July 1, 2007 6:45 PM PDT

Some iPhone customers put on hold

Getting one of Apple's iPhones during the launch weekend was easier than expected. Getting it to work, however, was a different story for some customers.

Apple stores finally started to run out of the coveted device Sunday. An employee at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco said all of their iPhones were gone early Sunday afternoon, but he said he was expecting a shipment Monday morning. AT&T stores were mostly out of iPhones on Saturday. The pause in iPhone sales might give Apple and AT&T time to catch up with the activation issues that bedeviled some iPhone customers over the weekend. (CNET Review: Apple iPhone (8GB).)

Apple and AT&T unveiled an innovative activation scheme with the iPhone launch. Usually, activating a new cell phone means spending almost an hour or so in a wireless store as the sales representative lights up the phone. But with the long lines expected last Friday, Apple came up with a way to use iTunes to connect to AT&T's activation process so iPhone customers could set up the device at home.

However, several glitches were reported with the system on Saturday and Sunday as new iPhone owners grew frustrated waiting for activation. At times the system seemed overwhelmed by the sheer volume of those trying to active their new iPhones. Those customers setting up new numbers with AT&T appeared to have fewer problems than existing AT&T customers, based on comments on Apple's support discussion and on message boards elsewhere.

"The vast majority of iPhone users are completing their activation on the iTunes side in a few minutes and without a hitch," said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T's wireless business. "But we do have some customers who are having issues with activation."

Activation was supposed to be a snap: Customers hook up the iPhone to a Mac or PC with the latest version of iTunes installed, and the software automatically walks them through the process. After entering a credit card number and selecting a rate plan, the system was supposed to send an e-mail confirming the iPhone had been activated.

But waiting for that e-mail turned into a frustrating experience for some iPhone customers.

"There are a small percentage of iPhone customers who have had a less-than-perfect activation experience. We're working hard to resolve any issues quickly," Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, said via e-mail.

Software from a company called Synchronoss was used to process the activation transaction, according to its Web site. E-mails with updates on the activation process were sent from the company's servers to iPhone owners. An e-mail inquiry to the company was not immediately returned.

A common problem appeared to be existing AT&T customers who were trying to transfer an existing account that was receiving some sort of business discount, even if it was just a few dollars, Siegel said. Both Apple and AT&T had warned customers they couldn't use business accounts with the iPhone prior to launch, but it was possible to go through the activation process and not know that was the issue until a customer service representative was contacted about the delay.

AT&T needed to contact individual businesses if someone was trying to switch from a business account to a personal account, and since the launch took place on a weekend, getting in touch with the telecom manager at a business could be difficult, Siegel said.

Other iPhone owners on Apple's Web site reported problems with the SIM (subscriber identity module) cards inside their iPhones. SIM cards hold information unique to a mobile phone account and allow users to easily switch between phones while keeping their numbers and contacts--except on the iPhone, which uses a SIM card that works only with the iPhone.

It seemed that the activation system was unable to recognize the SIM cards in some iPhones, which led it to bypass the activation screen and move straight into syncing music, movies and contacts. One user reported that his local AT&T store switched the SIM card that originally came with his iPhone for a new one, fixing the problem. Others said they had done the same thing.

AT&T's Siegel said he was unaware of any issues involving the iPhone's SIM card.

The problems were exacerbated by the fact that frustrated users couldn't test the other features of their iPhone while waiting for activation to set in, even though Apple's iPhone guide said otherwise. Waiting for what some termed an expensive "iBrick" to light up was not much fun, especially for those that waited in long lines on Friday.

