Major iPhone 4 ordering agonies persist

Among them: multiple charges for a single iPhone order, says one would-be buyer

After a day when some customers gave up trying to buy a new iPhone 4, both AT&T and Apple continued to have major problems handling online orders Tuesday night.

As of 8:30 p.m. ET, AT&T's Web site was returning an error during the part of the ordering process when a current customer's account is checked to determine whether he or she is eligible for a new iPhone at the subsidized prices of $199 for a 16GB model or $299 for the 32GB device.

"There was a problem with your request," the error message reads. "P1015: We're sorry, but we are experiencing a system error that prevents us from completing your request. For non iPhone related upgrades, please call Customer Care at 1-888-867-4384 and provide the error number at the beginning of this message."

Order attempts at Apple's online store at 8:30 p.m. ET were also stymied, as they have been for much of the day.

There, the message popped up during the upgrade eligibility check, which Apple directs to AT&T's servers. "Your request couldn't be processed," Apple's message read. "We're sorry, but there was an error processing your request. Please try again later."

At best, online ordering was spotty all day Tuesday . Although some managed to make it through the several screens at or to successfully reserve an iPhone 4, many others did not.

Scot Finnie, Computerworld's editor-in-chief, spent more than 12 hours trying to order an iPhone 4 at Apple's and AT&T's sites, but each time encountered a glitch that blocked him from completing the transaction.

A Computerworld reader reported an even more troublesome issue.

"I placed my order over the Web at between 4 and 4:30 a.m. ET, expecting that I would beat the rush," said the Reverend Dennis Hoffman in an e-mail to Computerworld. "My problems have come, in part, through my bank and its fraud protection system. I was contacted by my bank to confirm whether or not I had made three (3) transactions. All of them were AT&T's attempt to ding my account for the $300 charge for the phone."

Hoffman's bank contacted him because repeated and identical charges are flagged by its anti-fraud system.

"I remain, as of this writing, understandably unsure as to whether my order is truly in the system, and watching my account for more than one draft of the charges for the phone," Hoffman continued. "AT&T is not the 'new face of inept.' ...They remain the continual and reigning champ of inept."

The ordering fiasco is yet another black eye for the iPhone's exclusive U.S. carrier.

Last Sunday, AT&T had to apologize to tens of thousands of Apple iPad 3G owners after a hacking group said it had scraped more than 100,000 e-mail addresses from the carrier's servers using an automated script.

The hackers and AT&T have traded accusations since last week over the incident, which the FBI is probing.

Also last week, AT&T's account management site collapsed for several hours after Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that the carrier would waive contract requirements to allow more customers to upgrade to the new iPhone 4.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel declined to comment on his company's problems today, but promised that it would release a statement later Tuesday.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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