Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

How to launch an iPhone: A tale of two videos

July 2, 2008: 7:37 AM ET

With the July 11 launch of the iPhone 3G less than two weeks away, Apple and AT&T each posted videos Tuesday designed to soften the ground for what's shaping up as another frenzied triumph of Apple event marketing.

The Apple (AAPL) video, shot against a minimalist backdrop and hosted by the same black T shirt-wearing spokesperson who led the original iPhone tour guide, comes across as an earnest summary of what's new in the 3G version.

But by the time it is over -- and you've seen the GPS tracking, the App store, the games, the enterprise functions -- the contrast between the iPhone and your run-of-the-mill smartphone (never mind your dumb, featureless cell phone) couldn't be clearer. It's hard to watch it to the end and not harbor iPhone 3G lust. You can view or download it here.

The AT&T (T) video -- shot against a somewhat chaotic AT&T store backdrop and hosted by a red polo shirt-wearing spokesman named Larry Meyer -- has a tougher job to do. It's trying to minimize what's likely to be human gridlock when the doors open at 8 a.m. Friday July 11 at Apple and AT&T stores across the U.S. (and in 21 other countries around the world). iDay 2007 went surprising smoothly, at least at Apple's retail outlets, despite lines that formed days ahead of time and snaked around whole city blocks. Because the phones could be activated at home, transactions were short and sweet; at the flagship San Francisco store we monitored, iPhones were leaving the premises at the rate of one every 20 seconds. (See here.)

July 11 could look very different. To choke off the overseas black market for unlocked iPhones, AT&T and Apple insist that the new 3Gs be activated before they leave the store -- a retailing wrinkle that pretty much guarantees that any lines that have formed outside will move more glacially this year. To speed things up, AT&T's video (available here) urges that buyers be "iReady," as they put it, and have all the necessary documents in hand -- or better still, visit the store ahead of time to get the credit check out of the way. But it's hard to watch these videos to the end -- or run through the printable Get iReady checklist available here -- and not suspect that for a lot of customers, July 11 is going to be a nightmare.

YouTube versions of both videos are pasted below the fold.

Here's something to ponder as you watch them: What would AT&T's video -- or for that matter, the July 11 launch -- look like if they had been produced by the folks who designed the Apple Store?

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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