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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 Renraku (518261) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:13AM (#19713485) Homepage
    Activation problems? With the iPhone being hyped for a year?

    Never saw it coming.

    Especially since AT&T, a company known for shitty service, was given launch rights.
  • by terrymr (316118) <terrymr@gmai l . c om> on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:14AM (#19713493)
    I think all the mobile phone providers are known for shitty service.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:16AM (#19713507) Journal
    Keep in mind that AT&T is turning on more cell phone accounts at once than anyone has ever done in the history of the cell phone industry. iPhone sales have either hit a million units already, or they will by the end of the coming week. If they perform at 99.9%, that's still going to be a thousand people running into problems.

    Everyone I know who's gotten one so far had it activated in a couple of minutes. The real story here is how smoothly it's going overall.

    -jcr

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:28AM (#19713587) Homepage

    Lesson: do not launch product that requires extensive customer service at the beginning of a weekend.

    The general observation seems to be that activation from a cold start works OK, but anything that requires "number portability" from a previous account may be troublesome. That's no surprise; number portability is usually a mess, because the carriers don't want you to use that Government-mandated feature.

    It's still not clear why activation should require a separate computer. Activation via iTunes might be a nice option if you already use iTunes, but it shouldn't be the main route. After all, the iPhone has its very own Internet connection.

  • gadgets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wall0159 (881759) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:29AM (#19713595)
    The iPhone looks like a great piece of tech, and I might get one someday. But...

    It seems like Slashdot has a greater and greater proportion of articles that relate to gadgets (stuff to buy), and fewer and fewer that are about tech developments, science, etc. I'm not bitching about Slashdot, but is it really the case that nerds have become merely watered-down gear-freaks, and no longer employ their mind in the pursuit of knowledge?

    Please, oh true nerds, answer my rallying cry!
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:33AM (#19713631) Homepage Journal
    It isn't like they are a new company or haven't done this before.

    When other new huge phones launch, there is often a flurry of activations, and I do believe AT&T has been in the phone business a while.

    Let's be honest here. The problem is that this is new in how they're handling activation. Because Apple has a such a large say in this whole process, it suddenly becomes less clear who is responsible for what. You introduce new policies, procedures and hardware at once, you're going to get SNAFUs.

    This isn't being a hater, but simply being objective. Apple has done some things rather well, and others not so well. For a company that does claim to have things "just work", they made the activation process more complicated than it needs to be.

    Just activate in-store like any other cell phone.

    That is having it "just work".
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:42AM (#19713683) Homepage

    iPhone sales have either hit a million units already

    Link Please.
    He has no link, he's pulling numbers out of his ass. The telltale sign is the second half of the sentence you quote, "or they will by the end of the coming week". What he's saying, basically, is "They've either sold a million in a day, or are going to sell a million in six days. He's stating a time span that's variable by half an order of magnitude. He doesn't have numbers. He just knows that a lot of people waited in line to buy. How many phones this means, he has no clue. QED, the one million number is sourced from his rectum.
  • by adam (1231) * on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:47AM (#19713721)
    I'm not trying to shift blame at all. I said myself that 25% of the phones I purchased had activation problems. But I don't posit that as evidence that 25% of *ALL* iphones have had activation problems. Look at the replied to my last three comments (which all got modded +5, btw), and you'll find the exact people i'm talking about who may have clicked "my phone is still unactivated!" when they don't even own one. (for the lazy, comments: here [slashdot.org] | here [slashdot.org] | here [slashdot.org])

    Replied to those comments, you'll see people who said they would laugh at me/whomever they saw on the street using an iPhone, people calling me stupid/dumb, calling those in lines "emo retards," calling those in line "suckers," etc. Now, most people who choose not to buy an iPhone just do so out of logical choice, and that's the extent of their involvement.. but there most definitely is a vocal minority that feels slighted by Apple.. I really don't know exactly why, but I can say for sure that when I spent $600 a piece on my unlocked Treos (as did many others a few years ago), I don't recall a sizable portion of people calling me retarded/dumb/etc. The fact is a lot of people online have some sort of irrational distaste for the iPhone, and for those that buy it. And I don't believe that 40% of the people who bought the phone so far are still without service (as noted in the poll). I suspect it's in the single digit percentile, which still sucks if you're in that group, but 40% it isn't. I even posted a link to the Apple discussion page that has hundreds if not thousands of relies from people with activation problems.. but Apple is quickly approaching the "million iPhones sold" mark, and I don't imagine that of those million there will be several hundred thousand that take 48+hrs to navigate an activation quagmire. But hey, maybe I'm just lucky in my experiences. Engadget even noted themselves that they've activated 6 iphones without any problems.
  • by mr_matticus (928346) on Monday July 02, 2007 @01:50AM (#19713741)
    Not only that, but the respondents are self-selecting (why would the "happy middle," who have no stake in spreading their tales of joy, even respond to the poll? While a higher percentage of early adopters probably read Engadget, it's still a small minority of the market. How about the benefit of iPhone haters claiming problems just to stir the pot?) and don't have to "prove" that they even have an iPhone. It's basically the same as asking, "what's your opinion about Windows Vista after purchase?" without taking any further steps.

