Countdown to the iPhone 3G: What You Need to Know Before You Get in Line

The iPhone 3G comes in black or white and US customers can get 8GB model for $199 or 16GB for $299, with an obligatory 2-year service contract with AT&T.

Apple’s retail chief Ron Johnson told Bloomberg that customers will be served on a first-come first-served basis. It will take about 15 minutes to get existing AT&T customers in and out the door due to the new in-store activation procedure and credit checks. The first-generation iPhone was activated through the iTunes software interface.

Johnson said that each Apple Store can process about 100 customers per hour, but no more than 30 people will be allowed within the store at any given time. The company suggested that new customers visit the store before July 11 to complete a credit check to speed up the sign-up process. Existing AT&T customers may check to see if they can upgrade to the iPhone 3G. Johnson confirmed that Apple at this point has no plans to sell the handset through its online store. AT&T has said that there is no information at this time when AT&T will actually be shipping the iPhone 3G via online orders.

When buying the iPhone 3G, customers will have the chance to review 3G cellular signal coverage map and choose one of the available rate plans, which may be a very time-consuming process. If the credit check is passed, the iPhone 3G will be activated inside the store. The only available payment option will be a credit card or Apple Store gift cards, which can be purchased and then used as the payment option.

Besides the credit card, you will also need to provide your social security number, a valid government-issued photo ID and, for existing customers, the current wireless account number and password. Apple advises buyers to sync their iPhone before purchasing the new phone. Current and new iPhone users who receive or will receive service under a corporate account and wish to purchase the iPhone 3G need to contact AT&T directly. If you want your Phone to access your business email account, Apple suggests to check with your IT manager first.

For customers outside the US, TUAW has published international iPhone 3G pricing guide that covers the cost of hardware and local cellular service. U.S. customers who would like to know which service plan to choose and how much it will cost over the two-year contract can check out a great web-based BillShrink application that assists in finding the best plan.

MobileMe goes live on Thursday

Apple’s subscription-based online services suite called MobileMe is scheduled to go live this Wednesday, the company said in a notification emailed to existing .Mac members. After the transition ex .Mac customers may continue to use their email addresses and email aliases indefinitely to send and receive email. They can switch to name space whenever they choose to do so.

Dubbed "Exchange for the rest of us", MobileMe includes push email, calendar, contacts, photos and bookmarks, online storage and synchronization capabilities that keep these items flawlessly in sync between any number of PCs, Macs and iPhones. It costs $99 a year and includes 20 GB of storage shared between all included services, but Apple will also offer a 60-day free trial. To use MobileMe on an iPhone or iPod touch, users will need to update to iPhone software 2.0 (free for iPhone users, $9.99 upgrade for iPod touch users) which is expected to become available through iTunes on the iPhone 3G launch day.

Things to know if you’re already a .Mac member

Apple confirmed that MobileMe service will continue to offer the Back to My Mac feature to access your computer remotely, one-click web site publishing from iWeb and photo and movie sharing directly from iPhoto ’08 and ’09. Backup 3.1.2 application that backs up files to .Mac online storage will continue to work with MobileMe. However, web access to bookmarks, iCards, .Mac slides and the synchronization capabilities under Mac OS X 10.3 Panther will no longer be available in MobileMe. Bookmark synchronization between Macs and/or PCs will remain operational.

When MobileMe goes live, it will completely replace the .Mac service and Apple will upgrade all .Mac users to MobileMe for free. Apple informed existing .Mac members that most of the online service’s capabilities will be taken offline between 6 pm and 12 am PT, stating that MobileMe service will go live "as soon as possible" during this timeframe. The only .Mac service that will remain online is webmail, if it is accessed through the desktop email client on a Mac, iPhone or iPod touch.

MobileMe will increase the online storage twofold compared to what .Mac offered, at no additional cost. Individual accounts will be upgraded from 10 GB to 20 GB, while Family Packs will get 40 GB of storage: 20 GB for the main account and 5 GB for each of the four sub-accounts. Those .Mac members who purchased storage an upgrade will get double space: The 10 GB storage upgrade will be boosted to 20 GB, while 20 GB will be increased to 40 GB. Storage upgrade increase may take up to 10 days after MobileMe launches, Apple said.

Further reading:

Should Apple be sued over false advertising?

Why the iPhone 3G is a gold mine for Apple, even at $199

Hidden costs and little secrets you should know about when buying iPhone 3G
WWDC 2008: Will the iPhone 3G kill the iPhone?

Christian Zibreg is an editor and writer whose work has appeared in Tom's Guide, TGDaily, Geek, BSN*, 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, and MakeUseOf. He also has experience in marketing, publishing, and public relations — but he specialises in writing content about Apple, Windows, and Google, and is currently an editor for iDownloadBlog.