Otherwise, there appeared to be few complaints from those who didn't have problems with activation, or from those who were experiencing other problems. There was lots of activity on Apple's discussion boards related to the iPhone, but the activation issues seemed to be the only widespread problem.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
activation, AT&T Corp., Apple iPhone, Apple Computer, SIM card


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Add your comment
Latest version of OS
You did not mention that some people returned their iPhones because it would only work with the latest Mac OS and not early versions. They did not want to spend even more money to upgrade the OS.
Posted by MacReseller (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's Odd
It is odd, that people would spend 500-600 dollars on an iPhone,
after trying to get one, and then return the device because their
system did not meet the requirements that were spelled out for
quite some time.<p>The system requirements have certainly not
been a secret. ...
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
you can count those on one hand
You can probably count the number of people you describe on one

If you are using older versions of OS X, you probably aren't
jumping on the latest thing, especially on day one. If you are
buying the latest thing (on day one), you probably have the latest
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Link Flag
iPhone & Panther...
...don't mix. When docked, iPhoto launches and lets you
download the pix on the iPhone, but that's it. iTunes doesn't see
it even after updating. I spent the morning after debating what
to do; a guy at Guitar World offered to let me activate it using
the in-store Mac if he could try it out afterwards (I decided
against this kind offer only because I didn't want to submit my
iTunes account data on a public box). I finally got it activated
using a friend's G4 PowerBook.
Posted by Gomphos (13 comments )
Link Flag
50 hours and counting...

I'm a new AT&#38;T customer and not porting my current number over.
Called AT&#38;T 8 times and they keep getting dumber everytime I call.

Help me
Posted by jamesob5 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't Call AT&T
In fact, you don't need to call anyone. The problem is internal to
AT&#38;T. The issue will be resolved, if it has not already. You need
to keep your iPhone plugged into the dock. I have a sneaking
suspicion there is a "queue" somewhere. If you un-dock, and
dock your iPhone again, you will notice that it starts the AT&#38;T part
of the process over.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Activation Problems or Competitive Subterfuge?
After converting two phone numbers (one flawlessly, the other
not), I could not help but think that Sprint, Verizon and others
that were feeling the competitive heat were using any slight
excuse they could to slow the process to make AT&#38;T and Apple
look bad.

Not outright not changing numbers or being slow, but using any
"reasonable" error to slow the process. I was told by my
previous provider that the account number provided by AT&#38;T
was wrong by a digit, when it wasn't, which got me to

Sort of makes you wonder also if Microsoft is behind the
decision by Universal to not renew its contract with iTunes..... ??
Posted by garyleethompson (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Subterfuge by whom?
I wonder if AT&#38;T is running their system on some version of

Posted by hal Summers (80 comments )
Link Flag
No Conspiracy Here
ATT/Cingular does not need any help to deliver bad service and a poor experience. I was a long time customer and dumped them 6 months ago returning $800 worth of product and they really didn't care. I went with T-Mobile and never looked back. ATT Cingular hires store associates who couldn't make it flipping bugers. It is a shame Apple picked a really bad partner :-(
Posted by Shakingmy head (48 comments )
Link Flag
No conspiracy
Only someone dropping the ball.<p>The <i>number of
activations</i> isn't an issue. It was "supposed" to be all digital.
And I hate companies and people who get something "sort of"
working, and call it a success. (Those guys in NY who think it went
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
MS don't have the smarts
They just act out all the horror movies where everyone acts dumb - just like you!
Posted by oxtail01 (308 comments )
Link Flag
Yep. This sucks
Been trying to get my iBrick activated since Friday night. 4 calls to customer service and still waiting. The last guy said I would lose my 600 minute plan and all my rollover minutes. At this point I was like ok. I'll get it activated and see if they can fix that later.
Posted by stopher2475 (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is BS
I have activated two iphones.

The first, on an existing account, took exactly 2 minutes and 40
seconds. This INCLUDED the iTunes portion.

The second, on a new account, took 4 minutes and 22 seconds.

My brothers activation, all the way across the nation in CT, on an
existing account, took him 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

The activation issues are coming from user error in Zip Code

This is FUD!

