First, they are remodeling the store. So they have a small fraction of the store open still, while most is closed down. Ok, remodeling is good, but ...
We're still in the midst of iPhone mania, at least here in Silicon Valley. So take the combination of a lot more people than usual at the store plus much smaller space than usual, and what do you get? Chaos.
The Genius Bar was supposedly closed and that area was being used to check out customers. Only there were lots of folks up there with their Macs, presumably with some kind of problem needing attention from a Genius. They had a big wait board for people wanting to buy iPods (no not iPhones.) You put in your name and waited for it to be called apparently. "Take a number" just seems so un-Apple.
Luckily they have the roving checkout people at the Apple Store. So I was able to flag one down and pay with my credit card without having to deal with Geniuses and iPod lines. Another nice feature is that their system recognized my credit card and remembered my email address, so my receipt was emailed to me.
On my way out, I noticed several iPhones without anybody around them. I decided it was time for me to take a look at one. For some reason I thought it would be smaller. Maybe that's because my iPod is a Nano, which is very small. The iPhone was using the store's wifi, but it did seem to load pages pretty slow. I typed in some addresses and did some searches on it. Typing wasn't a problem. I made more typos than I make on my Blackberry, but I'm sure that's just a learning curve.
I tried the king of all AJAX pages, Google Mail. I wanted to view my receipt that Apple had just emailed to me. It did seem to work, but oh man it was much more painful than using GMail on my Blackberry. I guess you can use GMail's POP forwarding to access your mail the mail app on the iPhone. Obviously I didn't try that, though I don't think GMail translates well to POP (I don't want to see my outgoing messages in my inbox, thank you.) Also, I read that a lot of people can't use the "normal" GMail interface on their iPhone unless they are on wifi. Also, I could not open the PDF of my receipt on the iPhone.
I took out my Blackberry, opened GMail on it, and then opened up the PDF receipt from Apple. It took far less time, even on EVDO instead of wifi. I definitely got some unfriendly looks from the customers there...