AT&T Activation Overload Means Some iPhone 4S Owners Will Have To Wait Without a Phone [Confirmed]

AT&T Activation Overload Means Some iPhone 4S Owners Will Have To Wait Without a Phone [Confirmed]

UPDATE: AT&T denies it has activation problems. A spokesperson just sent us the following statement:

We had our most successful iPhone launch with more than 200,000 preorders placed in the first 12 hours last week. As customers are receiving their devices – and more are buying in our stores – we’re seeing completed activations across our servers and are moving requests through as quickly as possible. We’re not seeing any widespread delays at this time, though customers may experience minor wait times as more devices are activated.

AT&T’s activation servers have melted down, according to a tip we just got from an Apple store employee.

Launch day for the  iPhone 4S hasn’t gone without some glitches. Reports are pouring in about activation problems that have been ongoing practically all day. So the question is who is to blame? It looks like the blame is squarely on AT&T again due to Apple’s systems being unable to communicate with their databases. If you’ve been fortunate enough to get your new iPhone 4S activated today you are lucky and the rest of you that haven’t probably should wait until Apple and AT&T get their act together.

The ongoing activation problems are showing up when iOS 5 is used to activate directly from a device and sometimes in iTunes. Either iOS 5 or iTunes advises the user that their activation is “pending” or “unavailable”. The activations are being queued up, when marked “pending” and a notification email will be sent once the activation is completed by AT&T.

On the other hand if you get an “unavailable”  message you might be out of luck. Since we have a confirmed report from an Apple Store retail employee that the unavailable activation messages are a result of the system’s inability to process any activations. Users are advised to try again later. According to the employee:

Just before 12:30 EDT, the network went down apparently in all Apple stores so transactions could not be completed. I waited 45 minutes and when my customer gave up and left, my shift was over so I left. I went to pick up the 3 iPhones that were delivered to me today. I got home but ran into problems activating my first phone. I called ATT and they transferred me to Apple. AppleCare reports their activation system is down, they are working on it but do not know when it will be up.

This is reminiscent of problems AT&T had a few years ago in 2009 where problems were so bad for the iPhone 3GS that activation took up to 48 hours to complete.

  • Melanie

    OMG so frustrated all day trying to use this darn phone!

  • erfon elijah

    damn me too!  at&t eye of sauron picture makes me feel a bit better though…

  • phoenix2000us

    Awful – I should have gone with Sprint.

  • MacHead

    ATT activated my phone at 8:15 this morning without a hitch at all

  • randall

    Ha, my brother was able to go into his Apple store about 20 minutes ago, buy the 4S and have it activated on AT&T. Some people just get so unlucky with these things.

  • Dreamgrifter Films

    It appears that the AT&T CSR also deactivated the sim card that came with my 4s, it says “No Service” instead of 3g.  I guess I’ll be going by the AT&T store this afternoon for a new SIM…

  • Phil

    AT&T, if you’re gonna cary the iPhone, make sure your servers are up for it. FUCKEN HATE AT&T RIGHT NOW. THERE BETTER NOT BE AN ACTIVATION FEE.

  • SulaymanF

    Really AT&T? This is your 5th iPhone, how can you screw it up every time?

  • SulaymanF

    My friend was at the AT&T Store in New York City, and the reps offered to help setup his phone…and then deactivate iMessages in settings. Devious!

  • erfon elijah

    that’s what i’m sayin’!

  • Phil

    THEN WHY CAN’T I ACTIVATE MY PHONE???? MINOR WAIT TIME IS OVER 5 HOURS TO YOU???

  • Phil

    I’m about to call these asses and get my activation fee removed.

  • Phil

    IT WORKED!! I think they read my post and got scared. :D

  • jim

    AT&T sucks – going to Verizon. See ya!

  • jbach67

    Oh well, thanks for helping me feel better about not getting my phone today. What good would it be to get a phone and not be able to use it! Next year, I’m ordering through Apple.

  • guest

    Worked when I turned my old phone off and retried to activate through itunes

  • tetmelon

    I turned off my old phone and activated through iTunes, and it worked the 1st time. awesome

  • tetmelon

    I turned off my old phone and activated through iTunes, and it worked the 1st time. awesome

  • Bradley

    Got mine at 10am on the dot from UPS, activated in 5 minutes! And sorry David, I left a comment about your Survivor review and your review was prob correct at the time.  Griffen added the slot for the camera flap later.  You probably got an earlier build.  My apologies, however someone should update that review that the problem has been fixed so people don’t go through the hassle of what I went through last night.