IPhone is the best phone, minicomputer and and portable
multimedia device ever. And not due to the features list, but
due to the overall package, the "Gestalt" (look this word up) and
the screen. Battery life blows my treo and blackberry pearl away
WITH WIFI and BLUETOOTH on. No bugs.
Posted by dansterpower (2511 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This entire reply is bulls**t
BTW - this comment took 0 minutes and 43 seconds to write.
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
re:This is BS
Of course this has to be BS and FUD because it's obvious that YOU and your brother account for EVERYBODY that bought an iPhone.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
Buy! Buy!! Buy!!!
People, buy the iPhone! It is the best phone ever! It is just a matter of time before Apple provides firmware updates to provide more features which are not found today!

Buy! Buy!! Buy!!!
Posted by slickuser (668 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't buy in the UK
Us guys here in the UK would love to buy it but Apple have not even decided whether O2 or Vodafone will have the exclusive on it yet! I reckon we've got several months to wait still yet. :-(
Posted by DJohnsonII (3 comments )
Link Flag
It took me 3 minutes....
I must have been lucky, i am an existing AT&#38;T customer and it took
me less than the expected 3 minutes to activate the iPhone, it went
extremly smooth, and i love it! Plus, i am on the west coast so i
started the activation after 3 hours of people already activating
Posted by mcobian (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I had a problem, too
I also had activation issues and couldn't review the iPhone on my blog until the following morning because of them.

More details:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.appleiphonereview.com/iphone-release-date/iphone-activation-issues-iphone-review-delayed/" target="_newWindow">http://www.appleiphonereview.com/iphone-release-date/iphone-activation-issues-iphone-review-delayed/</a>
Posted by christougher (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
activation hard, try gloves!
If activation was hard, try using this thing with gloves on while
strolling along Lake Shore Drive in January! P.T. Barnum wishes
everybody a warm winter.
Posted by wylbur (110 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is why I live in the south. You only need gloves 3 days a
year. It will be interesting to see what people say when it does
get cold. As for using the phone while walking, I can not do it
very well now or with my old phone. I think favorites calls should
be easy once I set them up but I am a person who walks fast
and has a bad sense of direction. Sorry to hear people are
having activation issues. I went to the apple store yesterday for
an iPhone class and there were 4 guys with me. We had no
problem activating it was the apple employee who said it took 18
hours for his iphone to activate. Based on that sample ( I know
it is too small to be accurate) there is a 20% problem. I wonder
what the real numbers are and how many are user errors?
Posted by jb_iphone (9 comments )
Link Flag
This Changes Everything
Now that we have the iphone, the world will never be the same!

Now, instead of being bogged down in the fast lane behind some idiot going 52 MPH while yakking to nobody about nothing on his Motorola RAZR, now I will be bogged down in the fast lane behind some idiot going 52 MPH while yakking to nobody about nothing on his Apple iphone.

Who gives a $hit?
Posted by vesuvius2007 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Now I understand why
iTunes was slow this weekend. Everyone was activating their new toys.
Posted by BubbleMemory (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This smells!
I will buy the iphone for all the features excpet for the phone itself. So I have to buy the phone then activate it then tell AT&#38;T I no longer want their services. Pretty stupid if you ask me since I just want the ipod and video and Safari features. Everything else is pure junk.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The unit doesn't work unless activated
If you cancel your AT&#38;T contract, then you're left back with having an inoperable device like it was when you took it out of the box. All the device's features are tied to AT&#38;T.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Link Flag
Bad Story...Place Blame Where it's Due!!
Why do people not learn about a product/service they are

Why is it then that they blame both companies for their lack of

I'm an existing ATT customer and had NO trouble at all setting
up. Took no longer than 3miniutes to activate.

