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Activation Problems in iPhone Paradise 434

Posted by Zonk
from the long-wait-short-celebration dept.
Thomas Hawk writes "Unfortunately it appears that some activations of Apple's new iPhone have gone badly. After waiting in line 36 hours I'm still unable to activate my phone. I'm documenting the AT&T circus call by call on my blog. I've had my hold calls dropped, been patched into other users unable to activate their phone instead of AT&T customer service reps, been told that my wife must get a new phone and that the family plan can't work for me. I've been told that the problem is that I'm not putting a new chip into my iPhone in the slot on the left side of my phone when no slot there exists. PR Blogger Steve Rubel has also been documenting his problems on his Twitterstream. According to an unscientific poll being conducted by Engadget about half of the people who bought iPhones have had activation trouble with about 38% of problems still unresolved." Even the folks at MacWorld weren't immune to these issues.
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Activation Problems in iPhone Paradise

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  • by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:18AM (#19713513)
    If you read the other person's problem thingy, it states quite clearly that this is not AT&T's problem, but it is a problem with iTunes and the iPhone.
  • The Engadget Poll (Score:5, Informative)

    by Necroman (61604) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:25AM (#19713567)
    The Poll that Engadget had about the service problems was fairly badly put together. The only way to be able to see results is to vote first. For for all the people that don't even have iPhones, they had to choose 1 of the 3 options before they could see the results. Since there was no "I Don't have an iPhone" options, it severally screwed with the results.
  • actually he is just stating a fact, that a unscientific poll does not = everyone having issues. Everyone I know who has gotten one has all had not one issue with it except one, who had a pre-existing ATT account which many people who have issues, ALSO have had.
  • by scooter.higher (874622) on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:02AM (#19713843) Homepage Journal
    The summary fails to mention one of the (I believe) more informational parts of the story...

    http://thomashawk.com/2007/07/hot-donkey-after-36- hours-we-just.html [thomashawk.com]

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Haaaalllleeeeejuuuuuahhhhh!

    We just did it. After probably 20 or so phone calls to numerous departments all over Apple and AT&T we finally found the *right* department who can actually activate iPhones with you online, on the spot.

    The magic number, and you will want to write this one down, is 877-800-3701. A special shout out and thanks to Scott Francis who left us a comment with the key to getting this whole mess solved. Apparently this is the one place at AT&T where they can actually activate your iPhone with you online. It was about a 20 minute hold and about a 10 minute process but the iPhone is now activated.

    Thanks to everyone who spent the last day plus with us on ZooomrTV while we got it activated. It's been a fun ride. Now time to play with the phone and figure it out.
  • by geddes (533463) on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:09AM (#19713887)

    I think all the mobile phone providers are known for shitty service.
    I have to disagree. I have had nothing but excellent service from T-Mobile, and I mean truly excellent. Their phone reps are not only friendly and helpful, but WELL TRAINED. They understand the different models, the plans, SIM cards, unlocking, and will help you with anything. I even called T-Mobile once lost in Salt Lake City, looking for a wi-fi hotspot. I read them the name of the street I was on and the rep gave me step-by-step directions, and stayed with me on the phone. It was awesome. I really want an iPhone, but I am loathe to leave T-Mobile for this reason. Hearing stories like this makes me even more reluctant to buy an iPhone. Good customer service is so rare these days. Why didn't apple go with T-Mobile? Or rather, why did they have an exclusive deal with anyone the great thing about gsm is that it is interoperable. AT&T isn't subsidizing the price, or so I hear, so what possible advantage does apple get from the relationship? "Innovative Network features like visual voicemail." Fine, I would be happier with an iPhone without visual voicemail that I could put my T-Mobile SIM into.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:17AM (#19713935) Journal
    They did quite a bit of testing, actually. That's why we're not getting reports of tens of thousands of people having problems.

    -jcr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:44AM (#19714105)

    The summary fails to mention one of the (I believe) more informational parts of the story...

