The iPhone Cometh

As the world prepares to tremble beneath the mighty wake of the latest Steve Jobs' creation, Apple goes silent.

Plus: Where you can get your hands on the momentous device.

Behold the phone. Once it required an operator to place a call. Then it had its own rotary and life was good. Soon the rotary was replaced by buttons and life was better. Then came cordless, wireless, handless, the annoying walkie-talkie feature preferred by equally-annoying T-riders everywhere, picture-phones, phones that played video games, and soon life became very complicated indeed.

Enter the iPhone. Not since Alexander Graham Bell summoned Mr. Watson has a simple phone caused so much stir, but finally, our long wait is over, and the question can finally be answered: What’s better? Steve Jobs’ latest creation, or his marketing efforts.

Yes, the iPhone debuts today, and despite its humble name, it promises to be so much more than just a phone. It will play digital music and video files like its iPod cousin, and it will also come equipped with a digital camera and a high-resolution screen to play videos. The iPhone’s Web browser will allow users to see a website as it appears on a full-blown computer screen and zoom in on whatever strikes their particular fancy.

At least, that’s the plan. Predictably, Mac geeks have been excited for months and are already lining up at Apple stores. But in preparation for this latest technological wonder, Apple has, “Gone to ground,” like Phil Leotardo—although one hopes the iPhone won’t get crushed under the wheels of an SUV like the doomed mob boss. Issuing a string of “No comments,” Apple has instituted a policy of secrecy so thorough not even Apple store employees have seen an iPhone yet, says a source who works at a Boston-area Apple retailer and agreed to talk to us only on deep background. According to Deep Mac, employees have been searched for any cameras or cell phones, and if one should turn up, the nefarious devices are locked in a safe by a manager until the end of their shift.

Our source claims “significant” space has been cleared for the phones when they arrive, but not even inventory staff has any idea how many phones will be in stock. We can tell you this. Stores will close at 2 p.m. to prepare for the onslaught of hoodie-wearing Mac geeks and cell phone crazed teenagers when they reopen at 6 p.m. and stay open until midnight.

Fear not, technophiles. A spokesperson for AT&T, the only service provider for iPhone, tells us that Apple is ready for the high demand and that if you don’t get your phone tonight, supplies are expected to be replenished weekly. If you prefer not to leave your house, you can also order online at Apple’s online store, though you’ll have to wait as the iPhone is shipped to you, horror of horrors.

Maybe Apple isn’t crazy to keep its new product closely guarded, since initial reviews are overwhelmingly positive and the hype has generated its own momentum. Reviewers say the worst thing about the iPhone has nothing to do with the phone and everything to do with AT&T’s outdated data service. The Wall Street Journal reviews the phone as “a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer.” Engadget points out some aspects of the phone that reviewers mainly glossed over, but is still palpably excited. David Pouge of The New York Times calls it “the most sophisticated, outlook-changing piece of electronics to come along in years.” Pouge also has a video of his Hard Day’s Night-inspired adventures while testing the phone, making fun of the hype.

Please be kind to your local Apple Store employees tomorrow. If they don’t know every in and out of the iPhone, it’s not their fault. They’ve been living in the Apple bubble all week, just like the rest of us.