AT&T has authorized stores in its Northern California region to begin taking iPhone pre-sale orders with a promise of 72hr availability, according to the manager of one of the region’s busiest stores. In an email sent to store managers this morning, the wireless carrier said stores could promise customers they would have a phone in 3 days if they sign up for new service or upgrade their eligible hardware in-store and pass the requisite credit checks to establish a new two year service contract. Customers get a call from the store in three days when their phone arrives and are required to return to the store to complete service activation and pick up the handset.
The store manager said all AT&T retail stores in his region have been out of stock since the first wave of phones sold out in the days after its initial release on July 11. “It’s a marketing ploy by Apple,” he said, responding to a question about the lack of inventory at AT&T stores. “They release one or two hundred thousand phones and spread them all over and then do it again once those are sold out.” Describing the scenes of chaos in his store in the days after the launch, he said, “We actually prefer direct-ship. It keeps the crowds down so we can service our other customers and we don’t have to call the police to help with crowd control.”
Long lines are still present at the few Apple Stores in the country with inventory today, as iPhone buyers remain wiling to stand in line for two to three hours to make purchases directly from Apple.
Earlier today AT&T said iPhone 3G sales during the first twelve days were nearly double that of last year, despite shortages that have seen backorders up to three weeks at some of its retail stores nationwide. A company spokesman confirmed the official policy indicating a 13 to 14 day wait on direct-ship orders this afternoon, but indicated some regions could have greater availability than others.