This was a little confusing, but since I really wanted a 32 GB model, I decided not to ask for an explanation. I just decided to try another store.

The Fayette Mall Radio Shack would be my last chance at a cheap iPhone. If they didn’t have any, I’d suck it up and pay full price at the Apple Store.

So I walked in and asked about iPhones. The clerk said “Umm.. not really. About the only one in the store is this one”, pulling a box out from under the counter. “And it’s on hold for a guy over there on the phone arguing with AT&T about his account. And if they don’t let him upgrade, there’s another woman who wants it. So it’s really on hold twice. And that’s it as far as 16GB models.” Wait a minute… did he say what I thought he did? Then he continued “We do have 32 GB refurbished phones.” Refurb? But it’s still an iPhone 4. “Yeah, it’s basically the same phone, except it costs more and has twice as much space.” Yeah, yeah, I know about the difference between 32 and 16. I just want to make sure you’re telling me that you really do have a 32 GB iPhone 4, even if it is a refurb. Yep, that’s what he was telling me.

A refurb was good enough. I didn’t want to waste any more time looking for a virgin, especially since it would probably mean paying much more at another store. So I took it. Of course, buying a phone is much harder than buying a horse. You don’t just hand over a check and leave. There’s all the paperwork and activation to deal with. But I finally got out of there with a phone that I consider to be as good as brand new.

But the fun wasn’t over yet. The phone wasn’t running the latest OS, and I had a pretty good idea what would happen when I plugged it into iTunes to put all my stuff on it. So I decided I’d stop at the office and take advantage of a good Internet connection. It was already after 5 PM, so I figured I could sneak in without being ambushed by any work issues.

That turned out to be a good move. The office was indeed almost empty, and iTunes did indeed insist on upgrading the software before reloading everything, so I was glad I wasn’t doing that at home. Altogether, the task of making the phone “mine” took about an hour. And I finally headed home with my phone, several hours later than I anticipated. Now it’s time to play.

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