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iPhone 3G: You Can Buy It But You Can't Use It

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on July 11, 2008

You would think that after six months of nearly nonstop iPhone hype, Apple would have been ready for the big day when it finally came. But soon after the iPhone 3G went on sale in the Eastern time zone this morning, Apple’s iTunes registration system collapsed, leaving buyers with unusable phones. Nearly four hours later, the systems were still down. The problems also prevented upgrades of original iPhones or the iPod Touch to the new version 2.0 software.

There were also reports that AT&T activation was failing and that, contrary to announced policy, customers were being allowed to leave stores with unactivated phones. Computerworld reported problems in the UK, where carrier O2's Web-based activation process required the use of Microsoft's Windows-only Internet Explorer browser. Apple stores had to scramble to set up Windows virtual; machines on their Macs to get customers activated.

All in all, a rough start for the biggest launch event since, well, the original iPhone launch a bit more than a year ago.

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Reader Comments


July 11, 2008 12:58 PM

Yes quite right. You get a wonderful shiny new hunk of metal. For some a wonderful shiny new 500 hunk of phone that well isn't working period. I am ne of those $200 shiny new phone people who was let out of the store without activation due to the system crash on Apple side. Could this not have been fixed since the first iPhone disaster???


July 11, 2008 12:58 PM

Yes quite right. You get a wonderful shiny new hunk of metal. For some a wonderful shiny new 500 hunk of phone that well isn't working period. I am ne of those $200 shiny new phone people who was let out of the store without activation due to the system crash on Apple side. Could this not have been fixed since the first iPhone disaster???


July 11, 2008 01:08 PM

I was told everything would be okay "within 15 minutes to an hour" and left thinking everything would be great (first customer in the store), and guess what? NO SERVICE on 2G iPhone OR 3G iPhone... what gives?

Ken Leebow

July 11, 2008 01:16 PM

In addition to the problem you mention, the iPhone update gives erroneous error messages, makes the phone totally unusable, and the telephone support people, while explaining the problem, just tell you to wait.

It would have been nice if Apple told existing users not to update their phones for a while.


July 11, 2008 01:35 PM

I got mine and it has a little bar, and it is tickng me off!!! I want to have it up and running by tonight, but i am less than hopeful, but it says that the server is down so my guess is it will be fully operational by tomorrow.

Although it would be nice if Apple told existing customers to not update phones.


July 11, 2008 01:35 PM

If Apple had allowed existing owners to upgrade their software a week ago, this would not be such a big problem.


July 11, 2008 01:44 PM

I've never understood people that have to run right out and buy new technology as soon as it is released. I was watching the news last night, showing people lining up in the rain over night to get their new iPhone! Wouldn't know but their lives were incomplete without it. Me, I'm one of those people that wait weeks, months, or a year before buying the new stuff, so all you guinea pigs can get the bugs worked out for me.


July 11, 2008 01:51 PM

I haven't been this annoyed in a LONG TIME...

Maybe Apple should have 1. Let old iPhone customers update last week & 2. Put a statement on their website asking new iPhone customers not to connect their phones until maybe tomorrow. So they can fix the problem.

Makes me wonder if this would have happened with a Microsoft product... The answer is probably yes!

Kevin - Oregon

July 11, 2008 01:54 PM

Sooo I bought the phone and it is not working this really is a disappointment due to the fact that I waited to buy the iPhone until they came out with the second generation. Sad times for apple lovers!


July 11, 2008 02:03 PM

Sometimes people just want to purchase products when they first come out. its nothing wrong with it but i for one would not want to wait a week to get it. I stood in line today for about 2 hours and got my phone. Im still waiting to activate but im straight for now.


July 11, 2008 02:06 PM

I did not buy the first version. I waited for this one. I am glad I did not stand in line this morning. I can go to the store and get mine in a week or two.


July 11, 2008 02:07 PM

I did not buy the first version. I waited for this one. I am glad I did not stand in line this morning. I can go to the store and get mine in a week or two.

