iPhone 3G Launch Day Notes from All Over

It’s iPhone launch day in the US and early reports from several sources indicate a scene of controlled chaos across the country as Apple Retail and AT&T employees work to satisfy the demands of people who must have a new phone today. It’s nothing like the mayhem that attended demand last summer when the first gen iPhone made its debut, but AT&T’s on-site activation requirement seems to be making the purchase of of a new iPhone much longer process than the 15 minutes touted earlier in the week as the time it would take to get in and out with a phone.

Steve Wozniak was quoted in MacWorld admitting gadget lust would keep him in line overnight down in San Jose to get a new phone this morning, but said,””A lot of the people I know just aren’t going to upgrade yet.”

  • Marc in Hong Kong

    Before crying too hard, look at this set of stats and see why I, and many others are frustrated.

    Hong Kong population 7 million
    Number of people who registered for iPhone – 60,000
    Number of iPhones available on launch day – 500

    That’s right 500 phones! We’re told it will take about a month to roll out to those who registered prior to launch. This is shameful at best.

  • Harley

    Forget buying one. Try upgrading your current phone to the 2.0 software. You’ll need to access the iTunes store, you can’t, and Apple tech support will be more than happy to tell you they don’t have anyone to help you now and call back later.

    So in the meantime? You have no phone.

  • deacon

    gotta admit, I’m shocked that nobody has commented on the fact that the 2.0 update has rendered, as far as I can tell, thousands of phones useless on a summer friday. I was lucky enough to erase mine about 9 am and am still waiting for the itunes store to become available. Apple discussion boards are going nuts. Where’s the posting on this?

  • angus Shangus

    I got mine at a ATT store in Nutley, NJ… Most people were turned away because they ran out. They couldn’t complete the activation at the store because of issues with Apple’s activation. I’ve gotta take it home to complete the activation

  • Steve K.

    Scandalous – in my area, most stores had 20 phones, one store and the one apple store had 40. So I bought a phone, with promise of delivery some time next week, then go home, upgrade my old iPhone – and now it’s bricked! 2.0 upgrade forces a re-activation, and Apple’s activation servers have choked on the load. Did they not think a significant number of people were going to upgrade today? Incredible.

  • diamondprojects

    Ugh. It all sounds pretty chaotic but frankly I never cease to be amazed at how infantile people have become – demanding a new phone NOW as if it is their right. Anyway, I’ve avoided upgrading my old phone to v2.0 – at least until the madness has died down. I suggest everyone else does the same…

  • iDave

    Our store in Ann Arbor was madness. Sadly I became the source of information because I was hooked up to wifi, checking Twitter and Macsurfer. Between this and MobileMe, this is an apocalyptic day in Apple history. I’m not even plugging my new phone in until I hear word that it’s safe. Anyone else on-hand, maybe with stock shortages? Those are the folks I want to hear from (besides Hong Kong, which sounds crazy).

  • Bricked & Stranded

    5 hour wait to get inside at Apple store in Columbus, OH due to AT&T system instability slowing the sales process. Another 2 hours trying to add 1 new 3G iPhone to an existing FamilyTalk plan using an existing number… they had to call AT&T on the phone to get the new phone activated but then they could not figure out how to sell it to me with the subsidy that I am eligible for… meanwhile, AT&T has bricked my old cell phone and I am waiting for Apple folks to figure out how to let me pay for a phone that is now activated and added to my account with the discount I am supposed to get. Still stranded without my new phone…

  • M-D

    My experience this morning (yesterday morning? – I’ve lost track) was pleasant enough, although maybe a little drawn out.

    I went to the AT&T store in Hamilton Marketplace (Hamilton Township, NJ) at about 5:50am, and there were approximately 18 people in line already. A number of them looked underage, so some of them might not have been getting iPhones after all. The crowd was nice and calm, and the manager of the store appeared at about 7am, passing out the iReady checklist, reminding customers about the fact that they’d need to buy the AppleCare rather than insurance, and checking upgrade eligibility for existing AT&T subscribers. The doors opened at 8 sharp, and about 10 people were ushered in – the first 7 went immediately to a sales rep, while the remaining 3 were given some time to cool off and look at accessories. The store was stocked with bluetooth headsets and a couple of 3G-sized cases/skins. Additionally, one of the assistant managers started handing out bottles of water to those left waiting outside.

    By the time I reached the front of the line outside, the woman who was in line before me (now in the ‘on deck’ position inside) signaled me and mouthed “SOLD OUT 16GB BLACK”. Turns out that the family in front of me WAS buying phones for everyone, I suppose. There were still 16GB white versions available, and I managed to snag one of the last ones.

    Naturally, as soon as I reached the counter (about 8:30am EDT), things started going wrong – it’s my luck. First number porting fails, then AT&T’s billing & account creation system goes down, and then finally, by 9am and with the Central time zone open for business, iTunes’ phone activation server finally bought it. After about 3 tries to create my account, Tony the sales rep (who was extremely patient and well-mannered, especially considering the chaos around him) offered to keep my phone under the counter while he helped another customer, and that he’d try my account again in a few minutes. He was trying, and I couldn’t fault him for that, so I stepped aside and let another customer (or 2) through – since these were, mainly, current AT&T subs, the account & porting issues weren’t a problem.

