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iPhone activation problems widespread, serious (updated x3)

Following yesterday’s rollout of Apple’s iPhone on AT&T’s wireless mobile phone network, many once-excited customers found themselves frustrated and disappointed after activation-related delays prevented use of their new $499 and $599 devices. As pointed out by iLounge reader Steve Rubel, and confirmed by two iLounge editors with similar issues, a large number of first-day iPhone customers have fanned out across the Internet to describe failures by AT&T to properly start service on the new phones. The issues are officially being attributed to overwhelming demand for the iPhone, and an AT&T representative confirmed to iLounge this morning that “virtually all AT&T stores sold out” of iPhone yesterday; spot checks this morning indicated that Apple Stores, which generally received much larger allocations of iPhones, vary from sold out of one capacity (typically 8GB) to having either or both in stock.

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The iPhone, which requires a one-time download of iTunes 7.3, must go through a several-step online activation process before any of its iPod, Internet, or phone features can be used. Failure to activate the phone renders it useful only for “emergency calls,” and disables the remainder of its features; the activation process must be repeated, with fewer steps, each time the phone’s software is updated. If AT&T’s automated service, linked to through iTunes, fails to activate or re-activate the phone in a prompt manner, it will not be usable.

 

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Discussions on Apple’s support forms now describe quoted wait times of “up to 24 hours” for activation, as well as numerous other issues relating to conversion of Individual Plans to Family Plans. Though 5 of our 7 iPhones activated properly, iLounge’s editors are currently attempting to get activation issues resolved with the other 2, and will update this article as appropriate.

Update: A second AT&T representative has told iLounge that a team of AT&T engineers has been manually working around the clock to process the flood of delayed activation requests experienced last night, which were described as falling into the “change of account type from individual to family” and “number portability” categories. Wait times range from 6 to 9 to 24 hours based on the category of account change; iLounge received a “24 hours” notice on a ported number. More straightforward iPhone accounts are typically set up via iTunes in minutes.

Updates 2 and 3: One of iLounge’s 2 long-activation iPhones was activated successfully after 18 hours. The other took roughly 40 hours, and five phone calls, since the first attempt on Friday night, and has now been fully activated.

Massive iPhone Interface, Comparison Gallery Posted

We’ve just posted a massive new collection of iPhone interface and comparison pictures. Ever wondered how an iPhone compares physically to a Motorola RAZR? A Sidekick 3?

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The original iPod, or current iPod models?

 

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Want to see pictures of the iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Mac computers all next to each other?

 

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Then check our our iPhone unboxing gallery, and our additional interface shots on Flickr. Enjoy!

 

Additional iPhone unbox gallery posted (updated)

In addition to our previous set of iPhone unboxing pictures, we’ve just posted a new gallery full of “standard” iLounge shots.

You can see the rest of the pictures by clicking on the title of this article, and viewing our Flickr account. Enjoy!

First iPhone unpacking photos, manuals, hands-on posted (updated)

You’ve seen the photos of iPhone: here are the photos of iPhone’s box and box contents. Just like Apple’s old premium iPods—the way they used to be packaged before price drops and smaller packages prevailed—the iPhone comes with premium items such as a charging, audio, and synchronization Dock, as well as a USB Power Adapter. It also includes current iPod-like fare, specifically a Stereo Headset (earphones with microphone), a Dock Connector to USB Cable, and printed documentation. New to the package is a cleaning cloth, provided to help keep the screen shining. iTunes 7.3 remains a download from the Apple.com web site, rather than a CD in the box.

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You can see iLounge’s first iPhone unpacking photos here. Additional photos are available from the link below.

 

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You can see additional iPhone unpacking photos here.

Update: Apple has posted manuals for the iPhone to its web site. With the Mac OS X application Preview, you’ll see TOC and Index links.

Hands-On: iLounge’s editor Larry Angell notes from his retail iPhone the setup process to transfer an existing line to iPhone was extremely fast, and called in a report to us from the road. He notes, however, that AT&T network speeds, which were reportedly upgraded for iPhone, do not appear to be very fast in his initial tests of the EDGE network. His second call on iPhone was dropped one minute in, and his third call also disconnected after several minutes. AT&T’s network appears to be taking a hit with the addition of the many new iPhone users.