Jim in DC

July 11, 2008 02:15 PM

2.0 has bricked my 1.0 iPhone. I can't use the phone to make or receive calls. First the upgrade lost all my music and then said the phone was full despite nothing on it. Upgrade can't reach server and I'm left with no phone on a business day. Apple web site refuses to acknowledge the problem which could have saved me 30 minutes on the phone. Why in the world did they release 2.0 and 3G phone on the same day?????


July 11, 2008 02:39 PM

I only waited a little while....but same problem with de-bricking.....w/o it the phone is basically a brick! That was the joke at the store this morning....I thought it was hilarious! Apple is a corporation...they launch a product...wait for a disaster to happen, to keep people busy, and then work frantically to fix the problem....hmmmm sounds like our government doesn't it??? We just have to be patient and wait it out....anything that is good is worth it...lets keep our "fingertaps" (a little humour for all you out there who are lost w/o your cell!!) crossed!

AG in MN

July 11, 2008 02:44 PM

I plugged my phone in as I do every morning to sync my contacts and notes from the day before. 2.0 is available so I click update and get some breakfast. It is now 1:45 and I still do not have a phone. Way to go Apple. Those of us who made the horrible mistake of trusting you to our business communication needs are now paying the price. Well, I did make use of the down time to file a Better Business Bureau report so all is not lost.


July 11, 2008 02:48 PM

I stood in line at 6:00 am this morning, finally got the phone by 9:30, went home, plugged it in, and then apple screwed me over. They had better have this fixed soon, it is truly rediculous to send hundreds of thousands of people home with phones that don't work. Some how, I knew it was too good to be true.

darren rogers

July 11, 2008 02:54 PM

really really pissed.

i made the mistake of restoring my original iphone BEFORE plugging activaing my 3G version, now im left with 2 slabs of touch screen plastic and no ability to call, text.... ANYTHING!!!!

John in ATL

July 11, 2008 03:01 PM

I stood in line for 4 hrs at the perimeter mac store and finally left when I figured that I would have to wait another 4 hrs. Mac employees would come down the line every once in a while to give us an update on what was taking so long-- our servers are down or AT&T's system is down, and so on. I finally left when the line failed to move for over an hour. I talked with most people that walked out with new phones; they all complained that now neither the new or existing phones worked, as they were stuck in the middle of the setup process.

Chris in NY

July 11, 2008 04:11 PM

Yes, a true iDisaster! Was on line at an AT&T store on Long Island and waited for 7 hours but was unable to buy one, even though they had them in stock. The lines were not long and we were told they had enough for everyone in the line. Then they stopped allowing people to purchase the phones because they could not get them activated. In addition they told people they don't advice standing in line because they weren't sure when the system would be back up since the problem was on Apples end, what a rotten apple!


July 11, 2008 04:12 PM

Is any1 able to get the new phone working...

Sean in NYC

July 11, 2008 04:31 PM

I was second on line at my AT&T store and got in the store at 8am and was out by 8:25am and I have been using my phone all day long, it's a beautiful thing.


July 11, 2008 04:54 PM

It’s madness to go to the shop at 8 am to buy a mobile phone. Poor people, I feel sorry for them. I guess, here, in the South, in Brighton, people are more sensible. I have seen 10-15 people, mostly teens, outside of O2 and NO queue at Carphone Warehouse AT ALL. Btw, I have not got one, because I do not like it.


July 11, 2008 05:30 PM

4+ hours later 2.0 software upgrade clicked. I'm not convinced a GGPS and 3G is enough for new phone. Maybe 3rd generation.


July 11, 2008 06:46 PM

Yeah I got my new phone this morning in Manhattan, I was the 10th person in line. I got to actually buy the phone at around 8:20 and the lady kept screwing up my order. I finally walked out with a WORKING phone at 8:45am... around the time I think the systems really started crashing. So far, my phone works GREAT - however, I am afraid to hook it up to itunes to transfer music because I don't want to mess it up. Does anyone know if itunes (in general) is okay to use now for Iphone 3G.. NOT for the activation process, but just to transfer music?

