Following a well-established, build-the-buzz playbook, the highly anticipated iPhone made a very brief but tantalizing visit at CTIA Wireless 2007 in Orlando, Florida this week.
During his Tuesday morning keynote speech, AT&T Chief Operating Officer Randall Stephenson set the room abuzz by holding up a small object and saying, "It's the new Apple iPhone. In fact, I have one right here."
Apple is renowned for the secrecy of its hardware development, and the iPhone is no exception. In fact, Stephenson joked that it would be a true test of the phone's allegedly user-friendly interface, "because this is my first time to touch one of these."
Stephenson seemed pleased with the results. "You talk about something that brings ease-of-use into play, this is it. The ability to get video onto the phone, in a number of different formats and ways -- this is a terrific product."
And with that -- less than 30 seconds in the spotlight -- the elusive iPhone was on its way back to Cupertino.
A Million Inquiries
In January, when Steve Jobs announced the June 2007 release of the iPhone, Apple also announced that it had selected Cingular as its exclusive U.S. carrier. According to the company's press release, Cingular (a subsidiary of AT&T) is the largest wireless carrier in the United States, with nearly 60 million customers.
Jobs boldly predicted that the Apple would sell 10 million units of its phone by the end of 2009, a figure that many analysts have dismissed as wildly optimistic. But preliminary consumer interest might be bolstering the hopes of both Apple and Cingular.
In an e-mail interview, AT&T spokesperson Michael Coe said that AT&T/Cingular has received nearly a million requests for more about the iPhone. Consumers are not able to preorder the iPhone, so it is unclear just how many of these queries will translate into actual sales. Nonetheless, it is clear that there is serious interest in the upcoming product launch.
Coe declined to provide any further information regarding the planned rollout of the iPhone at this time.
Can Cool Trump Cost?
While Apple's phone might be the hot topic among CTIA's 40,000 attendees, other phone manufacturers are already positioning themselves to compete with the expensive iPhone. Media analysts have frequently questioned whether consumers will be willing to pay a "cool premium" for Apple's phone. A 4-GB model will reportedly cost $499, and an 8-GB version will ring in at $599.
On display at CTIA are several potential iPhone competitors, including Sprint's coyly-named UpStage ($149), which features a phone on one side and an MP3 player on the other, and T-Mobile's Moto Rizr Z3 ($99), which also has a built-in music player and a dual-format camera (portrait and landscape).
Whether the iPhone actually hits Jobs' ambitious target remains to be seen, but its provocative visit to Orlando shows that the Apple marketing team is in top form.