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The great iPhone 4 pre-order disaster

June 15, 2010

Well it’s that time again, folks. Another iPhone is almost here and today is the day that Apple and AT&T are accepting pre-orders. It should be a joyous occasion, right? We should all have placed our orders by now and should be eagerly awaiting our new iPhone 4 deliveries.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way. Again. Today’s pre-order situation has turned into an absolute fiasco. Sure, some people have been able to order their iPhone 4s on Apple’s site or on AT&T’s, or via the new Apple Store iPhone app; but many have spent hours trying to place their pre-order, only to run into one problem or another.

So Much for My New iPhone
After much hemming and hawing, I finally decided to upgrade my aging 3G iPhone to a new iPhone 4. I was excited as I hit Apple’s site this morning and input my information. Everything was going great until I hit the dreaded “checking your AT&T account information” screen.

Once it sat there, with no progress happening for many minutes, I knew I was doomed. AT&T has, yet again, screwed iPhone owners and embarrassed Apple. Why, Apple? Why must you saddle us iPhone owners with the loser carrier that can’t EVER do anything right when a new iPhone launches? Why must we always have to deal with them and their stupidity?

As I write this, I’ve given up on pre-ordering my new iPhone 4. I’ll check back later today or tonight. Maybe the AT&T problem will be fixed by then. Oh, and please note that I actually tried to order it from AT&T’s site too, but that didn’t work either.


Apple’s site seemed to work quite well for me.

Everything went great until Apple contacted AT&T about my upgrade eligibility.

Anger From Around the Web
Obviously, I’m not the only one who is angry about this pre-order nightmare. Even the editor at the pro-Apple blog Mac Daily News cried out in frustration about this farce:

“AT&T has botched every iPhone launch. AT&T is uniformly unprepared and habitually under-capacity, but they are excellent at tarnishing the Apple brand. Wake up, Steve! Hellooo, Steve?”

Here’s a sampling of comments from various sites:

Mac Daily News

“I’ve been trying since before 7am EDT. First, the store was off line. Now, it gets to the ATT upgrade confirmation page (from the Apple Store site) and I keep getting a “cannot process” message. Ugh.”

“ATT account information in “Processing Info” purgatory for almost 1 hour!”

Mac Rumors Forum
“My order won’t go through on Apple’s site. I get to the point where I put in my current cell number and it attempts to verify with AT&T. I get a msg returned that it’s unable to process at this time.

Very frustrating!”
“I’m struggling to get past the either the ATT upgrade screen (error P1015) or the Apple one (can’t get past “replace a phone on my account” – get an error that my request couldn’t be processed).”

Apple Insider
“… it is deeply embarrassing for Apple and ATT. The fact that they could not get their act together with yet another launch is getting a bit tiresome. Granted, the feeling will soon pass, but it still rankles.”

“twenty-some-odd billion dollars in net profit a year between them and several years worth of experience under their belts and they still can’t get it right? there should be more than a few people out on their asses for this.

there are no excuses.”

“Hey ATT:

Ummm, shouldn’t we do upgrades BEFORE the launch guys? Just a thought. They should have been honest and posted a message stating that once again they dropped the proverbial ball.”

Who’s At Fault?
Well as much as I would like to blame AT&T, I can’t do so. Why? Because we all know how stupid and incompetent they are. It’s not a secret, it’s been known since the launch of the very first iPhone. AT&T has always been the millstone around the iPhone’s neck and it continues to be, to this very day.

The person who is at fault here is Steve Jobs.

Jobs is arguably the best CEO on the planet. He is an extremely intelligent, shrewd guy. He is intimately familiar with AT&T’s past failures and should have taken steps to make sure that today’s pre-order situation did not deteriorate into the current mess.


Well far be it from me to give Jobs advice, but it seems very clear that Apple needs to assert its natural dominance over AT&T and make sure that there are Apple chaperones inside of AT&T that actually manage these pre-order situations. The Apple chaperones should be given complete control over AT&T’s infrastructure and should wield their power ruthlessly.

