• iPhone arrives, Ireland doesn’t come to a halt

    So yesterday saw the arrival of the iPhone in Ireland and unsurprisingly, it was a very muted affair. The country may have more than enough people willing to spend big bucks for the latest “must haves” but seemingly we’re just not bothered enough to camp out for the honour. Indeed iPhone fans seemed to be in no rush at all – one of o2’s main Dublin outlets had only had a handful of pre-orders as of Thursday night, a fraction of the stock it was due to receive.

    Having finally had a chance to mess around with an in-store model myself I have to say my opinion on the device is unchanged. It’s just as slick, sexy and functional as the hype promised but it’s also burdened by many factors that were clear from the outset – for example a very lacklustre internet connection and, in Ireland at least, a contract devoid of value for money*.

    Perhaps it was just because I can’t afford one but at no point in my quick demo did I try to talk myself into making an impulse buy, somewhat unusual for me when it comes to gadgets. I was happy to give the text-input a go for myself, though, which I found about as hard to get used to as any phone I’m unfamiliar with.

    The most negative aspect of the device that I took away with me was its slow EDGE connection, which was comparable to my 2MB broadband connection’s performance when I try to browse and download torrents simultaneously. I would have be willing to write this experience off as a consequence of the huge demand put on the network as a result of the release itself but from what I saw there weren’t many more iPhones in people’s pockets at 6PM yesterday than there were at 6PM the Friday before.

    So what will convince me to get an iPhone? Well put simply, I’ll be far more interested when I don’t have to make a compromise in order to own one. In other words 3G is a must – and rumour is it’s coming soon (for the sake of the people who just sank a week’s wages into a phone that has tied them to an 18-month contract I almost, I repeat almost, hope that’s not true). But I’d also be far more tempted if/when a 32GB model is launched as it would allow me to store all my music [b]and[/b] use the device as an external hard drive, as I do with the 30GB iPod I’ve been using for some time now. I’d also have plenty of space to expand my collection for the foreseeable future without having to start the horrible procedure of cherry-picking.

    But even with all of that resolved, I’d still be put off by the o2 contracts which I can’t help but feel will have to be improved upon as they were in Britain. 1GB download limit? 18-month contract? No visual voice-mail? Paying €100 a month for a package that still compares unfavourably with the iPhone’s €45 contract in the UK? Forget about it.

    I guess what I’m saying is that when Apple iron out the device’s main weaknesses, it’ll become far harder for me to resist – but even if I do pick one up, it’ll only be with the intention of unlocking it.

    * In fairness to o2 the iPhone contracts aren’t extortionate when compared to the Irish market, they’re actually pretty normal. But when compared to the rest of Europe, and the UK in particular, then the shockingly high cost of the Irish mobile market as a whole (of which o2 playing a leading role) is very easy to see.