    Are we really willing to believe that 13,000 iPhone customers responded to a poll on a tech-nerd website like Engadget? If that's even remotely accurate, that should indicate the high sales rate of the iPhone. But then again, it's similar to the response rate of every other Engadget poll, so it's probably total crap.

    For the record, I don't care either way whether or not 38% of customers had activation trouble or not. I don't care whether 100,000 iPhones sold or 2 million did. It's a neat gadget, but my life isn't riding on it.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:00AM (#19713823) Journal
    What are you in such a snit about? Pissed off because you didn't buy AAPL shares?

    I based my estimate on the reports that Apple had made three million units for the launch, the fact that AT&T ran out of them, that several of the Apple stores did as well, and that those stores are getting restocked daily. I was at the Valley Fair store in Santa Clara on Friday, and I saw a much bigger line than I ever saw for a previous event. Friends of mine who went by that same store today and yesterday have told me that the store looked like the post-thanksgiving rush.

    My POINT is that AT&T is turning on more accounts at once than anyone has before, and they're doing a very good job of it.

    -jcr

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:13AM (#19713905) Journal
    The iPhone has really fallen off the radar for everyone but Apple fans.

    Wishing won't make it so, Mr. Ballmer.

    It sounds like Apple is already starting to pawn off the marketplace thud of the iPhone

    By "thud", do you mean the sound of the most successful consumer electronics product launch of all time? The iPhone's already set that record, even if they never sold another unit.

    -jcr
  • Re:Enough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Icarus1919 (802533) on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:44AM (#19714107)
    That's why I came to this thread to post about it!
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Monday July 02, 2007 @02:54AM (#19714171) Homepage Journal
    It improved the experience for 95% of the buyers?

    Then why did 50% of them report problems?

    Something doesn't add up right. Anytime I've purchased a phone, it worked when I left the store. I didn't need to do anything else.

    Last time I checked, Microsoft got hit with a fine over half a BILLION dollars for bundling their media player. If I want to watch something with the Quicktime codec, Apple bundles iTunes into the Quicktime download, and forces people to download iTunes if you want to activate their phone. And apparently, if you have a 64-bit OS, you need to change your OS as well.

    How exactly is that an improvement?

    What was the number? Some 38% are still unresolved. Clearly this is a huge improvement over walking out of the store with a working phone.

    I will never understand this site. People blast Microsoft all day long for forcing people to do things in proprietary ways, and then give Apple a free pass for the same tactics.

    Objective, reasonable human beings should be able to call out what they see.

    Activation of the iPhone is unnecessarily proprietary, and a hassle. And quite frankly I run Win x64, and Gentoo x64 at home. If an Apple representative told me I needed to format my computer and install another OS for their phone, I'd be flat-out irate. But again, this is a huge improvement in your eyes.
  • Simple answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:00AM (#19714205)
    Perhaps this has been explained elsewhere, but here seems as good a place as any for me to ask the question: How is Cingular/AT&T not being to be a disaster for Apple.

    Because we hate all cell carriers. We expect to hate the cell carrier.

    After activation is complete though, we don't really have to talk to the cell-phone carrier. Then we just have the phone experience, which is great. That's when cell service may start to arise as an issue, but we've also been trained to accept that as a fact of life.

    One thing Apple did well right off the bat is to not have to have us activate at the store, already a better expereince for most people despite the problems some are having. I myself am porting a T-Mobile number - while the number itself is not yet ported (and may take days more as T-Mobile apparently ports pay-as-you-go numbers by hand) the actual activation of my phone worked just fine, and I was abe to make calls and otherwise use the device almost instantly - it's only incoming calls and SMS I can't get just yet.

    Frankly I expect a lot of issues to vanish Monday, when the regular people get to work instead of the poor weekend shift.
  • by greg_barton (5551) * <{moc.oohay} {ta} {notrab_gerg}> on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:03AM (#19714211) Homepage Journal

    When other new huge phones launch, there is often a flurry of activations, and I do believe AT&T has been in the phone business a while.

