Apple iPhone 4 pre-orders begin today, but just like the last three years running, the experience is negative for many. AT&T is struggling to handle the demand, causing a Twitter backlash as customers commiserate with their social networking friends. How is the pre-order process for you?


Since I left AT&T and my iPhone a few months ago, I’m not doing with the pre-order dance today, but it seems that many are. And it doesn’t appear to be a happy dance, based on the stream of negative tweets that are filling up my Twitter stream. Problems are ranging from gateway time-outs to messages that the pre-order couldn’t be processed. It’s yet another example of the difference in customer experience between AT&T and Apple. Here’s a small representation of what I’m seeing — the cleaner language tweets, if you will:

  • ravenme: “My life is exactly like the iPhone 4 pre-order process right now. Too many requests and I am overloaded and unable to respond.”
  • alexlindsay: “Instead of crashing out, Apple’s new store app should just say-AT&Ts lame servers simply can’t handle demand for the new iphone!”
  • dmoren: “Look, everybody be fair. It’s not like AT&T’s ever dealt with an iPhone launch bef—whoops.”
  • CaliLewis: “This iPhone 4 pre order process failure feels awfully familiar. Good thing we’re not all stuck in the store this time, though.”

It really amazes me that AT&T — and even Apple, for that matter — is unable to handle the load of pre-orders. This is the fourth iPhone model in as many years that AT&T has offered the device and it’s the fourth year in a row that servers are buckling under the data load — something that is a core business for the carrier. In fairness, Apple’s store is also kicking back messages saying that orders can’t currently be processed.

Like I said, I’m not pre-ordering, but I’m sure many of you are. How is the experience going for you?

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  1. There’s no indication that AT&T has the slightest involvement with the problems being seen here, it seems to be all Apple. The online store repeatedly shows an unspecified error at various points (early) in the process; the new “Apple Store” app simply crashes every time.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel Lefty Tuesday, June 15, 2010

      I don’t believe that statement to be entirely accurate. For existing customers, AT&T has to validate eligibility, as would Apple, which would ping AT&T’s system.

    2. The Apple Store repeatedly fails for me when it says retrieving data from AT&T. One of the two times I made it to the next step, it said the zip didn’t match the AT&T account. So I’d definitely pin a portion of this on AT&T.

  2. I waited for 1hr 45min on the phone with apple store. Got thru, they couldn’t do anything for me. Went to Radio Shack. In 5 minutes, manager took my info. Said Radio Shack was not doing $50.00 pre-orders, but doing first come, first serve starting at 1:00pm est. You get a PIN number which relates to you not having to stand in line come Jan 24.

  3. Ordered from ATT after trying for 2 hours at Apple. Order went right through.

  4. AT&T not responsible??? Are you kidding me? The per order process fails when it attempts to poll eligibility data from AT&T!

  5. Actually, have you tried logging into your AT&T account from the AT&T website? You can’t even get to the logon screen. Upon visiting their site, you receive a message that states: “Online access for Wireless and U-verse accounts is temporarily unavailable. We are currently upgrading our online account system and it is temporarily unavailable…..” So I believe it is more of an AT&T issue than it being Apples problem.

  6. yah its att not verifying eligibility, i want to order an in-store pickup which is why im ordering from apple. it doesnt go thru though. im taking a preorder break and getting food and a haircut then gonna try again. but this is beyond disappointing.

  7. Finally got one through around 10:50AM EDT on my AT&T Premiere site.

    Good luck!

  8. The real question is, despite the obvious foreseeability, why AT&T, Sprint (or the New York Bar Examiner’s Office, I’m looking at you) would bother to spend the significant $$$ to drastically improve the capacity of their servers for a blip overload that happens, predictably, only once a year.

    …especially for a captive audience that despite their bellyaching, will not switch providers even with the bad service. (Let’s face it, if you’re a day1 pre-orderer you’ve already convinced yourself you’re going to get it).

  9. NoNewPhoneYet Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    So I have gotten to the authorization check multiple times, entered SS#, then it bombs. Is my credit getting hit each time because of their bad servers???

  10. The AT&T gods must be smiling on me today — woke up at 4AM PST (my usual time), got a cup of coffee, wandered over to the laptop, signed on to my AT&T account, and 5 minutes later had the pre-order done. Was the easiest experience possible.

    However, everyone here at work who’s trying to order have been continuously frustrated, with only one of the 5 or 6 people trying getting through.

    1. lol I tried to do that, but it would mean getting up at 5:25am (5 minutes to get my heart beating) on the 2nd day of my summer vacation, just wasn’t gonna happen…

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