Apple Leaves Nasty Aftertaste for iPhone Buyers

Dennis Faas's picture

Apple's in-store activation scheme for the launch of the new iPhone seems to have backfired thanks to a software bug. The problem isn't with the phone itself -- as far as anyone can tell, they work exactly as advertised. Instead, the glitch lay in the servers used to activate the phone service.

Apple brought in the scheme after fears people would buy phones and then sell them abroad, particularly in markets which don't yet have a licensed local carrier. To combat this, U.S. buyers have to get their phones activated in person.

In most cases, this involves signing a minimum two-year service deal with AT&T. Apple even insisted buyers use a credit card rather than cash -- though bizarrely they did let people exchange their cash for Apple gift cards which could be used for payment.

Unfortunately, the last step of the purchasing process before leaving the store was to attach the phone to a computer running iTunes and activate it. Either through a design flaw (AT&T stores used a specially modified edition of iTunes), or simply because servers were overloaded, many people found activation was either extremely slow or impossible. (Source:

Eventually, staff simply told buyers to go home and activate the phones on their own computers. That wasn't much of a solution to one buyer interviewed by news agency Reuters in New York:

"My phone's not working. So now my old phone doesn't work and my new phone doesn't work. I'm going to have to find a pay phone. Do they still make pay phones?" (Source:

Fortunately for Apple, this chaotic situation -- which many had predicted -- shouldn't do much to dampen the allegiance of its traditionally loyal customer base. And pictures of long lines are usually a public relations plus for a product, regardless of the reality for those involved.

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