Come on CNET, be honest and blame the consumer rather than
the company in this case.
Posted by CannuckComment (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How do you know it's always the consumer's fault?
The story says that people were giving warning ahead of time about not using their business accounts. But other people with regular accounts had problems too, just look at the comments on this story, on this (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/8301-10784_3-9738300-7.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/8301-10784_3-9738300-7.html</a>) one, and on Apple's site. This was a huge launch and it went pretty smoothly, but we have to point out that it wasn't flawless.
Posted by Tom Krazit (436 comments )
Link Flag
Syncnoposis or whatever
I noticed your comment over there, on that story as
well.<p>They failed, and are stating they are pleased with the
results. They are part of that system. Getting something
partially right, still means you got it wrong. This mentality is
indicative of peoples desires to soothe their fragile egos.<p>I
have to wonder, if this is that generation, that came right after
me, when they decided that grading children was bad for them.
Well folks, look at what we have reaped from this idiot approach
to education, and child rearing. Lawyers who defraud the
country (H1B visas), and say the aren't breaking any laws (no
morality). Software companies that if only one transaction gets
through, considers it a success, while in this industry, when one
doesn't go through something is wrong. We make excuses for
incompetence and are afraid to be extremely critical, vocal, and
suggestive (except to tell people to go F--k themselves).<p>On
top of that, this idea that the world is only relative to YOU, is
unhealthy <i>at best!!</i>. <p>You should learn to think how
<i>you</i> are relevant to the world. No the other way
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
You should follow your own advice...
Why are you accusing CNET of being dishonest? There's a little hypocracy in saying "Place Blame Where it's Due" then blaming CNET.

CNET is not blaming consumers. CNet is only reporting what consumers are doing.
Posted by g8crapachino (220 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, customers have to take some of the blame
I do think some customers to eager and never read the
information provided them. Was a big part of their bad
More of them ******* and moaned than realizing they made the
mistake. I really do not have much simpathy for a idiot who
waits for hours for a cell phone/ iPod. Nice little tech toy for
geeks with nothing better to do I guess. But I figure $100 a
month for a pretty phone with a slow network and a difficult
touchscreen for a input device. Im sure Apple is laughing all the
way to the bank!
Im sure their will be plenty of them on ebay in a couple of
Posted by jesmac418 (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh, yeah. What a huge problem!
A friend of mine went home with his new iPhone, and spent all of 10 minutes getting it set up. What a hassle! And then he had to spend another 3 minutes figuring out how to use it. Geez! I would much rather take 30 minutes trying to navigate around my Samsung to find out where it decided to send my photos. And of course, the truncated text versions of the limited internet pages I can get are much preferable to the full graphic HTML pages accessable to the iPhone.

Give us a break, CNET. Your story is much like the PC talking points that try to make any Apple glitch sound worse than the multitude of ever-present Windows foulups and endless patches for an operating system that trys so very hard to look like Mac, but still tastes like crap.
Posted by Capt. Trips (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Read the Headline
It states that "some" people had problems. Not "all".
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
It's all over the news
CNN. AP. NBC. etc.

You name it, there's a story about it. That many people complaining can't be a fluke. There's something wrong with the AT&#38;T system that will need to be resolved. Blaming the customers is never a good answer for a company that is hoping to keep them as customers.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Link Flag
Activation is NOT the only problem!
My wife has an iPhone - she just couldn't wait... However, she switched from her current carrier (Sprint) to AT&#38;T, and the coverage is terrible. First, the phone lies! She'll have 4 bars, and then it will drop to one instantly while standing in the same spot. It's been three weeks since she dropped a call, and now, it happens at least twice a day. Our calling area is very populated (right in Sunnyvale).. AT&#38;T has problems. She also misses several calls a day where the phone simply doesn't ring - just right to voicemail.

People claim that their voice service with this company is "fine", but I seriously doubt these claims. Either people are not heavy users, or simply don't mind dropped calls of this frequency. She can't even travel from work to home without dropped areas. In contrast, my admittedly crummy and wildly boring Verizon phone hasn't dropped a call in... I don't even remember!