Larry adds that, despite other data questions he still has, Google Maps is running very fast on his iPhone. It’s also pulling up correct, nearby locations with a surprising degree of accuracy as to his present location. Perhaps from his launch day excitement, he’s finding that the screen is smudging from his face, but it’s not visible head-on—the screen is still perfectly clear. It’s only visible on odd angles. He also feels that the iPhone is much slimmer than most of the photos give it credit for being. In brief web testing, he notes that MP3 and certain movie files found on web pages will play back on iPhone, but YouTube videos found embedded on a page (such as iLounge) will not, so you’ll need to use the YouTube browser. We’ll add more impressions shortly.

Apple posts ‘Finger Tips’ videos

Apple has posted a series of brief videos explaining how to perform simple tasks on the iPhone. Videos include “Silence the ring,” “Delete a message,” “Create your favorites list,” “Assign a ringtone,” “More song controls,” “Browse in Cover Flow,” “Magnify to edit,” “Mail preferences,” “Set a passcode,” and “Reset you iPhone.” All ten “Finger Tips” videos can be viewed from http://www.apple.com/iphone/ .

iPhone lines grow across country (updated x4)

Surprising some who believed that lines of customers for iPhone would not materialize, or that such lines would be restricted to only New York City and major cities in California, large groups of anxious iPhone buyers have formed at Apple Stores and AT&T locations across the United States. As of noon local time on the East Coast, iLounge editors and readers in Florida, Ohio, Tennessee and California reported groups of over 50 people already queued at local stores before noon local time, only a few having slept overnight to be close to the head of their lines. You can follow iLounge editor Larry Angell’s live updates from Columbus, Ohio at this link.

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After noon, the crowds continued to swell, nearing 100 even in non-flagship Apple locations. By 4PM EST and 1PM PST, flagship Apple Stores in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as select other locations, had lines of over 200 people waiting for iPhones. At 2PM on each coast, Apple Store employees “blacked out” the stores’ windows as they prepared to move iPhones into display positions around each store, and prepare inventory on hand for sale. Signs reading “iPhone World Premiere, Tonight at 6 p.m.” were placed in the windows. Some of the stores announced that they would take groups of 50 at a time for purchases, in two lines: one cash, one credit. Fifteen minutes before launch, our editor at the Florida store was reporting “well over 250 people” in line. Our Ohio editor noted that groups of 30-40 would be taken at a time, and were asked to proceed to the Genius Bar if they were interested in making an immediate purchase.

 

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Many reports coming in to iLounge suggest that the lines continue to grow, as demand for the $499 and $599 iPhones appears to be significant, and though it’s unclear as to how many iPhones stores are receiving, the numbers are high. A YouTube video shows a full pallet of iPhones being delivered to the Apple Store in SoHo, providing a rough estimate of 400-500 iPhones, perhaps more. One iLounge editor reports that he has heard that the ratio of 8GB units to 4GB units available is 4:1 in favor of 8GB units.

 

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To keep the crowds refreshed, Apple Store employees have handed out bottles of Smartwater, and have walked the lines to chat people up as the launch approaches. We’ll continue to update this story as the day progresses; submit your story or photos using the “submit a news tip” box inside this article, or the “submit news” button at the top of the main page News column.

 

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AT&T boosting EDGE speed ahead of iPhone?

Numerous reports from across the country are indicating that EDGE speeds over AT&T’s network have seen a dramatic increase over the last twelve hours or so. Many are convinced that this sudden boost in speed — some are seeing results well over 200Kbps — is connected to the iPhone launch. It was previously rumored that such an upgrade was coming, but marked speed improvements had not been noticeable until now.

Jobs: iPhone supply may not be enough

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has claimed that the company’s iPhone inventory may not be enough to meet demand. “We’re building a fair number of them, but we may not [meet demand],” Jobs said. “We had to make our best guess as to what the demand was going to be and what supply we were going to put in place many, many months ago. We built factories to build these things and everything. We’ve taken our best guess but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it ain’t enough.” Jobs also claimed that the iPhone has yet to cannibalize iPod sales, stating, “We can report to you that it hasn’t so far.”

Steve Jobs: Free iPhones for Apple employees

At an all-hands meeting called by Steve Jobs and held today on the Apple campus in Cupertino, CA, the company’s CEO told a packed audience that every full-time Apple employee who has been with the company for more than a year will receive a free 8GB iPhone by the end of July. While this has little direct meaning for those of us who haven’t been in Apple’s employ for the last year, it is a good indication that the company feels secure with iPhone inventory levels heading into the device’s launch period.

