I live in an AT&T-free state, so I have not had access to the cult that is iPhone. But recently, in preparation for AT&T moving into the state (through an asset swap that involves AT&T acquiring the VT GSM assets that Verizon bought in acquiring Rural Cellular), they are now willing to open accounts with VT addresses. So when in CA this week, I went to an AT&T store to plunk down my money so I could be cool like all my friends. I purchased a 16GB iPhone 3G.
I got out of the store and into my car, and noticed that the edge where the front metal rim meets the plastic case was extremely rough -- almost sharp enough to cut. This was not the seamless tactile experience I was expecting from Apple. So I went back in the store, and asked for an exchange. I was told that "Apple prevents AT&T from making exchanges" and was sent to the Apple Store. When I arrived at the Apple Store, the rep informed me that they could make an exchange, but it would be a refurb unit, not a new one, even though mine was clearly new, because I'd bought it at an AT&T store and not an apple store.
So I went back to the AT&T store and argued with the manager. He tried to send me back to Apple. He ended up calling the Apple store, who must have told him to take the exchange, so in the end I got a new, non-defective phone. All was made right, but the experience was none too pleasant, involving three store visits.
While in the Apple store, which had many iPhones on display, I took the opportunity to do some sampling. I discovered that many iPhones had rough or sharp spots, and not all in the same places. Seems that in reducing the cost of the 3G, perhaps some quality-control corners were cut as well, since many were not very pleasing to the touch and there were significant variations in perceivable quality.