    Yeah, but this was a phone launch like no other. I'm not just being the fanboi here. I've never seen a line outside a cellular phone store for anything. (Well, to get tech support at lunch time, maybe...) Cell providers just aren't prepared to handle this kind of burst buying.

    Case in point, I got my iPhone at an AT&T store. For each person who bought a phone they sat us down, asked us a few questions, got our payment info, etc. Took about 10 minutes, and they had maybe five sales guys processing customers. From when the line started moving (I was #34 in line) it took about an hour before I was driving away. For contrast, my friends who bought at an Apple store were out in half the time, and there were more customers there than at the AT&T store I went to.

    Bottom line, Apple knows how to handle hype generated high volume sales. (They know how to create hype, natch...) The public's never gotten so excited about a cell phone before, so cell providers are unaccustomed to the phenomena. Hopefully they'll learn...
  • Re:And? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tftp (111690) on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:38AM (#19714461) Homepage
    It's like jewelry - a status symbol. People buy jewelry not because they are doing optics experiments or need a portable glass-cutting tool. iPhone has a potential to be eventually usable for making calls, but given that the battery in it is not replaceable (now we know for sure!) it is clear that iPhone is designed as a toy, to be a toy, and it is sold at a price of an intricate toy as well. In other words, it is not a businessman's strong and solid weapon of communication - it's a gentle, flimsy and feminine fashion apparel.
  • ZOMG! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:50AM (#19714525)
    Brand new product fails to have flawless launch. Film at eleven on The No Fucking Kidding News Network.
  • by Layth (1090489) on Monday July 02, 2007 @03:54AM (#19714553)
    If you think full internet browsing on mobile devices is a brand new thing, you need to need your head out of your ass and take a better look around.
  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Monday July 02, 2007 @04:18AM (#19714665) Journal
    The asshole giving this an Insightful needs to be shot. Repeatedly.
  • Re:Enough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mgblst (80109) on Monday July 02, 2007 @04:52AM (#19714823) Homepage
    You know, I really hate reading about the PS3. So you know what I do (this is a secret, so don't let anyone else hear about it), I stop reading after I come across the word PS3. Most articles about the PS3 include it in the heading. I have installed this special widget in firefox called a scroll bar (you can probably download it from somewhere), and I scroll past the story.

    I used to click on every PS3 story and complain about it, but then I realised that I was just being a complete wanker, and stopped.

    So, how the fuck do you get moderated up, how many stupid people really hate iphone stories, but still feel the need to click on the link, and read all the comments to the end. What a bunch of retards.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday July 02, 2007 @05:26AM (#19714991)
    I never understood this either. Assuming an iPhone costs $600, why not just sell them in the Apple store and let customers sort their own phone plan out. Yes it might mean some inconvenience setting up stuff like WAP / SMS etc. which are provider specific, but nothing I'm sure some setup software couldn't have sorted. Most GSM phone providers will sell SIM kits, and most really couldn't care what phone you use on their network just so long as you use their network.

    All Apple have done by their move is ensure that anyone buying their phone package is locked into a contract that with the phone costs anywhere upwards of $2000 for two years. That represents absolutely terrible value for money. You really would have to be blinded by the hype to buy an iPhone on those terms. It's an utter waste of money especially considering other technical deficiencies such as lack of 3G. Perhaps a firmware update will fix that issue because there's going to be some severe buyers remorse if an updated model appears with that feature.

  • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:34AM (#19715281)

    How many GSM providers are nationwide in the USA? AT&T, T-Mobile, anyone else?

    They couldnt' set up a service with Verizon Wireless (an example) because they just don't do GSM technology.

    It's unfortunate that AT&T is so clueless on this coming out of the gate. I think the iPhone has mind numbing potential. GSM is the right choice if you consider a world wide market, but not for US market, because GSM is more widely used globally. Economy of scale in units manufactured dictate that they go with GSM for a global market.

    If you look at the techcentric nations of the world, the United States is not the leading country. We don't have the digital high speed cellular networks or internet broad band speeds of other nations. I just don't think you can safely market a product of this type to only the USA when we have a global market to consider.

