The iPhone 3G experience

I’m very glad my wife waited a year to get the second-generation iPhone. It has been quite difficult to actually get one, though. For a while, I thought it was some ploy by Apple to generate more demand and hype by pretending to have a limited supply and thus make the iPhones appear harder to get than they really are. After all, that worked for the Wii, except that Nintendo couldn’t get its act together even a year after demand for the Wii had swelled.

The long lines were a big put-off, and I kept thinking, “Why is there such a long line? Don’t they just sell whatever stock they have and then just tell people they’re sold out?” This thought came to me especially when I called one Apple store to ask if they had iPhones in stock, and they said, “Yes, we have them, but there’s a line, and it’s about a four- to five-hour wait right now.” Excuse me? Four- to five-hour wait? Who would do that? That’s crazy! I waited in line for three hours for the Uffizi in Firenze, but that’s because my friend who was studying there at the time said the Uffizi was the only tourist trap worth going to.

Well, today, my wife finally got her iPhone. She went to the Apple store downtown, and they said they didn’t have it. Then I suggested she try the new Apple store in the Marina, and she got there just as a truck full of iPhones was pulling up to the store. A line immediately formed in front of the store, and she was about the fourth in line. What was this line for? Why did the process take so long? Well, first they had to individually “pre-screen” each customer to make sure they had an AT&T account (yes, we’re in America, and AT&T is the only provider you can use with the iPhone) or knew the appropriate account information to switch from another provider. Then they had to take each customer and set up an account and activate the phone specifically for that account. In other words, it was all this AT&T business that made the lines so long. The entire process of waiting to be pre-screened, being pre-screened, getting the iPhone set up, and purchasing the iPhone took about an hour and a half… for one customer (my wife, in this case). Talk about inefficiency. But, hey, at least AT&T knows Apple isn’t selling iPhones to people who will just unlock it and use it with another provider. No, you’re locked into their two-year contract. They have their claws in you.

That said, the iPhone’s pretty slick. I wish they had a Linux-based (and pay-as-you-go) phone that was this slick. The only things I don’t like about it (user experience-wise) are

  • You can’t easily remove apps you don’t care for.
  • You can’t easily install random apps, and a lot of the specifically-made-for-iPhone apps cost money.
  • A lot of the menu items do not have a back button to return to the main menu. I prefer a back button to pressing the main menu button.

So, buying experience—lame. Actual user experience—pretty cool. I think my wife will have a lot of fun with it. I’m happy with my crappy Virgin Mobile phone, though. I don’t need all that fancy stuff. I just want to make phone calls and occasionally check when the next bus is coming.


  1. I’m with you- my Virgin Mobile PAYG phone suits me just fine. Having an iPod Touch as well is nice, though- you avoid all the lines, get most of the benefits of having an iPhone, and best of all, save around $1500 over buying an iPhone since you don’t have to pay for a plan.

  2. The iPhone in my opinion has far too many features out of the box and is not for customization.
    Though I will say it looks very cool.
    I much prefer simpler but more customizable phones from Nokia and SE.

  3. From everything I’ve read about the OpenMoko, I’m not impressed (especially by the price), but it’s a nice idea, a step in the right direction. No, I’m cool with my Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go and my Asus Eee PC for now.

  4. I am now convinced that when you combine Apple’s super-secret policies and AT&T employees trained in anti-Customer Service you get the worst experience on the planet. THANK YOU STEVE!!!

    Okay, so Friday I was one of those geeks standing at the opening of the nearest AT&T store to get my iPhone. We waited in line…they came around and asked us to fill out a preliminary form, and to inquire as to which model we were interested in.

    Around 9:40 after about 15 people had gone thru the store we were informed that they were out of stock. Apparently this store only had 30 iPhones in stock. And I swear the lady with the four little kids left with 5 of them.

    It was quite annoying as the AT&T employees repeatedly refused to specify how many phones they had in stock. Even though they knew that they had twice as many people outside the door when they first opened. So we waited for a possible 10 o’clock UPS delivery which never came. The sales guy then offered people to sign up for a drop shipment to arrive in 2-10 days. Of course for many of us, including the guy from New Jersey standing in line, this was not the best store to drop ship too.

    When someone asked when they might next expect a shipment. The salesperson stated 4pm. But then went on to say that they won’t be selling those until tomorrow. When asked why, he said because it’d be unfair to us – seeing as we stood (needlessly I might add) in line all morning. So I then asked, what if we stayed until 4pm. “No, we still won’t sell them until tomorrow.” So his answer was total balogne.

    So a couple hours later I then went to another store nearby, this one happens to be on my way to & from work. And therefore much more convenient to drop ship to. Only to be told they’re not taking any more fulfillment orders.

    So fast forward to Monday. I stop into a store nearby my work. They still have no iPhones. Ask about fulfillment but turns out I need my wife to be involved as well. Problem, I work in a different city than we live in. A couple hours later I then had my wife (with 1 yr old daughter in tow) go back to the store near us to do a fulfillment order. They tell her they’re no longer accepting fulfillment orders because the warehouse is backordered.

    So then I talk to Apple customer service, waiting 15 minutes for a manager. The customer service rep was quite nice, but when she didn’t transfer the call properly.

    [One week later]

    I spend another morning in line again. I drove down from Pennsylvania to Maryland. And waited in line at the nearest Apple store to me.

    The web site said they had availability of all models. Soon after opening they sold out of 8gb models. The rep said they should have enough 16gb models to go around. Then they ran out of the 16gb black. Now there were about 45 people to go. And soon they were going to be out of all iPhones. And I’d waited 2-3 hours in line again, this after driving an hour and traveling to another state.. Of course the reps are !@#$% restricted from telling you just how many they have.

    I was so annoyed I went in and asked for a comment card. This was my fifth attempt. They asked why I hadn’t just ordered a fulfillment shipment. I explained I had tried twice at the local AT&T store. So one of the managers called the local store. And apparently….they’re a bunch of DUMB !@#$^% because they should have been doing the fulfillment. But apparently they misread a memo and weren’t doing them for a number of days.

    So now I have a fulfillment order, finally. A week after when I should have. And an estimated 21 day wait. And about a day’s time lost.

    I swear, if I ever get the opportunity to see Steve Jobs live. I am so pie-ing him.

    *annoyed* is an under-statement.


    Can we say five ***** for failure?

    Apple should have just allowed ordering from their website like they used too. Or at the very least allowed you to order an iPhone and have it delivered to the nearest AT&T or Apple store.

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