    Oops, you quoted the wrong part, from the comments:

    you are an idiot. i saw several ppl trying to help you in the zooomr chat and you ignored their suggestions, choosing instead to milk the story. how funny that the solution you eventually was the same as the one they suggested. if you had spent more time trying to solve the problem and less time on a broadcasting ego-trip then maybe you wouldn't have wasted so much of your weekend on hold and could have spent it with the children instead.
  • by mr_matticus (928346) on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:15AM (#19714291)
    You don't have to care about Apple at all to know that 38% of people aren't having problems with activation. Just ask Reuters [reuters.com]. They say 2%, and I trust their sources infinitely more than an Engadget poll with roughly the same number of responses as every other Engadget poll and absolutely no mechanism to restrict responses--two clicks to a vote is an easy target.
  • by ronin510 (1113835) on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:29AM (#19714407)

    Before I comment on Apple's availability, it's interesting you say AT&T's website states that the iPhone is in stock, when there seems to be no way to check an AT&T retail store's personal stock (aside from AT&T putting out a news blurb that their retail stores are sold out). Buying from AT&T's website isn't a possibility, since they tell you to go to Apple.com, which is this link: http://www.apple.com/iphone/buy/ [apple.com] , which states you can only buy the iPhone at Apple's online store, Apple's retail stores, and AT&T's retail stores. Apple's stores still list ship times of 2-4 weeks. I'll just take it as a simple error on your part.

    I don't doubt that you'll find Apple stores that aren't sold out. Analysts are showing figures of up to 1,000 iPhones per Apple retail store. With 168 retail stores, they have sold an estimated 128,000 units (not including AT&T store sales) on launch day. 168 stores times an estimated 1,000 units each gives about 168,000. source:Bloomberg [bloomberg.com] Piper Jaffray has said sales of 200,000 units at launch (AT&T and Apple) were expected and met. Also, most of the sold-out Apple retail stores are in California, where if you were to separate the state from the rest of United States, it would still have the 5th largest economy in the world. I'm sure Apple's smart enough to realize this and place more stock in the California stores.

    For first weekend figures, I must say that's pretty good, especially for a $499/$599 phone on a non-holiday shopping season. That's over $100 million in revenue in a couple days. Apple retail stores that are currently out of stock have stated that they should be receiving shipments in constant intervals. Instead of an artificial shortage, Apple seems to actually be prepared for demand.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:45AM (#19714491) Journal
    TFA says it took 36 hours, but he's all sorted out.

    -jcr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @04:44AM (#19714783)
    I have been with T-Mobile for years, and have had nothing but the best service and help on the few times I've called the reps. After knowing all the horror stories from other providers, I'm grateful that I'm with them.
  • by shmlco (594907) on Monday July 02, 2007 @04:45AM (#19714787) Homepage
    "Just activate in-store like any other cell phone."

    You think people are having problems now? A Piper Jay analyst said Apple has probably sold a half-million phones this weekend. I waited in line, then once inside the store, paid and had my phone in two minutes. Went to an WiFi-enabled restaurant nearby and was activated in three more, while I had some coffee.

    So given that, the Apple store I went to processed an entire line of 200 people in an hour and a half, and I'd saw a quarter of those at least bought two phones.

    Now. Picture a half-million people standing in line and having store employees REQUIRED to do all activations, transfers, credit checks, purchases, and all the other garbage usually associated with buying a phone, and now taking 10, 15, or even 20-minutes with each one. Now THAT would have been a disaster.
  • There's one big unscientific aspect about that poll, at least when I tried to vote on it. You can only see the results if you voted. So how many people do you think just clicked any option to see the results?

    A couple of people, including me, mentioned it in the comments and Engadget should've changed it right away. Just another reason to question blogs as an authentic media source.
  • Not Surprising (Score:3, Informative)

    by ghoul (157158) on Monday July 02, 2007 @04:56AM (#19714837)
    I don't know about shitty but it is kind of expected that all the wireless providers will have the same level of service as 95% of US providers (by customer base) use the same software to run their systems - Amdocs Ensemble. So it all works the same way. The only difference is in marketing and how big a smile you get at their stores. Even the CRM runs on AMDOCS Clarify so all the call center reps are working from the same script.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:44AM (#19715047)
    Maybe because it's full of untrue garbage?