AT&#38;T is broken.
Posted by kylegas (81 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not sure about ATT but Cingular was good. . .
. . . and still is. I use my cell phone extensively because I don't use land lines any longer and I don't have this problem. I get dropped calls maybe once every few months and it usually happens when I'm driving.

Seems like the problem lies with your phone and not the carrier.
Posted by psychosmurf (60 comments )
Link Flag
Its where you live.
Every carrier has good and bad spots. Where I live, Sprint is by far the best and Verison bites the big pickle. Other places Verison is by far the best.

If ATT is not good where you live, don't use them.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Converting windows mobile phone into iphone
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://lifehacker.com/software/hack-attack/turn-your-windows-mobile-phone-into-an-iphone-269055.php" target="_newWindow">http://lifehacker.com/software/hack-attack/turn-your-windows-mobile-phone-into-an-iphone-269055.php</a>
Posted by neblinc (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Price for service
iPhone is a premium price device, with the typical Apple hardware and software wont play with others approach. If you are selling something at that sort of price, expect to recieve criticism for problems. Microsoft does, why should others not?
Posted by Kimsh (813 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You freaking iPhonies
You freaking iPhonies have screwed up my service. I've been with the new-old AT&#38;T forever. HAD nice somewhat fast 3G service for my blackjack. Today, it's taking ELEVEN rings for the calling party before my cell phone begins to ring once, and I can't get ANY data connection at all... with all four 3G bars showing, in areas that have normally great service.

Thank the Good Lord my contract just expired... If this lasts more than a week, I'm gone, so you guys can have some of my previously superfast bandwidth to split up and use for your worthlessly slow iPhone connections.

Thanks a lot!

Posted by ThatScienceGuy (132 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go T-Mobile
I dumped ATT Cingular months ago and glad I did. Lots of friends and colleagues are following.
Posted by Shakingmy head (48 comments )
Link Flag
My Treo Does Same Thing for Years.
I don't know how they can lure all the unsuspecting buyers in to the Apple Pie when all the iPhones features have been available on the Treo for years.

Even my old Treo 650 PDA Phone purchased in early 2005 came with mp3 player, video player, bluetooth, live TV, EVDO Internet and more.

I've had my Treo 700 since it's release in 2006 and it will play DVD movies you have converted and transferred to your phone, sync with iTunes or Winamp, Media Player or any other software capable of detecting an mp3 device. In addition to providing GPS with my TomTom Bluetooth kit and High Speed Internet with EVDO Rev.A. Plus so many other features and third party programs it would take me a full day to talk about them all.

I can plug my Treo into my laptop via the USB sync cable or wirelessly through bluetooth and give the laptop high speed Internet wherever I am...on the beach, the side of the road, coffee shop etc. Download music and video...oh and use it as a phone.

I just don't understand the stampede mentality for a device that has nothing going for it but it's advertising. I've had all the features of iPhone for years.

Ken Wilson
San Diego, CA
Posted by kwilsonjr (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Treo's Screen Not even close to IPhone
My Treo 750's screen is not even in the same universe as teh
160ppi iPhone Screen.

The Treo cannot play video and photoslides at the same
resolution and size that an iPhone can.

In this area, the iPhone is a whole new device: it is an electronic
sales device and electronic business card as well as a smart
phone. The Treo cannot do this, not with the same user-
friendliness and impact.

I can hand my iPhone to a client and they immediately know who
to use it, watch video, zoom in on Ads or Books we build, etc.

You don't have these features: not even close.
Posted by dansterpower (2511 comments )
Link Flag
iTunes Commercial
?Innovative activation process? ? what a joke! Turns out, the iPhone is simply a way to force more iDiots to install iTunes?as the saying goes, there is one born every minute. One nice thing about it, I do not include support for any of this BS in my maintenance agreements, so my customers who have been going back and forth with Apple tech support are now paying me to get their new toys working.
Posted by MikeeeC (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iDiots Customers
What a way to treat your eggs. You call your customers iDiots?
Posted by kool_skatkat (982 comments )
Link Flag
While using Safari for the Application interface, any one can use an App designed for the iPhone. But this is not without a few draw backs as well, all of the extra features of the phone cannot be utilized. An example would be a game not being able to use the included vibrate function for force feedback.

