I purchased an iPhone this afternoon from the local AT&T store. Just because I’m the curious type I asked how sales were going. Answer: They’re mostly selling out on a daily basis and receiving new shipments of 8 to 16 phones every day or so. That bodes well.

In my own case, I wasn’t planning to jump on the iPhone bandwagon until my Verizon contract expired in early November, but I’ve shot past my allotted minutes both of the last two billing cycles and been painfully charged 45 cents a minute on the overages. For now I’m using AT&T’s lowest-priced iPhone plan ($60 a month for 450 minutes (which rollover) and 5000 weekend/night minutes). When the Verizon contract expires I’ll up this to the $80 a month for 900 minutes and unlimited weekend/night. The very sweet data plan for the iPhone is unlimited 24/7 regardless of which voice plan you are on.

In the meantime, this should be sufficient to keep me out of cell phone overage disaster when coupled with the 700 FamilyShare plan minutes a split with Erin and my Mom. Here’s hoping anyway, because using up the 700 minutes—Verizon offers no minute rollovers, so I had nothing to save me from my previous months of under-usage—is nobody’s fault but mine. Erin and my mom use made 200-300 minutes a month; the rest is all mine.

So anyway, the iPhone itself. It makes my Motorola E815 look like Windows 95. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. More on that in a moment.

I know a few folks have had problems with activation, but for me it was a walk in the park. Picked what I wanted through iTunes 7, click, click, click, and I had the phone activated in 20 minutes, tops. Utterly painless.

The iPhone is a remarkably beautiful device. It’s thin, it feels good, it’s heft is nice, and its screen is amazing. Like most Apple products it would not look out of place in a museum of modern art.

I am thrilled to report to you that my experience is the same as every other reviewers I’ve read: The iPhone functions as well as it looks, which is to say it’s the best cell phone device ever by a wide margin.

My favorite things:

    • The contact manager that syncs with Mac OS X 10.4’s Address Book is excellent and makes it super easy to call folks. This stands in marked contrast to my e815’s crappy contact management system which, to this day, I still do not fully understand.
    • Setting up Mail was a breeze, and while I’m not pulling all down all email accounts to my iPhone, those I’ve chosen to link have worked flawlessly. Very happy with this so far.
    • The web browsing is relatively slow via AT&T’s Edge network. I’d estimate 2x dial-up speed. Hopping onto a Wi-Fi network helps load times considerably. I’ve got the iPhone on my WPA2-encrypted home network and the speeds feel like DSL. That is to say that it’s not as fast as Safari on my laptops, but it’s perfectly acceptable.
    • The iPod functionality is terrific, with video podcasts, TV shows, and movies really shining on the iPhone’s awesome screen. Only real downside is having only 8 GB of storage on the phone.
    • The Google Maps feature was a bit confusing to me—I typically using MapQuest when I’m online—but now that I think I’ve got it figured, I’m sold. It’s like having a faux-Garmin GPS. Very nifty.
    • Weather widget is also very handy. I programmed in four cities just because I enjoying flicking pages out of the way. The iPhone is fun like that.
    • I like looking at photos on the iPhone, zooming in, pushing them aside, and so forth. Again, it’s just fun—something I never said about my old Motorola phone.
    • I’m starting to get the hang of the virtual keyboard for Mail and Safari. Most reviewers have said it takes five days to get really proficient at it, but I’m feeling somewhat comfortable now. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.

I would say that for a 1.0 product, the iPhone is a stunning achievement, but on second thought, we should just leave off the opening phrase. The iPhone is a stunning achievement PERIOD. It’s not perfect by any means, but what it does well, it does VERY well, and assuming AT&T can hold up their end of the bargain, I can see myself being happy with the iPhone for years to come.

[I’m on a Norse mythology kick recently: My new MacBook Pro is Asgard. The iPhone is Gungnir.]