Hope you guys get your phones working -- really a disaster. My girlfriend was unable to buy the phone today but she plans to get one tomorrow -- I hope things are better by then!!


July 11, 2008 06:50 PM

Mike, you feel sorry for people who are motivated enough to get up early to get what they want? Hmm... you sure do have "the keys to success" down. Says a lot about the people of Brighton...


July 11, 2008 07:47 PM

Okay -- now I'm not so annoyed about AT&T not allowing me to upgrade to the iphone 3G until I'm "eligible" (almost 3 whole weeks from now). Hopefully, everyone will get all the bugs worked out before I can actually buy it!! At least I didn't stand in line all day to find out they would have charged me $500 for doorstop!

Marcelo Bernardo

July 11, 2008 07:55 PM

I actually managed to be one of the few in the Orlando Millennia Mall Apple Store that left the store with the new 3G working. I tried several times, unplugging, reseting re-launching iTunes, until it finally sync'ed and activated it. About my old iPhone, I downloaded the 2.0 update last night (the file leaked all over the net) and it works like a charm (works like an iPod Touch now, without the phone line).

Marcelo Bernardo

July 11, 2008 07:58 PM


Yes, it's VERY safe to sync your iPhone 3G with iTunes and transfer your music. I already did it with no problem. I noticed that the PUSH feature works, but VERY slow now, probably due to the problems mentioned before.

TX CHL Instructor

July 11, 2008 09:02 PM

I was going to get a 3G for my birthday (today), but when I heard there were people camping out last night, I decided not to factor myself in with the epsilon-minuses.

Turned out to be an even better choice than I anticipated.

I might get a 3g next month. Or just wait until the price goes down again. After all, there is some pretty fierce competition out there, and it's not showing any signs of going away. The iPhone is sorta neat, but not neat enough to justify standing in line, much less camping out overnight. Looks to me like some Apple Freaks need to get a life.

This weekend might be a good time to pick up some Apple stock cheap...

William Jackson

July 11, 2008 11:22 PM

I am tempted to go to the Apple Store at Tyson Corners, VA tomorrow, just to see the crowds. I will probably wait a week or two before actually buying.

The Apple network and download servers were busy this evening. I downloaded iTunes 7.7 yesterday and was attempting to check for an update for my iPod Nano. There was an error getting to the server.


July 11, 2008 11:24 PM

This is rediculous, I would never wait in a line for a phone, people in america need to get a life. I guess what I'm trying to say is that seems like machine is taking over the world. If a iphone can get thousands of people lining up just to buy the product, a damn flying car could be next on the list. We need to cut this out.


July 13, 2008 11:07 PM

I new that this time around was going to be more of the same. Huge line, no service, no inventory, horrible customer service, etc...AT&T couldn't get it right the first time, what makes you think they would get it right the second time around ? I think if you never had an iPhone maybe go through the trouble, but if you already have one, why go through the headache for another one. Makes no sense. Apple always launches news products with very low inventory to create excitement and demand. I did it once with the mini me, and never again. I can wait, if I really want an Apple Anything.


July 14, 2008 05:52 PM

When will you Mactards get a Palm Pilot? They work just as well without expensive phone contracts or huge lines?

HD Boy

July 15, 2008 03:18 PM

We purchased two iPhones at the Sacramento Apple Store on July 12. Aside from a long, but orderly line (always @ 150 customers in line or in the store all day), our purchase and activations were flawless, and the iPhone was available for full use within minutes. In fact, most customers I've spoken to indicate that Apple & AT&T quickly had fixed the Day 1 problems by mid-to-late afternoon on July 11 (after the U.S. West Coast sales surge evened out). Our experience in Sacramento on July 12 was just fine...


November 17, 2008 05:38 AM

got a contract 3g iphone over a week ago and i still cant make a call waiting ror activation this may take some time thats all iget every time i ring carphone warehouse it feels like there telling me anything to avoid me getting rid of the phone even went to the store not a happy chappy can someone help me please

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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