iPhone 3G activations in U.S. trouble-plagued

Customers are being sent home to get their new phones working

AT&T Inc. reported that in-store iPhone 3G activations were suspended at about 9:30 EDT nationwide today because of problems users were having connecting with the iTunes 7.7 software needed to configure the device.

Both AT&T and Apple Inc. were sending customers with iPhones home from their stores to activate the popular devices, as was done at the first launch of the iPhone in June 2007, a spokeswoman for AT&T in New England said in an interview.

"The intent was to allow in-store activation, and that was working fine until just now," she said at about 10:50 a.m. EDT.

Some customers seemed disappointed, including one man who said he was "getting quite perturbed" when told of the activation problem inside the AT&T downtown Boston store. He declined to give his name.

When customers attempt the iTunes download, they get an error message saying, "Page not found," the spokeswoman said. The problem relates to iTunes specifically and not the AT&T network, she said.

A Computerworld reporter who was trying to connect with iTunes got this error message: "We could not complete your iTunes Store request. An unknown error occurred (-9838). There was an error in the iTunes Store. Please try again later."

Other users reported in various online forums that they faced similar issues. "iTunes sees the iPhone, but gives me zero control over it," said Ray Camden on the coldfusionjedi site. "It is stuck 'Accessing iTunes Store...' which makes me just a tiny bit mad that my phone is sitting here in brick mode essentially while trying to hit a store that is probably getting tons of traffic."

Users at the MartinOg Technology and iPhone Blog reported much the same issues, including the 9838 error message.

Computerworld freelance writer Ryan Faas echoed other users' problems getting their iPhones to work. "Apparently the iTunes Store is overloaded and the stripped down iTunes app that they have just hangs at the 'accessing iTunes store' screen," Faas said in an e-mail update. "They told me all AT&T stores are having the problem and they were told to do all the account activation processes but to send people home to unbrick the phones themselves using iTunes.

"So, right now, I'm sitting at home with the same 'accessing iTunes store' hang on my computer," Faas said. "Oh well, at least I get to look at a shiny new paperweight in the meantime."

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer, Ryan Faas and Ken Mingis contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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