The iPhone is only a gadget made of wires, metal and glass. However, as Verizon is learning, the Apple handset — and its enthusiastic fans — can also be a force of nature. Despite its planning and words of assurance, Verizon is being hard hit as the carrier’s Website takes a pounding from wave after wave of iPhone 4 pre-orders.
By e-mail and Twitter, buyers are reporting pages loading slowly and various errors. The dominant theme: Verizon is getting slammed. Potentially bringing a knowing smile from AT&T (remember the carrier’s formal apology over a round of pre-order snafus?), press accounts Thursday recall a fateful statement from Verizon made a year ago: “We are not going to have any flaws on the execution of the iPhone launch,” the president and CEO of the carrier’s telecom and business department said at the time.
Verizon downplayed any pre-sales trouble. “We have been processing orders all morning and most customers are not experiencing problems,” spokesperson Brenda Raney told one blogger. Raney described the process as a “smooth availability launch” where if there were any problems, they were individual and not system-wide.
Predicting there could be a crush as customers – after months of speculation – rush online to order an iPhone 4, Verizon had asked its employees and their families not to add to the onslaught. “We’ve been working on this for a very long time,” COO John Stratton said in a note leaked to a Mac news site. “We expect unprecedented demand, bigger than anything we’ve ever seen before. We feel good about being able to handle it,” he predicted.
In June of 2010, Apple and AT&T apologized for Web sites crashing under the load of so many people wanting the new iPhone 4. AT&T had to suspend sales briefly, reporting a 10-fold increase in sales compared to the iPhone 3GS and 13 million online visits in just the first day.
Now, with e-commerce such an integral role of any product, it is important not just to offer an item people want to buy, but you have the online infrastructure capable of handling huge spikes in visits. This has never been so important as it is with the iPhone. AT&T learned that lesson – now apparently it’s Verizon’s turn.