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IPhone activation headaches still trouble users

AT&T, Apple won't say how many users have had problems, but some have been waiting nearly 60 hours

By , Gregg Keizer
July 2, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

It took Iain Gillott 47 hours to activate his iPhone after waiting in the Texas heat Friday afternoon to buy one.

He has been an AT&T Inc./Cingular Wireless customer for 12 years, so he never dreamed there would be any trouble setting up service. But after a day of trying, he learned that his family rate plan wouldn't accommodate an additional line, and once that problem was solved, he learned AT&T sent Apple Inc. a message to activate, but the Apple servers had timed out.

So, basically, both the maker and the carrier for the iPhone screwed up, from Gillott's point of view. "When the next big device comes out, I'm not rushing out to buy one," Gillott said in an interview. Both AT&T and Apple "had the opportunity to set a benchmark for customer service but haven't solved any problems at all. They've done nothing apart from pissing off a lot of people."

Gillott, a market analyst for wireless products and services at IGR Inc. in Austin, waited 47 hours for service, but that might not be the longest to wait, according to Apple's support blog, where one person known as "SVDaily" waited more than 59 hours and still did not have service today.

Apple and AT&T officials have not responded to requests asking how many iPhone customers faced long waits for activation or what has caused the problems. One Apple official yesterday told the Associated Press that a small percentage of iPhone customers had an activation problem, while AT&T said overloaded servers were to blame and that adjustments were in the works.

An online poll at started on Sunday morning recorded by midday today more than 5,300 users who said they were "still dead in the water" and upset about activation delays, while another 1,600 said they were indeed activated after facing problems. Another 6,800 reported that their activations went smoothly, nearly half the survey group.

One market research report showed that more than 500,000 iPhones had been sold over the weekend. Based on that total, the online poll would indicate slightly more than 1% had activation problems, but Gillott said the number of failed activations was probably much higher, perhaps as many as 100,000 people.

"It was insulting to hear the AT&T customer service reps tell me they had been overwhelmed by the iPhone response, since they had so long to prepare," Gillott said. "They obviously didn't test problems like mine where my family plan would only allow three phone lines and not a fourth."

Gillott said AT&T should have insisted that it activate phones in its stores, which it does successfully with other phones at the rate of 3 million a quarter. Apple, meanwhile, has been good at activating iTunes and iPods online, so it apparently won out in the decision to require iPhone activation online through iTunes.

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