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Want an iPhone? Forget about it

WILLMAR -- Lines began forming Monday outside Apple and AT&T Wireless stores throughout the country.

Macintosh computer fanatics and technology enthusiasts of various stripes are waiting until 6 p.m. today when Apple's iPhone will go on sale.

For those three or four people who haven't heard of it, the iPhone is a cell phone that is also an iPod digital music and video player and an Internet device offering Web browsing and e-mail.

Instead of being covered with buttons like most cell phones, the iPhone has a clear front that can all be screen for some functions. Users can do everything from dialing a phone number to scrolling through a Web site to enlarging or reducing a photo stored in the phone by touch.

Some of what Apple's creation can do resembles feats seen in science fiction movies.

It's probably most similar to the way Tom Cruise manipulated data, images and video in "Minority Report." A user can enlarge or shrink a picture on an iPhone screen with pinching motions.

To even see an iPhone, someone from Kandiyohi and surrounding counties would have to go to St. Cloud or the Twin Cities.

The nearest place for Willmar residents to see one would be an AT&T store in Waite Park that is 47 miles away, according to the AT&T Wireless Web site. AT&T has an exclusive deal with Apple to provide cellular and wireless Internet service for the iPhone.

But does AT&T offer service here?

Russ Bennett of Bennett Office Technologies in Willmar was among the first commercial Internet service providers in the area and advocated for improved telephone services for the area.

Bennett thought for a while Thursday when asked if AT&T covered the area.

"A friend from Phoenix who had AT&T got a signal (here), but I think he was roaming all the time," Bennett said.

After listing all the cellular phone companies that do serve this area, Bennett said he couldn't think of anyone in the area who has service from AT&T.

He added that what surprised him about the iPhone is what it can't do.

"I use voice recognition to dial my phone when I'm in the car and (the iPhone) doesn't have that."

It also lacks 3G technology, a high-speed wireless technology now used to connect cell phones and other portable devices to the Internet.

With the older wireless technology in the iPhone, users could have to contend with service as slow as a dial-up connection, Bennett said.

It turns out that users in the area won't get to experience the thrill or disappointment of buying this latest, much-hyped, must-have gadget.

A call to the AT&T store in Waite Park made that clear.

Talking to a real person required listening to a recording that warned customers that the store would close at 4:30 p.m. today in order to reopen for iPhone sales at 6 p.m.

The recording also warned of extended waits throughout the weekend because of the iPhone launch and encouraged customers with other concerns to visit the store before the launch.

Once a sales representative got on the line, she explained that there's no AT&T service in the Willmar area.

A customer in this area would be roaming all the time, she said, and wouldn't be allowed to sign up.

Gary Miller

Gary Miller is a Designer for Forum Communications Co. Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune and Forum Communications since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

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