Apple’s iPhone 4S pre-orders encounter some hiccups

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Pre-orders for Apple’s new iPhone 4S got started very early Friday morning, but they didn’t go off without a hitch. AT&T, in particular, seemed to have trouble getting its act together, resulting in some frustrated customers who were up very late. Apple itself also encountered delays.

AT&T was the only U.S. carrier partner who didn’t get their own website’s pre-orders off the ground at the originally planned time of 12:01 a.m. PDT (3:01 a.m. EDT). Apple was also behind schedule and its own pre-orders didn’t go live until around 12:45 a.m. PDT. AT&T’s pre-orders on its own site didn’t start going live until around 1:15 a.m. PDT for anyone, and even then the experience was inconsistent. Though each carrier had trouble with network issues, AT&T had by far the lion’s share of issues, as this jab by Verizon on Twitter obliquely points out:

Here’s a great quote by commenter John M from our original news post that sums up a lot of the reaction I saw from frustrated AT&T customers:

Does this also speak to their quality of service??? Guess I won’t know until I can take off the ATT contract handcuffs!!!

Those issues extended to Apple’s own website. Customers trying to purchase an AT&T iPhone 4S through Apple.com at first encountered repeated errors, until finally Apple suspended pre-orders altogether at the U.S. site while they worked on resolving their issues.  Users instead were told their iPhone had been “reserved,” and they’d receive a follow-up email letting them know when they could complete their order. Those emails started going out around 4 a.m. PDT this morning.

Links included in the email lead customers back to the Apple Store to complete their orders, which is working fine this morning. As of this writing, the iPhone 4S is still listed to be delivered by Oct. 14 when ordered through the official Apple online store. We’ve confirmed that customers who have a reservation can still start the process as a brand new customer without following that link, and can still order a phone that way, too. Links to reserved orders from last night’s launch are valid until 5 p.m. PDT Saturday, however, so if stock levels change, customers who reserved a spot will still be able to jump the queue. Also, as of this writing, customers can’t access their account ordering information. Apple may be keeping this offline intentionally in order to avoid people taking down the servers with repeated refreshing of their order status.

While stock levels in the U.S. appear to remain strong at the moment, delivery times have quickly dropped  already in other international stores. In the U.K., Canada, Germany, France and Australian stores, for example, the iPhone 4S shows a shipping time of between one and two weeks. That, as well as the obvious network issues encountered by Apple during last night’s launch, point to strong interest in the smartphone. We’ll have to wait until we get some firm numbers about pre-order volume before we can tell how this launch stacks up to previous ones.

Additional reporting by Cyndy Aleo.

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