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Will iPhone be Worth the iHype?

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RISMEDIA, June 28, 2007–(MCT)–For some, it doesn’t matter whether Apple’s iPhone lives up to the hype — just as long as they can be the first to show it off to their friends.

Others are skeptical that the new cell phone/music-player/Web-browser will meet the high expectations when it is released at 6 p.m. Friday.

Count Martin Pedraza in the first group. He’s planning to get in line today and camp out with his laptop and portable video game player until Friday evening. Pedraza, 28, is counting on buying two phones and selling the second for a profit to cover the cost of the one he keeps.

“I just like having the latest technology,” said Pedraza, who also camped out for a PlayStation 3 last fall. “I always like to get new things first.”

Mimi Sperber wants an iPhone, but she’s willing to wait to make sure it works well. The owner of the Off The Wall store in the Galleria has been looking forward to the launch for weeks, but she said she won’t spend Friday standing in line.

“I want the next generation, after they’ve worked out all the kinks,” she said. As an Apple shareholder, Sperber has reaped the benefits of the stock’s 25% climb in the last three months. But the price dropped more than $2 a share Tuesday as investors worried the recent hype inflated the stock price, analysts said.

“I think the hype, while fun, can be both exciting and frightening to investors,” said Jeff Kagan, a Atlanta-based telecommunications analyst.

That could be a problem after the iPhone is released, too, he said.

For now, Apple and AT&T have had very little to say about the device, leaving it to the gadget hounds and bloggers to speculate on every detail. Come Friday, the world will be able to separate fact from fiction.

“This phone is more closely watched than any other cell phone ever,” Kagan said. “That means any glitch will be covered.”

Katie Haverkamp, University of Houston student and self-proclaimed “Apple fan girl,” is nuts for anything the company does. She’s planning to leave work early Friday to get in line at the Apple store at the Galleria. No waiting until next week or next month for this Machead.

“I’ve grown up with the Internet, so I want instant gratification,” she said.

She thinks Apple has enough experience with new products that there won’t be any problems with the iPhone. But she’s not betting her own money on it. Macrumors.com, a Web site, is paying for her phone and service plan so she can review the iPhone for them.
At $499 or $599, depending on the model — not to mention the mandatory minimum two-year contract at $59.99 to $99.99 a month — the iPhone is not cheap.

Throw in Apple’s hit-and-miss record on new product launches — the failed Newton of the early 1990s and the original iPod were not successes — and there’s reason to be skeptical, said mobile phone expert Chris Null, founding editor-in-chief of Mobile PC magazine and now a contributor at Yahoo.

“People are correct to be hesitant to shell out that kind of money for a first-generation device,” he said. “At the same time, Apple has learned a lot since the first iPod came out.”

Early looks by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal Tuesday gave the iPhone a qualified thumbs up.

They liked the design and its functionality, but they were bothered by the fact that it doesn’t work with some existing iPod accessories, including headphones and some car adapters.

The first wave of iPhone fever isn’t expected to infect the corporate BlackBerry crowd because some are concerned about whether iPhones will prevent hackers from accessing company information, Null said. Some of those professionals are gadget geeks who will want the iPhone for bragging rights, but the people standing in line later this week are more likely to be teens and twentysomethings, he said.

“Gadgets in many cases are status symbols,” said Null. “Don’t underestimate the kids with money. Apple has built an empire on kids with too much money.”

Although 17-year-old Tom Beauchamp would like to replace his beat-up cell phone with an iPhone, he’s taking a pragmatic approach. “I’m not going to stand in line,” he said. “I’d wait a few days to see the reviews on it.”

And even if he likes it, he still has to persuade his parents to buy it for him, he said.

Copyright? 2007, Houston Chronicle
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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