Relax, You Can Still Buy An iPhone In New York City. Just Not Online.
Sunday, December 27, 2009; 6:31 PM
If you live in the New York City metropolitan area, as I do, and try to buy an iPhone from AT&T's website, you will probably get the same message I did after I entered my zipcode: "Sorry this package is not available in your area." Apparently, this is a big story. (Hey, it's the tail end of a long holiday weekend, and there is nothing else going on). For instance, the Consumerist called some hapless AT&T customer service rep who confirmed that "the phone is not offered to you because New York is not ready for the iPhone." There are also reports that fraudulent activity may be the cause of the problem.
Given AT&T's history of bandwidth problems, especially with the iPhone, the idea that AT&T's network can't handle the iPhone is not entirely outlandish. Remember Operation Chokehold, and the resulting tiff between Fake Steve Jobs and AT&T? It was a failed attempt to bring AT&T's network to its knees by everyone using their iPhones at once as a way to protest how much AT&T's data network sucks. When AT&T called him irresponsible, Fake Steve responded:
I mean, consider this fact:AT&T, a huge wireless provider in the United States, cannot reliably connect calls in New York City. How can this be? ?Fake Steve Jobs
And now, here it is, on a silver platter: AT&T is no longer selling iPhones to people in New York City! Well, at least not online. Is this AT&T's sneaky way of limiting bandwidth consumption in its largest market? If only, then we'd have a story.
After I went to AT&T's website and generated the message above, I logged in, since I am a customer. When I tried to upgrade my phone to a newer iPhone, I encountered no problems. Then I called customer service, and was told they could ship me a new iPhone, no problem. I called once more, but this time didn't say that I am an existing customer. The only phone available was an 8GB refurbished iPhone. AT&T's online store was out of stock of everything else. Then I tried one last time and gave a different Brooklyn zipcode. The sales rep again told me the online store was "currently out of stock" and that "you have to go into the store." It appears that AT&T's phone and online orders come from a different warehouse (duh) than the ones which service its stores.
So if you really want to buy an iPhone in New York City, go to an AT&T store, or an Apple Store. Or try Apple's website. That seems to be taking orders for New York City residents just fine ( I got up to the checkout).
And, yes, I've contacted several PR people at AT&T. But like I said, it's the holidays.
Update: AT&T PR responds with this cryptic one-liner: "We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels." Thanks, way to clear things up.