Leaked AT&T iPhone launch guide provides more details

A leaked AT&T internal “iPhone Launch Training Participant Guide” has surfaced on the internet, and contains still more details pertaining to the iPhone’s launch. Of particular note is the guide’s language regarding pre-paid service. At one point in the document, it states “Customers who complete a Pre-Approved credit check in-store and who owe a deposit can: pay the deposit (this avoids a return trip to the store to do so), not pay the deposit, but will choose pre-paid service, (during the iTunes activation process).” This would indicate that the iPhone will be available with pre-paid service, however, later in the guide it states: “Customers will only be offered GoPhone Pick Your Plan if the credit check results in a deposit requirement. GoPhone Pay as You Go is not offered with iPhone.” A definitive answer has yet to emerge.

The document also states that iPhone customers purchasing the handset in AT&T stores will receive their purchase sealed in an Apple-branded bag that must be scanned out at no cost by an AT&T employee. In addition, it lists the Apple-branded accessories that will be available alongside the iPhone at AT&T stores, including the iPhone Travel Charger, iPhone In-Box Stereo Headset, iPhone Bluetooth Mono-earbud, iPhone Bluetooth Travel Cable, and iPhone Dock Connector to USB Cable. Finally, as of June 29, AT&T will sell iTunes Gift Cards as well, in denominations of $25 and $50.

Apple RSS reader for iPhone?

A placeholder image at the URL http://reader.mac.com/ has lead to widespread speculation that the page will be home to an Apple-produced, AJAX-based RSS reader for the iPhone. When browsing to the page from a standard PC, an image comes up that states “This Application Is Viewable Only On iPhone” across the top, with the following message underneath: “This application can only be viewed using the iPhone. For more information on the revolutionary new iPhone, visit http://www.apple.com/iphone.” The original placeholder also included an image of what appeared to be an iPhone-formatted RSS reader on the device’s screen; that part of the image has been replaced with an image of the iPhone’s “slide to unlock” screen. Keep reading to see both images. [via Daring Fireball, image via TUAW]

Pogue: Apple Bluetooth Headset coming in July

David Pogue, tech columnist for the New York Times, has posted his own iPhone FAQ. In “Often Asked iPhone Questions,” Pogue covers lots of information familiar to those who have followed the device in the news. He also offers up a few details that have not been previously announced. According to the article, the iPhone comes with 25 ringtones, which Pogue says are “really good.” In answering a question regarding the phone’s Bluetooth capabilities, he claims that the Apple Bluetooth Headset, which many expected to debut with the iPhone, won’t be available until July. Finally, he also offers a list of iPod features on the iPhone: “Password protection, Shuffle and Repeat modes, ratings, audiobooks, audiobook speed control, podcasts, SoundCheck, equalization, volume limiter, [and] on-the-go playlists.”

Apple Stores open ‘til midnight, two iPhones per person

Apple has announced that it will be keeping all 164 of its retail stores open until midnight tomorrow, June 29, for the launch of the iPhone, and providing online availability information from its retail store’s web site. Beginning Saturday, and continuing through the summer, Apple Stores in the US will open daily at 9:00 a.m. for iPhone sales, and eager iPhone customers will be able to check their local stores’ iPhone availability beginning at 9:00 p.m. the night before. iPhones will also be available for online purchase from Apple’s web site starting at 6PM on the 29th, with free shipping.

Purchases of the iPhone will be limited to two per person, on a first come, first served basis, unlike the one per person limits imposed at AT&T stores. Support for the new handset will be provided at the each Apple Store’s Genius Bar, and personal training will be offered through Apple’s new One on One program. Beginning Saturday morning, free, in-depth workshops on how to get the most out of iPhone will be offered throughout the day at all stores.

“Apple retail stores were created for this moment—to let customers touch and experience a revolutionary new product,” said Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail. “With our legendary Genius Bar support, free workshops and our One to One personal training, we’re here to help customers get the most from their new iPhone.”

iPhone box appears in USA Today video review

The retail box for the iPhone has made an appearance online in a video review of the handset from USA Today‘s Ed Baig. The box, which is black in color, features a picture of the iPhone on the front, and “iPhone” in metallic print on the side, along with Apple’s standard 4GB or 8GB box denotation. The top features an Apple logo, while the backside is filled with small print, bar codes, and an AT&T logo. As we reported earlier today, the box contains the iPhone, Dock, USB Power Adapter, a Stereo Headset (earphones with microphone), Dock Connector to USB Cable, cleaning cloth, and documentation. Keep reading for screen captures of the box taken from the video.

