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You might have woken up this morning to a distant noise not unlike the pounding of hoof beats. Yesterday you could see the dust cloud forming far off on the horizon, but today, July 1st, it’s a little easier to hear the slow and steady march toward July 11th when Apple releases its second generation iPhone. The masses have been champing at the bit, waiting, waiting for their $199 iPhone and as the day draws closer, the number of blog entries increase and the drumming grows ever louder.

I know I’m not the only one who has been having an internal debate about whether or not now is the time to finally get one. When the first generation iPhone came out last June, I admit I lusted for one, but the price tag kept my desire at bay (unlike the immensely talented David Pogue who had to have one as he articulated in this hilarious NYT video). I wrote an entry called I Think Therefore I Won’t iPhone (for now) in which I argued that as much as I wanted one, I just couldn’t justify $500 for a phone (the opening day price you may recall for a 4GB iPhone). It seems I was wise to hold back.

Starting July 11th, I can get an 8GB second generation iPhone for the reasonable price of $199 U.S. Now, that’s more like it. Not only do I get double the storage of the debut model, I get 3G connection speeds and access to the growing library of free apps developed specifically to run on the iPhone. So what’s holding me back this time? The lower price tag, you see comes with a trade-off (isn’t there always one). Instead of paying a lot of money for the phone up front, this time you pay a higher monthly data access fee (it goes from $20 to $30).

I had the pleasure of using an iPhone for a short period last year, although it was not a flawless experience as I described in First Impressions of the iPhone. Still, there was a lot to like, mostly how well Apple incorporated its applications to work so elegantly on a phone-size foot print. What I liked most though was being able to access the internet from anywhere, and I even surprised myself by getting into YouTube videos on the iPhone.

So here I am a year later with the opportunity to buy a souped up iPhone for fraction of the cost of the original, but still I wonder if the extra monthly fees are worth it. I spend most of my time in my home office. I’m not on the road constantly. But there’s more to it than internet access. I will also have my music and maybe my favorite TV shows, my photos, all in my pocket, available whenever I want in one slim device. It’s very tempting, very tempting indeed.

The lines haven’t started forming yet outside the AT&T stores, but one day soon, the first fanatic will pull a sleeping bag out his trunk along with a cooler and hunker down outside the door. Before you know it, he will joined by another and then another and the sound will grow louder, louder and the day will draw nearer, ever nearer. The question is will I be there with them.

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