  • Bradley

    And it IS a ATnT

  • DC

    I thought that was a picture of a flaming a-hole!

  • Gq

    UPDATE! After calling Apple and being transferred to AT&T I was advised activate can take 1-12 hours. After waiting 3-4 hours I decided to connect via iTunes and activate that way and I was successful. EVERYONE GIVE IT SHOT!! 

  • Hiro Chavez

    up in canada fido and rogers melted like anikin skywalker

  • dude

    Figures dont test the system out before releasing it to millions to only have issues the first day!

  • Jmccamb

    that picture is hilarious … whoever made it. i love you.

  • Jeff Schueler

    I am so OVER AT&T! It’s been 24 hours, and they still can’t provide me with an ETC for my iPhone 4S activation. Apparently their servers are so backed up that they have been having trouble completing the activations. Apple can’t help, AT&T retail stores can’t help, and this shit sucks. I wish I had gone with Sprint.

  • mendeznoel20

    mines was activated just fine and i was out of the at&t store in under 3 minutes. I spoke to the manager there and he went ahead and gave me the iphone 4s at the full discount pricing of $399 for a 64gb 4s, instead of paying $649. i waited 10 hours and was the first one to walk out of the store and they even clapped and cheered at me for being the first one :D

  • sjs

    I tried to activate via iTunes last night (Friday, 10/14 around 7:30PM Central). It gave me a message to expect an email confirming activation. Since I figured the system would be jammed, I patiently waited until 1:30pm today (Saturday) to call 611 and find out what the problem is. The AT&T rep said there was an incompatibility issue with the new 4S and the family map service, which made NO sense to me…but told her to take it off my account and try to activate. I was talking to her from my husband’s phone. While on the phone with her, she said she could reach my voice mail, so it must be activated, but I tried to tell her the phone didn’t ring and I can’t make a call out, she wasn’t on the line any more….called again and had to wait another 15 minutes for a human. This guy was reading the manual and repeated himself about activating the phone from the phone from the phone, not iTunes and he tried to tell me that I did it wrong and to go to the Apple store to see what’s wrong with the device. I told him the Apple device works just fine with wifi, thank you very much, so it’s obviously a problem with AT&T so NO, I will not go to the Apple Store. He transferred me to technical services. Thank God for that. At least the new guy had some intelligence. He verified my IMEI and ICCID and said that when I tried to activate last night, it was not added to the que because of the family map issues, but that the woman I spoke to at 1:30 did set the wheels in motion to activate, but it could take 1-3 hours and if I still don’t have service then, call back. So of course, no service. Called them back at nearly 6pm. Two different ladies tried to help me again. One tried trouble shooting with the iPhone 4G manual and told me toggle on/off the “enable 3G” feature. After finding it wasn’t there and searching on the internet, I discovered that none of the 4S have the “enable 3G” toggle button AT ALL! Well that sucks. And the damn phone still didn’t work. The first woman tried canceling my registration and said that with the 4G sometimes canceling and trying again makes it work. All this time, I could see full bars of service and the AT&T lettering and the “3G” network in blue on the top right of the phone, but every time I tried to make a call, I got a recording telling me, “we’re sorry, but the number you are trying to reach is not allowed from this phone.” Paid $300 for the damn thing but I’m “not allowed” to make a phone call????? Second lady I spoke to during the 3rd call to AT&T told me to hang up, take the SIM card out of the 4S and try it in my husband’s 4G. Same error. His SIM in my 4S worked just fine. Switched the SIM cards back again, and it finally worked! The most recent AT&T person called me back, as she promised to follow up, and I told her it was finally working. She informed me that the cancel/reinstate done by the previous rep took a little time (was reinstated in the back end), but finally worked. I don’t know what the hell, but at least it’s working now. Only 24 hours after I first attempted activation through iTunes. sheesh.

About the author

David W. MartinDavid W. Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant. David has written for CNET's iPhoneatlas.com, MacLife.com, CultofMac.com, BYTE.com and recently for aNewDoman.net. He comes to Cult of Mac's website with deep knowledge and passion for the all things Apple. Follow David on Twitter @david_w_martin or see what he's up to now at davidwmartin.com.

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