Under no circumstances should AT&T be allowed to ever manage an iPhone launch or pre-order on their own. Their stunning record of incompetence and failure precludes the possibility of Apple ever trusting them again.


An iPhone upgrade error message from the AT&T Wireless site.

Time for More Carriers
The larger issue here is, of course, the horrific fact that AT&T is still the only carrier for the iPhone. This must change and it must change soon. AT&T has been nothing but a liability for the iPhone and this latest fiasco is just an exclamation point on a track record of failure by the company.

Come on, Steve. When are you going to set the iPhone free? When will iPhone customers begin to have some choice in carriers? It’s long, long overdue. I know a fair number of people who really want to buy an iPhone, but won’t buy one right now.

Why not? AT&T, that’s why.

The exclusive relationship between Apple and AT&T may have, at some point, been a good idea; but it sure isn’t now. It’s holding the iPhone back and – as we’ve seen today – it’s pissed off many existing iPhone customers who simply want to upgrade their damn phones.

Why should this beautiful phone be held hostage by AT&T?

Final Thoughts
There’s no doubt that iPhone 4 will be a huge success; but it will be a success despite AT&T, and certainly not because of it. Apple has some serious decisions to make regarding the future of the iPhone.

Android is breathing down the iPhone’s neck and tethering the iPhone to AT&T’s horrific infrastructure will cost Apple money as time goes by. Android is not as slick as iOS, but it’s getting better and better. The gap between the two will only decrease and Apple may end up losing customers if their frustration level increases to the point where they simply must dump AT&T and move to a new carrier.

I can’t say I’d blame them. Today’s pre-order for the iPhone 4 has been a total fiasco and a complete embarrassment for Apple.

I suspect that somebody at AT&T is going to get a nasty phone call from Steve Jobs (if it hasn’t happened already), and I hope Jobs bites his or her head off. It’s the least he can do for Apple’s iPhone customers.

What’s your take on the iPhone 4 pre-order debacle? Were you able to complete a pre-order? Or did you finally give up? Tell me in the comments.


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7 Responses to The great iPhone 4 pre-order disaster

  1. Jim on June 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Apple released this statement today:

    “Statement by Apple on iPhone 4 Pre-Orders

    CUPERTINO, Calif., June 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Yesterday Apple and its carrier partners took pre-orders for more than 600,000 of Apple’s new iPhone 4. It was the largest number of pre-orders Apple has ever taken in a single day and was far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions. Many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties, and hope that they will try again or visit an Apple or carrier store once the iPhone 4 is in stock.”

    Rather lame, but at least they apologized for the mess yesterday.

  2. Jim on June 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Just an update on this. I was FINALLY able to order an iPhone 4 from AT&T’s site tonight. Yes, I know…the irony is delicious!

    :tongue: :wink:

  3. Jim on June 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Gizmodo has more details about what a disaster today has been for Apple and AT&T.

    Apple iPhone 4 Pre-Ordering Is a Total Disaster

  4. Reserved on June 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Was able to easily reserve via the Apple Store app on my current iPhone. So quick and easy…made me even more mad that I wasted time trying to get through on the Apple site. But at least I have one reserved!

  5. Ordered on June 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Was able to order at 6:45am CST right before leaving for work with no problems. Went to Apple’s site, put in my info and went right through. The email confirming the pickup at my local Apple store came about 5 minutes later.

    BTW, the email did say that the store would open at 7am on hte 24th.

  6. Jonn Parker on June 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Started pre-ordering at 3am CST, finally succeeded at 4:45 am!

  7. spoofy on June 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Actually, the error does not appear to be AT&T’s fault this time. I was able to get through the AT&T verify account screen and into the shopping cart before the site crashed. Also, I was eventually able to process my order directly on AT&T’s site with some time delay but it worked.

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