Apple’s new iPhone hits snag as AT&T online ordering is paralyzed


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AT&T has dropped the apple. Again.

Eager Apple fans aching to be the first to order the company’s new iPhone 4 when it went on sale Tuesday morning found that problems with AT&T’s online ordering system prevented them from buying the hot gadget. Attempts to purchase an iPhone through AT&T’s website returned a message saying there was a ‘system error that prevents us from completing your request.’

A similar message displayed on Apple’s web site, moments after it told asked a user to, ‘Please wait while we access your AT&T account information.’ (See image below right.)


Blogs reported that lines were forming at AT&T retail stores but that, with the ordering system down, clerks were taking orders by hand.

The ordering problems are the latest in a saga of technical difficulties that has defined the relationship between Apple and AT&T, the blockbuster iPhone’s exclusive telecommunications carrier. IPhone users have long complained of spotty service, slow data rates and dropped calls -- especially in big cities packed with iPhone users.

Then last week, AT&T admitted that a security vulnerability in its website had allowed a group of hackers to obtain the e-mail addresses of a large number of iPad users -- as many as 114,000.

Apple and AT&T also have a record of glitches when it comes to launching the iPhone. When the iPhone 3GS shipped last year, users had to wait hours to activate their handsets. A similar bottleneck occurred during the launch of the previous 3G phone in 2008.

AT&T declined to comment (see this follow-up post). Apple did not return a request for comment.

A clerk at the Apple Store at the Grove in Los Angeles said orders were stuck in the store too. She recommended prospective buyers try the free Apple Store app that was released Tuesday morning to make ordering Apple products easier for consumers.

But attempts to order the phone by way of the new app were also unsuccessful. (See image at left.)


-- David Sarno and Michelle Maltais