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Paying off a $5 iPhone bet

After being sure I could withstand the temptation to jump on the iPhone bandwagon, I gave in and bought one. And then I paid up.

Earlier this year, when I was preparing to head out on Road Trip 2008, my journey around the American South, I arranged for a loaner iPhone because I was curious how it would perform deep in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and the like.

Having watched friends and colleagues jump on the iPhone bandwagon, I was of course curious about the device, but given that I was still deep in my Verizon Wireless contract--due to whatever funny look I happened to give my phone that caused a re-up of the two-year contract--and because I already had an iPod and way more music than would fit on an iPhone, I was determined not be lured into the cult.

Apple Inc.

But my colleague Stefanie Olsen, herself an iPhone convert, didn't believe I would have the discipline to use the device for a month and not come home desperate to get one of my own. And with that in mind, she bet me five bucks that I couldn't resist the temptation upon my return.

Certain in my ability to withstand the peer pressure and the lure of a shiny and admittedly cool new gadget--and determined not to have to pay Verizon its extortionate early-termination fee (sorry, Declan)--I walked away from our handshake thinking of the many things I could buy with the five dollars I knew I'd be winning.

Shortly thereafter, I set on on Road Trip for what turned out to be 30 days driving nearly 4,600 miles through nine Southern states. All along the way, I toted my loaner iPhone, using it in as many ways as I could, and depending on it as my full-time cell phone.

What struck me right away was how nice the iPhone's user-interface is. The voice mail was so easy and intuitive, and it was little things like the phone's alarm clock feature, which is so simple and elegant--and frankly, pleasing--to use.

I had thought that the iPhone's larger size would deter me, but over time, I got used to it. And, yes, the mapping and easy Web surfing were very compelling.

Suffice it to say, by the time I arrived home, I knew I was won over. But by now, the iPhone 3G had come out, and so my only hope for not losing the bet was to hide behind my refusal to wait in long lines to buy consumer electronics. That seemed to be a winning strategy, as the lines stayed long for the first few weeks.

But this last weekend, I will confess, I finally crumbled. I drove to my nearest Apple Store, found that the line was only about 20 minutes, and I did it: I bought an iPhone.

I must say, however, that Apple's clever marketing of the phone as inexpensive (with AT&T's subsidy) didn't quite play out when I saw the bottom line. While the phone's retail price was indeed just $299 (for the 16 GB model), when tax, the $69 cost of AppleCare, and the $110 Verizon termination fee were all added up, I saw my bank account take a $518 hit.

Plus, of course, the $5 I had to pay Stefanie when I got to work this morning.