Okay, this gets a little complicated. More complicated than it should, really.
I am an AT&T customer. My current two-year contract is up on July 30-- just 19 days from now.
Normally, AT&T allows customers to upgrade early by paying a moderate fee.
As CNET's Dawn Kawamoto put it in this blog post, "eligibility for an upgrade discount, the carrier said, is generally determined by amount of time remaining on a current contract and the payment history." One version of the upgrade rules is visible on Best Buy's website.
The worst-case situation, one might suppose, is that one would owe AT&T the early termination fee for the existing contract. In my case, that would be just $60. Apparently the early upgrade fee is usually lower than that.
But none of this mattered at the Apple Store this morning. Apple was not given any kind of visibility into the details of AT&T's iPhone upgrade discount eligibility standards; all it gets is a "yes or no" kind of response from the AT&T servers. When the Apple Store tried to put through my order, it got a "no."
There were no AT&T people in the Apple store this morning, but there was an Apple employee in the store who had been trained as a liaison to AT&T. She had a special phone number and some identification codes so she didn't need to go through the usual delays to talk with an AT&T representative.
Unfortunately, AT&T couldn't make this happen. They said I needed to go to an AT&T store.
Alas, when I reached the AT&T store near my house at 10:30am, they were already out of iPhones.
So unless I can find an AT&T store with phones remaining AND that is able to work out the details of the early upgrade issue, I'm out of luck for a few weeks.
Which is no big deal for me personally, except that I was looking forward to doing a quick, deep review of the iPhone here. Sorry about that, folks.