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Glitches delay iPhone 3G sales Glitches even affect users of older iPhones

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Times Staff Writers

Apple Inc. struggled Friday when customers around the world faced technical issues with their iPhones on the very day that the new version of the device went on sale.

Throngs waiting to buy the new iPhone 3G faced long delays as the company’s computer servers overloaded and clerks were unable to activate the devices. Apple’s technical difficulties also affected owners of the original iPhone, whose devices froze when they tried to download a software update.

Although resolved within hours, the service problems showed that Apple, famous for its products’ reliability, was not foolproof and that it might have to rethink future launches.

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As of June, Apple said it had sold 6 million iPhones. Friday was Apple’s biggest iPhone push to date, with the device available in 21 countries, many for the first time. Apple marketed the iPhone 3G as having twice the speed and half the price of its older version, which went on sale in June 2007.

Apple did not return calls seeking comment. AT&T; Inc., Apple’s exclusive U.S. partner, directed questions to Apple, saying the technical problems were a software issue.

The new iPhone -- a combination cellphone, iPod and Internet surfing device -- costs $199 for the 8-gigabyte version and $299 for the 16-gigabyte version. That’s $200 less than the first model.

Apple and its partners worldwide said that customers had to activate the new iPhone at stores, breaking from last year’s launch when people took the phones home to set them up via Apple’s iTunes website.

On Friday, Apple released a free software update that added features and services to the older version of the iPhone. The update added to the crush of customers on Apple’s website and possibly exacerbated the technical problems, analysts said.

For owners of the iPhone, as with all cellphones, service problems are not just inconvenient but can also be disruptive to work and life.

“I’m now depending on it for my work, my personal communication,” said Mike Malone, a media analyst with Gartner Inc. “It’s not just like a computer. Any disruption is a problem. That’s what’s different. And that’s what Apple has to deal with. They have elevated themselves in a new place with the consumer.”

Brian Hamilton struggled through the morning with a dead iPhone after he added the free software update. By midday, the San Francisco software executive was able to use his phone again.

“It was a lot of problems for someone who didn’t even purchase the new phone,” he said. “They goofed this one up pretty good.”

Still, it was a day to remember for Deon Aiken of Los Angeles, who arrived at the Beverly Center at 6 a.m. with friends Gabriel Hardrick and Christan Henriquez. They thought they would be first in line, but with more than 70 people ahead of them, they began to worry.

“If you don’t have a 3G, you’re nobody,” said Aiken, a 22-year-old retail worker.

Despite the glitches, AT&T; said it sold out of the new iPhone at most of its 2,000 retail stores in the U.S.

At an AT&T; store on Market Street in San Francisco, the 16-gigabyte version of the iPhone was sold out by midmorning, but the store was still taking orders for the devices.

“We hoped demand was going to be like it was last year,” said Terry Stenzel, an AT&T; vice president and general manager. “It surprised me.”

Scot Peterson, 40, a designer, stood in line outside Apple’s Union Square store in San Francisco for six hours. “There were times the line didn’t move for an hour, and you knew the server went down,” he said.

The day ended well. Peterson used his time in line to network for his business. And after he bought the new phone, he and his new line friends celebrated with lunch.

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michelle.quinn@latimes.com

alana.semuels@latimes.com


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