The iPhone Effect

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Verizon broke its single-day sales record for a device in about two hours today, the first day existing customers could purchase an iPhone on the network. As Engadget reports, between 3 and 5 a.m., Verizon sold more iPhones than it had sold of any other phone over a full business day.

All the talk about other phones and platforms is good for the market. Android and Windows Mobile are looking better and better. App ecosystems are developing, etc., etc.

But there is still something about the iPhone. People love the iPhone like they love a sports team or a piece of music. It is fundamentally irrational and beyond the reach of talk about features or price. When you want an iPhone, there is just nothing else that can scratch that itch.

I wrote yesterday that it was hard to review the iPhone now because we didn't know how many of the devices would end up flooding Verizon's network. But the truth is that every time we've wondered if the iPhone would exceed expectations, it has, and I wouldn't be surprised if Verizon executives are still shocked by the adoption rates that they get.

To this day, there is no better explanation of the iPhone's appeal than this viral video of an imaginary interaction between a phone customer and a would-be iPhone purchaser. For iPhone buyers, "It is the best phone" is the beginning and end of the smartphone story.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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