    -50% of users didn't report problems. 50% of poll respondents did. They're definitely not the same group in this poll. Reuters, a *reputable* news source not relying on an open poll, pegs the number at 2%.
    -Off topic rant about proprietary software. There's no such thing as an "open" phone activation system, and presumably people want to use this as an iPod as well (which out of the box requires iTunes, too--alternatives for the iPhone post-activation can't be far off). Microsoft's fine wasn't for bundling. It was for bundling after being convicted of an illegal monopoly (key word: ILLEGAL, not just a simple monopoly, which Apple doesn't have in the first place).
    - In store activations would have made lines move slower than molasses in January. Since 38% didn't actually have problems, it's a moot point, but assuming for a moment they did, 38% of activation problems is better than 100% having 5x the wait.
    -"Activation of the iPhone is unnecessarily proprietary" just about sums up the ludicrous comment. Letting you do it yourself, on your own computer, is a time saver. Buying it to use on an unsupported platform is a pretty stupid thing to do, no matter how much you want the stupid thing. For 95% of computer owners, it poses no problem. It wasn't designed to work for the other 5%, so complaining that it's a hassle is kind of a "duh" moment.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday July 02, 2007 @08:09AM (#19715715)
    I'm really sick of this weak argument against the iPhone when there are SO many valid things it is really lacking compared to "free" cell phones providers are giving away with 2 years of service (speed dial, changing ring tones, Bluetooth object transfer, voice dial, swappable batteries, MMS, Bluetooth tethering, etc.).

    Perhaps you can escape the plan, but does that include an unlock code? Can you even unlock your iPhone?

    Perhaps I'm spoilt from living in Europe. Most ~ $60 price plans would get you any phone for nothing or a small fee. That includes models like the Palm Treo 750, Blackberry models etc. We'll have to wait and see what happens when the iPhone appears in Europe. It wouldn't surprise me if Vodafone, O2 etc. engage in a little rape of their own if there are people dumb enough pay for one and sign up for a high contract.

  • by jkabbe (631234) on Monday July 02, 2007 @08:20AM (#19715771)
    why not just sell them in the Apple store and let customers sort their own phone plan out

    Because visual voice mail apparently required changes to AT&T's network. I doubt AT&T would've made that commitment if Apple were selling iPhones that could be used on T-moble as well (and vice-versa for T-mobile).
  • by ari_j (90255) on Monday July 02, 2007 @08:56AM (#19716021)
    How many GSM providers are national in the USA? ZERO. Not one of them has a network with "home" service where I live or with ANY service in most of the places I spend time other than home and the office. You may find it surprising, but that vast middle part of the country is part of the nation, and it is by and large CDMA-only. It sucks, too. And here's AT&T, whose shitty service doesn't surprise me given that they lie about having the largest digital voice and data network in the country, given that only a CDMA provider with lots of good partnering agreements.
  • by klaun (236494) on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:32AM (#19716393)

    Probably because AT&T is shitty - which means they need the money

    I have trouble understanding why you were moderated insightful, since publicly available information disproves the second part of your hypothesis.

    Total revenue for AT&T first quarter of this year was $28 million compared to $22 million for Verizon and much smaller numbers for others... Leader in market share for wireless at 27.1%

    I think the more likely explanation is AT&T is much, much larger than any other GSM provider in the U.S. (As in more than twice as large... subscriber-wise). By far has the most GSM network infrastructure and bandwidth. I think the desperate hurting for money thesis is totally ludicrous.

    I'm really interested in more info on what the nature of the activation issue is, so I'm disappointed that all the articles I read on it seem to be Apple fanboys saying "it definitely can't be Apple's fault, must be AT&T." But they don't provide any details... Most GSM phones don't need to be "activated" at all... put a(n appropriate) SIM card in and it works. What happens during activation? And before launch I heard that you'd be able to activate via iTunes at home... What happened to that?

  • Not true (Score:3, Informative)

    by avdp (22065) * on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:53AM (#19716615)
    That's not true for this GSM phone, or any other GSM phone sold in the US. Unlike in Europe, where such practice is illegal, the US cell phone carrier lock their phones to their SIMS. You can't used a AT&T GSM phone on the T-Mobile network, or vice versa UNLESS you manage to convince the provider to unlock your phone (or in the alternative, find a way to unlock it, usually for a fee, from the internet). The justification for this practice is that phones are heavily subsidized by the carrier in the US (you pay a small fraction of the actual cost of the phone). The justification for the iPhone (for which you pay FULL price) is that Apple is too greedy?