    The 8GB units held out for about another hour (until 10 or so, maybe another 15 customers deep in the line), and account creation came back up around 9:45, but iTunes was still down. The store manager eventually made the decision to allow the units into the wild while still ‘bricked’, allowing the users to unbrick the phones in iTunes on their own time. Tony was able to get back to me by 10:30, and while some issues with my number port held things up a bit longer, I was out the door by 11:10 with a phone in hand, an account created, and a number being ported.

    As a postscript, I got home from work at 2:30 and made a beeline for iTunes. The phone unbricked on the first try. The number finished porting around 1:30, so I was all set.

    I was a bit surprised by the lack of phones at this particular store – while not as high trafficked as the stores in Lawrenceville, it does its fair share, so I would have thought they’d at least have 40-50 phones on hand. (I’m curious to know what the nearest Apple Stores in Freehold & Sagemore had in stock…) That said, at least AT&T had a backup plan this time around, offering direct fulfillment by early next week to anyone who stood in line and didn’t get a phone today. I’m not surprised that AT&T’s system locked up – lots of telco systems are built on legacy programs that can’t handle the kind of load presented by launches of this magnitude – but I’m rather surprised that not only was iTunes’ activation server a weak link, but that it went down ONLY after the Eastern time zone went online. I’d have thought Asia and Europe would throw enough load at those servers to give them a workout…

    All things considered, today wasn’t the iPocalypse. It wasn’t the end of the Apple universe as we know it. It wasn’t the day that will live in infamy and will bring Apple crashing down to Earth. It was a successful launch of a long awaited product, with enthusiasm tempered by systemic glitches showing up at less-than-opportune times. (And yes, it was successful. All those AT&T and Apple locations selling out of stock are proof of that.) The iTunes activation server came back up, so those “thousands of phones rendered useless on a summer Friday” only needed to be down for a short period of time. (And it’s worth asking the question – how many of those ‘thousands’ grabbed the update before it was official?)

    I realize that I may be sounding like an Apple fanboy (and I suppose I am – I’ve been using Macs for 20 years this year, and the ][e for years before that), and I know I got lucky that, in the end, things worked out well for me, but to misquote my favorite TV show, “just repeat to yourself ‘it’s just a phone, I should really just relax’.”

  • charli

    i went to my local Apple store (just outside of Los Angeles) to check things out even though I”m not upgrade eligible. All the reports that I got from folks were that the errors were mostly ATT stuff. Their servers, it seems, had not been beefed up to handle the loads and kept crashing. and then to make it worse, when the staff had to call to get things handled, the wait times were iffy and from the sounds of it they hired a bunch of temp care staff to handle calls and folks were getting 5 different answers from ATT about each issue which means some folks were probably told bad info. One guy was there for an hour because when he left his last job and had them remove an employee discount they apparently didn’t check off some box to totally remove it and it took 5 different departments to find anyone at ATT that bothered to check the right place. geesh.
    But the Apple store staff, I’m told, were nice and as efficient as they could be. they handed out water and candy to the line. had folks walk through and give updates and info (like if you are on an active company account they couldn’t help you so you wouldn’t wait all day in line). a couple of the local food court places did giveaways and discounts for folks in line. and there were a lot of apologizes.

  • Bricked & Stranded

    A follow-up to my previous post… left the Apple store on Friday without a phone and had to go back to the AT&T store (no iPhones there) to get a new SIM for my old phone. After 4 phone calls to customer support, I got my voice mail working again and a service credit for the nightmare that was Friday.

    On Saturday I went back to the Apple store to see if they had worked out the software issues with AT&T and I was finally able to buy a 16GB black 3G model on my FamilyTalk plan replacing my original phone number. The store manager recognized me from Friday and apologized again for the previous day’s fiasco and he threw in some very nice iPhone-related shwag with my purchase. It was nice to see that they really do care about customer satisfaction. I definitely learned my lesson not to buy anything on the first day it is available, I will leave that to the hardcore fan boys. – No longer bricked or stranded!

  • nobi

    I have posted some pictures from iPhone 3G launch in tokyo:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/n

    On July 11, the queue in Harajuku was the longest. It had 1500 people who could buy it on the first day and some extra who queued for the 2nd day.

    btw. some iPhone feature is only available in Japan (I guess haven’t tried the US ones, yet):
    http://nobi.typepad.com/blog/2

About the author

Lonnie Lazar

Lonnie Lazar is a writer-musician-web designer-attorney. He writes about Apple for Cult of Mac and Mac|Life, and about VoIP and telecommunications for Voxilla. Follow Lonnie on Twitter @LonnieLazar, join the Cult of Mac on Facebook, and find Lonnie's photos on Flickr.

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