Well, the first Monday of the iPhone era’s come and gone. AT&T’s data network went down, inconveniencing me while seated in the smallest room in the house, and MacWorld has run the most in-depth review of the gadget to date (although I do look forward to the inevitable Ars Technica nitty-gritty). Apple appears to have kept up with initial demand, for once in my lifetime, and while tonight the Apple store iPhone-availability indicator is flashing red for the Pacific Northwest, I am sure it will shortly regreen.

(Update: it did not. A sellout!)

We’re still a solid week out from hackster info, which will really uncover what the device can do (just how ‘locked down’ is ‘locked down’ anyway?). By my estimate we’re about two-to-three weeks out from the first reports of real issues, if any (can you say ‘exploding laptops?’).

The biggest issue the reviewers – and, by the evidence, the news – cites is the slow AT&T network. Seattle is the city that gave birth to the modern American cellular market , in the corporate person of McCaw Cellular. McCaw was bought out by AT&T (the old baby bell) which in turn went belly up after a disastrous, consultant-driven attempt at a customer-service database unification project, or so I have heard. Cingular picked up the wreckage and has rebranded as AT&T (goes the short version).

For Seattle, that means that while we still have the old hardware in service, we also have very good coverage in the metro area, unlike most of the rest of the country under CingulAT&T. As a certified non-traveling fuddy-duddy, I do not care how good AT&T coverage is in, say, Dallas. So for my needs, unlike yours, AT&T actually is likely to provide me the most comprehensive geographic coverage of all the major cell-phone providers.

Now, regarding the sluggishness of the data network. For all I know, the carpers are right on. But again, as a consequence of being a long-time Cingular data customer, I wouldn’t know. And as my workplace is beyond the reach of both DSL and cable data and my home is at the very edge of DSL, I live in a heartily pre-YouTube 256k up or down world. I don’t see that big a differinterferenceface between my cell’s internet access and my wired access portals. So for me, the apparently slow online access out of Wifi for the iPhone is a non-issue.

So far so good, if underwhelming. Alas, thus far I’ve seen no clear answers to my key questions:

1. can I just slap in my extant SIM and go?

Currently, I have access to four AT&T phones: a Treo 650 with a crushed screen, my current Nokia 6620, a long-term lifesaving loaner Nokia 6600, and a Razr v.1. I can stick my SIM in any of these and accomplish specific tasks. I dearly miss the Treo and may yet go for a 700p or even another 650 (hi-rez on-board stereo recording mics plus a 1GB capacity SD slot: it’s a perfect pocket recorder). If I add an iPhone to the toxicity farm, will it play nice?

(Update: some say yes, some say no, and Pogoe said back on June 28 that it had to do with 32-bit vs 64-bit SIMS. Supposedly, in-network 64-bit sims shoudl be interchangeable, which is more or less the answer I wanted to hear.)

2. Can I use the iPhone as a bluetooth modem for my laptop, if need be?

Friends have noted that Apple’s lit on the BT features in the device features some sublime softshoe action, lacking meaty detail. Given that AT&T deliberately disables the feature on non-iPhone BT handsets that support it, it seems likely not to have made the cut. On the other hand, the geeks and hackers have yet to weigh in in any way that answers this quesition, so who knows.

(Again, Pogue says ‘No.’ I wonder, as that’s the distributor answer if you ask about this feature w/r/t a Treo.)

The other issue – the predictive keyboard – has me concerned but not very. The current version of Movable Type disables remote posting when run as suggested by the distributing company, and moblogging, even from the aggravating SMS-based multimode keypad on the Nokia 6620, has become my primary bloogging method. Thus my recent dearth of posts. So the only application for the phone’s keyboard I really care about is currently disabled. It seems we will be spared, for the nonce, the spectacle of me learning, yet again, just how much I do in fact ‘think different.’

All the above plus no video-capture have me leaning away from the device.

The issues that had me longing for an Apple-developed cell a year ago have largely receded with the switch away from a Palm OS. Now, I just never bother to sync the phone. That kind of sucks, since having a satellite computer is really interesting. Having it run Palm OS is really, really, really aggravating, in different ways than if the device were running a Windows Mobile variant. The aggravation stems not from usability but from instability and sync problems, incomplete and poorly thought out device-mounting protocols, timeouts, and the like.

What I guess I was hoping for was a device that is as flexible and feature-rich on the motherboard as a Treo 650 and as transparent to the user and cusomizable as my current Mac OS X laptop. Instead, I think Apple has released something that adds one key feature the 650 lacked (Wifi) and underperforms a whole slew of things the Treo had from the get go, in exchange for increased stability and a whizzy, but ultimately limiting, new UI.

I may yet change my mind. But for now, exactly like the iPod, I don’t seem to be in the target demographic and that’s just fine with me.

(Of course, there’s an ace up Uncle Steve’s sleeve on this: I will never, ever, ever buy a Windows Mobile device, and Palm carries the unmistakable stench of endgame about it.)