    The other thing the SIM thing is good for in the US is to switch phone within the same company. i.e. my wife and I are both with T-Mobile, and we decide to switch phone (and keep our respective numbers).
  • by TheSkyIsPurple (901118) on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:58AM (#19716681)
    One word: Visual Voice Mail
    Or maybe three if you don't hyphenate it or something =)

    I recall a big deal about how Cingular had to make changes on their backend systems to be able to support this feature. The iPhone won't fully work on any system that doesn't have this functionality, and if it's not done exactly the same way, then there will have to be code changes and exceptions for each and every one.

    Why exclusive? Call providers like that... it was probably the only way Apple could get one to carry it... the only way to guarantee enough revenue to make supporting this weird phone worthwhile /tis only my guess
  • by m0nstr42 (914269) on Monday July 02, 2007 @10:41AM (#19717273) Homepage Journal

    If that were the case, there'd be news stories galore, all over CNN etc.


    http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/ptech/07/02/iphone.ap /index.html#cnnSTCText [cnn.com]

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19539747/ [msn.com]

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,287638,00.html [foxnews.com]

    All linked off their main pages.
  • by bluemonq (812827) * on Monday July 02, 2007 @11:53AM (#19718239)
    Correction. They couldn't set up a service with Verizon Wireless because Verizon wouldn't kowtow to Apple's demands. Apple went to Verizon first.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/30/verizon_tu rned_down_iphone/ [theregister.co.uk]
  • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Monday July 02, 2007 @12:08PM (#19718471) Homepage Journal
    GSM coverage is definitely not excellent in the central U.S. plains or the Rocky Mountains. There is coverage now on interstate highways and in cities and larger towns, but smaller towns and highway routes have spotty coverage or none at all. There were a handful of small telephone companies that sprung up to fill the void in the past few years. Two of the largest such have been recently acquired.

    Western Wireless was acquired [phonescoop.com] by Alltel [alltel.com].

    AT&T recently acquired Dobson Communications [prnewswire.com] (which was the largest vendor licensing the Cellular One brand). I think that the "new AT&T" realizes that Verizon will kick their ass if they don't start competing on the coverage front. Nobody can touch Verizon in the U.S. for actually getting a wireless signal in more places.

    The AT&T coverage map [att.com] is, ahem, optimistic, regarding its coverage in the plains states. The Dobson/Cellular One acquisition helps with this, but not with the rocky mountain states.

    Here is a relatively honest assessment of GSM coverage in the western US: Cellular One coverage map [cellularone-slo.com] (includes the Dobson network and all the other mom-and-pop licensees of the Cellular One brand).

    The Alltel coverage map [alltel.com] is also a little deceptive, because it mixes their GSM network in with their other network, but they provide much better GSM coverage in the west than anybody else, thanks to their acquisition of Western Wireless. Both T-Mobile and AT&T were asleep at the wheel and either should have acquired Western Wireless. It will be more difficult for AT&T to assemble a network which can rival Alltel or Verizon in the west. Fortunately, they are able to lease time on the Alltel network for their customers, as does T-Mobil. Oddly enough, Alltel does not provide GSM service to its own customers.

    It's not clear that AT&T can fix this problem via acquisitions. Alltel already bought the company that AT&T should have acquired. What's left now is a whole bunch of relatively small players. AT&T will need to go on a major buying and building spree if they are really serious about providing nationwide cellular GSM coverage. They have been cherry picking the best (highest population density) markets for years, but they'll need to get serious about providing coverage to the rest of the country if they don't want the "I can't get an iPhone because AT&T doesn't offer service in my area" blogger chorus to drown out their efforts to promote the iPhone beyond the initial product launch. The stock valuations of AT&T and Alltel [nasdaq.com] are interesting, too. AT&T has brand recognition, but they are themselves possibly an acquisition candidate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:14PM (#19720007)
    Bell South took over Cingular (who took over a different company called "AT&T Wireless" earlier) Then Bell South changed there name to AT&T.

    Confused yet? Just look at it this way, "The New AT&T" is 5/7th "The Old AT&T" That was broken up by the justice department for being a evil monopoly in the early 80's.

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