Posted by cook54po (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No problems here - my Treo 750 in a drawer
I got mine about 6:30 PM EST. Got home about 9PM EST,
connected the iPhone, iTunes recognizes it, and leads me
through about a dozen screens where the only entry was my
existing Cingular number, my billing zip and last 4 SSN. I clicked
submit, it told me it would be about 3 minutes. At four minutes
or so, I got a screen telling me that it would take a bit longer,
and they would email me when it was complete.

I opened my Mail client to wait, and the note was already there.
My iPhone was good to go. About 10 minutes total elapsed, and
I could place and get calls on my iPhone.

I then synced all my contacts, calendars, selected songs, videos
and podcasts, and selected Photos from both iPhoto AND
Aperture. It also pulled all my email account information from
the client. The iPhone screen said "Sync in Progress" and when
that finished, I pulled it from the cradle to enjoy all the content.
After this experience, I would be nit-picking in the extreme to
say that this was anything short of seamless.
I also encourage anyone commenting to actually go hold this
device. After owning Treo, and 3 CE machines, and a current
Blackberry...there is simply no comparison. The feel of the
device in your hand is so thin and elegant...the screen is the
best I have ever seen...photos (I am a pro photographer) look so
sharp and bright it is hard to believe. The screen is so bright it is
even easily visible in noon daylight. The screen shows
fingerprints when off, but they disappear during use due to the
The iPhone even does a 5 way conference call...and it sounds
great, and is easy to do.
I also bought the new Jawbone Bluetooth headset. Check out
their demo online (www.jawbone.com). Super impressive, and I
will tell you it works as advertised, and is very comfortable after
a couple of days wearing it.

Is the iPhone perfect? Of course not, nothing is...but what it does
do, it does so well that it makes other devices look amateurish
by comparison.

I paid over $550 for my latest unlocked Treo...and after a week
or so I felt generally disappointed by the clunky operation.
Having hardware features does not translate to useablility.

Putting a $600 8GB iPhone side-by-side with my Treo 750 is a
study of generations. The Treo, while it does have hardware
features the iPhone does not, is first generation operation...not
very simple or intuitive, a clutter of controls, and the ugly
squeezed down Windows Mobile OS. The iPhone is 2G or 3G
design by comparison. Iconic, understated, super-elegant and
very simple to use.

The 8GB is plenty for my use..got about 6GB of songs and videos
I wanted, and did not have to deal with managing the SD cards
on the Treo.

Anyway, color me happy...do yourself a favor and check out the
iPhone, especially if you are a current Treo user like me.
Posted by playingolf (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exactly My Experience
This is one of the best commentaries I have read on the iPhone and
how it compares to the Treo and Blackberry (both of which I have

And this was my experience exactly.
Posted by dansterpower (2511 comments )
Link Flag
6 Hours on HOLD with AT&T
I was out of the AT&#38;T store at 6:03 Friday night with the iPhone, but needed to make three [later found to be unnecessary] calls to AT&#38;T -- averaging a minimum of 2 hours hold time per call.

One even said I had to go back to the AT&#38;T store [40 miles R/T] for a new SIM card........Wrong!

Bottom Line: Every person at AT&#38;T I talked to ? in person or via phone ? were clueless about the iPhone.

In partnering with AT&#38;T, Apple should have realized that AT&#38;T personnel would be clueless about the product.
Posted by CTConsumer (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its where you live.
Every carrier has good and bad spots. Where I live, Sprint is by far the best and Verison bites the big pickle. Other places Verison is by far the best.

If ATT is not good where you live, don't use them.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please ignore, wrong place.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag

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