Wednesday, June 16, 2010

AT&T's iPhone 4 pre-order systems blink; the world panics

Oh, the joy of being an AT&T customer. Today, the first day that iPhone 4 pre-ordering was available, the system flamed out, but it wasn't Apple, it was AT&T.

Order straight from AT&T's website, and you'd end up, in some cases, getting into someone else's account. According to an unnamed source speaking to Gizmodo, the problems appear to be from an untested update to AT&T's customer database systems over the weekend.

Why anyone would a) push an update to such a critical system the weekend before such a huge launch, and b) not test it is beyond us. It is, in fact, just another AT&T SNAFU, and coupled with last week's iPad fiasco surely has turned them into the laughing stock of wireless. And these are the guys who have iPhone exclusivity?

That security breach aside (it appears to now be fixed), logging into your AT&T account to check anything can be an exercise in frustration. Whether or not you want to order an iPhone 4, the results you get are usually something like "We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are unable to support this request online. Please call our Customer Care representatives ... for personal assistance."

This also affected iPhone 4 pre-ordering via Apple's site. Why? Because Apple had to connect with AT&T to complete the transaction.

The big panic, of course, is because folks are afraid that pre-orders will run out. Rightly so, too, as by the mid-afternoon, AT&T announced it had already (despite the issues with its servers) run through its iPhone 4 pre-order allotment.
"Because of the incredible interest in iPhone 4, today was the busiest online sales day in AT&T history. As of Tuesday afternoon, customers who preorder iPhone 4 moving forward will receive their device on June 25 or later, depending on when the order is placed. We'll email customers with confirmation once their order is placed, and again when it ships. In addition, we will have devices available on a first-come, first-serve basis in our stores beginning on June 24."
Things were so bad that AT&T brick-and-mortar stores resulted in pen-and-paper to take orders. We kid you not.

Additionally, in case you wanted to try it, the new Apple Store app that Apple emphasized would make a new iPhone 4 pre-order just a few clicks failed as well, obviously because it had to communicate with AT&T's overwhelmed systems.

Those still needing to order can only hope AT&T's systems can handle things from here on in. As noted above, Apple still needs to communicate with them to complete orders.

The next question is: how will Verizon handle things in the future when, not if, that carrier gets the iPhone? It should make for an interesting comparison.

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