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Summary:

I remember standing in line last year for the iPhone. It was a momentous occasion. There was excitement in the air and people just having a great time waiting for 6 PM when the iPhone went on sale. People were camped out in lawn chairs and […]

I remember standing in line last year for the iPhone. It was a momentous occasion. There was excitement in the air and people just having a great time waiting for 6 PM when the iPhone went on sale. People were camped out in lawn chairs and owners of shops came out to see what the fuss was about. They even brought us chairs from their stores to sit in and let us use their power outlets to recharge our laptops.

Contrast that to this year, when the much anticipated iPhone 3G was launched at 8 AM local time. I was in line (with a few hundred soon-to-be friends) at 8 AM when the “launch” started. After 2 hours we had barely moved 10 feet. Around 11 AM, we finally got reports that there were server issues. At first they said the issues were with iTunes software activating new iPhones, but then they quickly shifted the blame to AT&T’s servers.

The mood quickly went from upbeat and excited to tired and irritated. Standing in line, hour after hour, this year was a stark contrast from last year. At Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, security guards wouldn’t even let people sit down (on the floor, or in mall-provided seating) even though we were mall customers waiting to spend quite a bit of money in their stores.

The whole atmosphere of this year’s launch was of disappointment, disorganization, inconvenience and irritation. Very un-Apple.

I know of at least 20 people around us in line who gave up and simply went home, disillusioned at the company they admired so much earlier that same day. I personally have mixed feelings about the competencies of both Apple and AT&T after such a botched event.

Last year, Apple was hurrying to get FTC approval and launch a brand new product with new technology to the world. It was much anticipated and they knew they were on a tight time frame. In spite of the very limited time to plan and the long lines (which seemed to be even longer than this year in most places), the event was overwhelmingly successful. Even though I didn’t get my 1st generation iPhone activated until after 10 PM, over 4 hours after I got it, I never even associated that with Apple. It was simply AT&T’s activation, a typically slow telecom company doing what they do best.

But when Apple and AT&T decided to subsidize the phones this year, and force in-store activations they should have known there were likely to be issues. As a developer and manager of enterprise-level applications, I’m shocked that AT&T and Apple did not sufficiently stress-tested their systems to ensure it could handle at least the same volume as last year.

I finally got my iPhone last night at 8:15 PM, over 12 hours after I got in line and 12 hours after they went on sale. Contrast that to last year, when I got to Lenox Square Apple Store at 8 AM and had an iPhone shortly after 6 PM, minutes after they went on sale.

This years iPhone launch was already complicated with in-store activations, which were enough to slow lines, but added to all the iTunes and AT&T server issues yesterday made me seriously question attending another launch event.

Apple is a master of creating emotion and excitement. They do it with their products, keynotes, launch events and even inside their products, which are typically elegant and just easy to use. Apple fanatics… err, I mean, customers… will spend any amount of money and wait in line (in the cold or rain) without complaining, just for the privilege of giving Apple their money or attention.

That changed on July 11, 2008. As I walked down the line as I left, I spoke with several people that had been in line for more than 12 hours for the new iPhone. The only reason most of them were still in line is simply the fact that they couldn’t imagine spending 12 hours in line and not having anything to show for it at the end of the day.

Apple is just a company and is bound to make mistakes, but I wonder if this is to become a recurring theme or if Apple will work harder in the future to ensure that product launches go smoothly. Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure though, if Apple launches iPhone 3.0 in July 2009, I won’t be in line.

  1. Jon Henshaw Monday, July 14, 2008

    My favorite part was watching the Apple employee punching in my info at 1AM (CST) and then watching his PDA get server errors. Then I was told that the Apple and AT&T servers would be down for the rest of the night. Now that is hilarious fun.

  2. mike_drechsel Monday, July 14, 2008

    by your own numbers,you ended up with an activated phone four hours sooner this year than last. further, apple did not promise you a hood time waiting in line. It only promised a great phone. complain if you don’t like the phone. But leave the line and waiting out of it. You chose to be there, and didn’t you leave the store with several hundred dollars more than you did last year? why are you whining about anything at all?

  3. Brandon Eley Monday, July 14, 2008

    mike_drechsel By my own numbers, I had an iPhone 2 hours EARLIER last year when they went on sale at 6 PM, versus this year when they were on sale for a full 12 hours before I got mine.

    I was merely trying to show how the atmosphere and emotions at this year’s launch were different compared to last year. So far I love the new features of the iPhone 3G, but I certainly did not enjoy the experience.

  4. Yeah you had it really tough didn’t you? I feel very sorry for you and your Apple buddies standing there in the long line not getting your toy in time. At the same time you were standing there other people elsewhere in the world were dying because of starvation and war.

  5. Wow Rutger . . . that’s one way to sound like a jerk. This entire website is about Apple, its products and its people. No one will argue that we live fortunate lives but this is still not the forum for such an argumentative and insulting comment.

    You are clearly angry at the world for its injustices and I don’t blame you, however your comment does not help the lives of those less fortunate. Had this article been posting on a website discussing world hunger or war, I would gladly applaud you for your comment. That is not the case.

    At the same time, you are commenting on an article that has been up for less than a day on a very specific topic. This leads me to believe that you also live a reasonably comfortable life. You have ready access to a computer and seem to be reasonably educated given your grammar and spelling.

    So let’s all get along and stay on topic. I too despise war and starvation, but my new iPhone can’t fix those problem.

  6. Jon Henshaw Monday, July 14, 2008

    @Reasonable “but my new iPhone can’t fix those problem.”

    or maybe it can ;-)

  7. Josh Pigford Monday, July 14, 2008

    @Rutger: Based on your logic…why are you wasting your time reading a blog about Apple when you could be out helping homeless people or saving the world? If anything, your statement just makes you one massive hypocrite.

  8. ok, let’s get back to the fact that this article is just plain dumb to begin with!!!

  9. I’m not going to throw the ‘starvation and war’ line at you, but… I don’t see why you would expect hours of waiting in line on launch day to be fun. Launch days are always hectic at best.

    I guess I just don’t get why someone who has an iPhone would be eager to get in the line this year. Last year, you walked away with a revolutionary phone. This year, we all know going into the launch that it’s a mild improvement on the hardware side, and the old phones get the really good stuff, which is new software. I suspect part of your disappointment might be that at the end of it all, you’re not walking away with so much revolution in your pocket.

    But you knew that already. So why’d you get in line?

  10. I had a great experience. I went to AT&T yesterday, waited 5 minutes, ordered an iPhone for myself and my wife, and left. I spent about 15 minutes in the store. I have to wait for my iPhones to arrive in the mail, but I didn’t have to wait in line.

    My wife was amazed at how easy the whole process was. The trade-off is that I have to wait a few days for my phone to come in, but I’m OK with that. I don’t -*have*- to have it today. I can wait a few more days, and not having to camp out and/or wait in line all day is worth the wait.

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