By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The launch of the new iPhone did not go entirely smoothly yesterday.
Sure, it was no surprise that people waited in line by the hundreds to get their hands on the new smartphone, which sports a faster Web connection than its predecessor. The unexpected part was that the crush of people activating new phones, and updating the software on old ones, threw iTunes for a loop and left some without a dial tone.
One tech Web site called it "the iPocalypse."
John Carnett was about to go on a week-long business trip to Nashville, but for much of yesterday his iPhone was unusable and locked in "emergency" mode. An update left him, and other users, with a slick, cutting-edge touch-screen device that could be used only to dial 911.
Some users who tried to upgrade their iPhones early yesterday to sample a new line of software applications got an error message on iTunes instead. Some did download the latest software, only to find that their device get stuck.
"Any idea how many phone calls I've missed today? How screwed up my business is?" wrote Carnett via e-mail after several hours of trying to get his phone working. He later returned his phone to life.
Although Apple and AT&T, the iPhone's carrier, planned to require buyers to activate the new iPhones before leaving the store, some customers were told they could activate the phones at home as a result of the iTunes problem.
A spokesman for AT&T, Mark Siegel, said, "The iTunes software was evidently overwhelmed by incredible demand."
"Apple has worked fast and furious to try and resolve this issue," he said.
Apple did not return phone calls for comment yesterday and released no statement.
More than 400,000 iPhones were expected to be sold worldwide over the weekend.
Some iPhone buyers grousing online started to refer to their useless devices as "iBricks." As one person posted on Twitter: "I still gots me an iBrick. Fully 90 minutes of trying to activate at home has FAILED."
The iTunes problem wasn't the only complaint. Kent Jenkins is unhappy with his carrier because his 12-year-old son was turned away after waiting in line at the AT&T store in Waldorf for four hours, with birthday money and funds he had saved for Apple's new phone. Kent Jr. was told he wasn't authorized to activate an iPhone on his father's account -- even though his father said he'd called the carrier to avoid problems.
Some would-be buyers got tired of the slow-moving lines and dropped out. Arlington resident James Layman waited five hours at the Clarendon Apple store yesterday morning but left when he concluded that the new phone's activation issues meant he'd probably have to wait a few hours more before using the phone.
At Montgomery Mall's Apple store, about 150 people were in line at 10 a.m. yesterday.
Vick Chan of Germantown said he got the original iPhone when it launched last year, too. He took the day off yesterday to get one of the first of the new iPhones.
At the end of the line, by the Baby Gap, Dawn Simounet of Hyattsville said she waited at an AT&T store in Greenbelt for almost two hours before managers announced that the store was out of stock and only taking orders for iPhones that would be delivered another day. She decided to try the Apple store, which evidently had a bigger supply.
Online, at Apple's support site, iPhone users hotly discussed the headaches they were experiencing with iTunes yesterday. But users who got their phones working again reported that the ire disappeared as quickly as it descended.
"After six hours of lost time on the only phone I have (no office phone, no home land line, nada), I'm back up," wrote one user, identified as a resident of Virginia.
"All my angry thoughts at Apple are slipping away as I browse the apps. Whoa."