  • by doctorisham (1050108) on Monday July 02, 2007 @06:54AM (#19715391)
    I'm not sure whether you are applauding the AC on posting the captions, or attempting to flame me, but at any rate I don't recall accusing you of anything. So why would an apology even be implied? It seems the submitter is the one we should be upset with, as he had the "holier than thou" attitude that caused his 2 day horror. Especially considering the answer laid right in front of him, and he chose to ignore it.
  • by RESPAWN (153636) <caldwell@tulane a l u m ni.net> on Monday July 02, 2007 @08:22AM (#19715785) Homepage Journal
    Actually, I happened to be in an AT&T store this weekend* and overheard a couple of people complaining to the store reps that they couldn't activate their iPhone. Their problem actually lied in being unable to install XP SP2 on their computer, but like most non-technologically inclined consumers they didn't understand that this was a PC/Microsoft problem. They were pissed and the poor Cingular/AT&T/name-of-the-day reps had no idea how to help the customers. And who can blame the customers either? They just spent $500-$600 on a new "superphone" and can't even use the thing.

    I played with the iPhone and it is a very cool phone. Just like the iPod, the iPhone interface is extremely intuitive. My only complaint was that I found the onscreen keyboard hard to use. Without any sort of tactile feedback, such as what I get with my current QWERTY keyed phone, I found that I had a lot of mistyped letters on the screen. That would probably be a deal breaker for me, personally.

    I really want the iPhone to succeed because it is a cool product with a lot of cool new ideas. The more the iPhone succeeds the better the market on the whole will get, as more and more competitors start including many of the iPhone's features. But I just can't help but wonder if the iPhone will ever be able to live up to its own hype.

    *Note: while I refuse to give Cingular any more of my money after the way they treated me before, like a good little geek I did have to play with the demo phones in the store. If the next version of the iPhone is released on a cross-carrier basis and it's a little more reasonably priced, I would probably consider it.
  • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Monday July 02, 2007 @08:47AM (#19715935) Homepage Journal

    I really don't know exactly why, but I can say for sure that when I spent $600 a piece on my unlocked Treos (as did many others a few years ago), I don't recall a sizable portion of people calling me retarded/dumb/etc. The fact is a lot of people online have some sort of irrational distaste for the iPhone, and for those that buy it.

    It's the publicity. The iPhone was hyped up a lot more than treos. Heck, most people have never heard of the treo, but everyone seems to know about the iPhone. The end result is that more people end up wanting them, but since they have decided not to get it for one reason or another, they're mad at you for getting one. See, in their mind, you're ensuring that they will never get one. Since you're helping the iPhone to be successful by buying it, Apple has no motivation to change the iPhone to cater to their wishes (lower price, different network, dev kit). Since you didn't hold out like they did for the same reasons, they feel like you're retarded/dumb/etc, when in reality you just don't care about the same things they do.

    I hate to admit that the reason why I understand that motivation so well is because I've suffered from it. I don't particularly care about the iPhone but there have been plenty of products that I *really* wanted to fail because they were really good but contained a serious deal-breaker for me. I voted with my wallet and got really frustrated when others didn't. Or rather, they did, but they didn't care about the issue that was important to me. Now, I was smart enough to understand what it was that I was feeling and why, and thus I didn't lash out at those people, but the irrational anger was there.

  • by NIN1385 (760712) on Monday July 02, 2007 @09:17AM (#19716241)
    That is what you get for rushing out to buy one like it's your new kidney dialysis machine. Everyone knows that it's not a good idea to buy electronics immediately after they are released, but for some reason people still do it. I will think about getting one when all the problems are fixed and they come out with a better model.
  • by ahoehn (301327) <andrew@@@hoe...hn> on Monday July 02, 2007 @11:09AM (#19717651) Homepage
    Even if this round of problems were due to ATT's customer service, the buck still stops at Apple because they chose to go exclusively with ATT, which makes it all Apple's problem.

    Certainly, they also chose to go with CMDA, which basically limits them to ATT or T-Mobile, but just about every other phone in the US market seems to be able to produce both a GSM and CMDA version, so why couldn't the iPhone? Producing a couple models of the iPhone that could were sold contract-independent, were sold in the Apple store and would work with all the major US carriers would have been a step towards revolutionizing the cellphone industry. As it is now, Apple's just produced more of the same with a pretty and intuitive UI.

    Nifty, not revolutionary.
  • by doxology (636469) <cozzyd.mit@edu> on Monday July 02, 2007 @12:18PM (#19718597) Homepage
    IMO, the main reason so many people hate Apple is because of their incessantly annoying fanboys.
  • by cyphercell (843398) on Monday July 02, 2007 @04:41PM (#19721835) Homepage Journal

    In the grand scheme of things, 14 hours isn't a big deal, it's just fustrating to have the device in your hands, totally unusable.

    You're a f*cking lunatic. A six hundred dollar brick you have to haggle over for 14 hours, before it will do anything? That's insane. I'm sorry, but I'd attach the receipt to the damn thing and throw it back through a store window, but that's just me.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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