Apple confirms iPhone VPN support, headset-charging dock

Apple has posted a new iPhone Questions and Answers page, which confirms several iPhone security features, as well as displays a photo of a new variant of the iPhone Dock, which charges both the Apple Bluetooth Headset as well as the iPhone and will reportedly be included with the headset. The iPhone will allow users to protect their iPhone with a four digit password, which is then required whenever iPhone is turned on or wakes from sleep, as well as offer support for virtual private networking (VPN). Finally, the page gives specifics on Windows compatibility, stating “iPhone works with Windows 2000 (SP4), Windows XP Home or Professional (SP2), and Windows Vista.”

iPhone box contents, iTunes 7.3 confirmed

In an update to its technical specifications page for the iPhone, Apple today confirmed that the iPhone will come packaged with a Dock and USB Power Adapter, similar to now long since discontinued $499 and $599 iPods, as well as a Stereo Headset (earphones with microphone), Dock Connector to USB Cable, cleaning cloth, and documentation. iTunes 7.3 will be required for the device, and available as a separate download from the Apple web site.

Apple has also disclosed that iPhone will support video playback at rates identical to the iPod’s, with a maximum of 640x480 pixels in MPEG-4 or H.264-formats. This disclosure puts to rest speculation that iPhone might be capable of playing Apple TV-formatted videos, or at least true DVD-quality videos, upon release. As with the fifth-generation iPod, however, these specifications may be improved in a future software update.

AT&T: iPhone restock fee, SIM, no insurance details

In a newly added iPhone frequently asked questions (FAQ) page of its site, AT&T today published a number of contract terms important to prospective iPhone buyers. Notably, the FAQ discloses both a 10% open box restock fee for returned iPhones and a limited 14-day return policy, shorter than the 30-day return policies often offered for mobile phones. There is no restocking fee for unopened iPhones. AT&T also notes that iPhone ships with a SIM card pre-installed in its removable tray, and that the phone “must be activated before it can be used” regardless of whether you already have an AT&T SIM card.

Most interesting is the fact that iPhone is not covered by AT&T’s optional wireless phone insurance program, which offers replacements for damaged or defective AT&T phones during the life of your service agreement. “iPhone is ineligible for the Wireless Phone Insurance program offered to AT&T customers,” says the FAQ. “iPhone is covered by the Apple Warranty. If you have Wireless Phone Insurance from AT&T, it will be removed from your line of service.” Additional questions for current AT&T customers are also answered in the FAQ.

Vodafone likely European iPhone carrier?

Vodafone appears to be a leading candidate to become the iPhone’s carrier in Europe, according to a recent Credit Suisse research note. The investment bank believes that the carrier would represent a good bet for Apple because of its presence in most European markets, reports ZDNet Asia. Mike Grant, consultant at research firm Analysys, agrees — but only if the European iPhone contains 3G technology. “If Apple waits until [the iPhone’s] a 3G phone, then yes, I would say Vodafone is absolutely the frontrunner. It would be a perfect match,” said Grant. Vodafone’s main competition for the phone is Deutsche Telekom, according to Credit Suisse, who expects around six million European iPhone units to be sold in the first three years.

Apple posts iPhone keyboard video

Apple has posted a new iPhone video, “iPhone keyboard,” that offers tips on learning how to properly use the touchscreen-based input device. During the video, Apple makes several suggestions on how to learn and adapt to the virtual keyboard. When you first begin typing on iPhone, Apple recommends that users employ only one index finger, be deliberate with their finger taps, and pay particular attention to the confirmation pop-ups. The video also shows how to handle different situations, such as moving the cursor in a text entry area. Apple claims “in less than a week, users will likely find themselves typing faster on the iPhone than on any other small keyboard.”

Apple to license Exchange ActiveSync for iPhone?

Apple may be in talks with Microsoft to license its Exchange ActiveSync protocol in order to make the iPhone compatible with Exchange Server, reports Mary Jo Foley for ZDNet. The lack of compatibility with Exchange Server has been a major issue for IT departments, and has been widely reported in so-called iPhone backlash articles. Foley claims that her sources say that Apple will soon announce that it has licensed the protocol, although details on when it would be implemented on the iPhone are not given. Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff says the deal would make sense, stating, “Apple and Microsoft would sign a deal to incorporate ActiveSync into the iPhone, just as Nokia, Motorola, and PalmOne are doing. So this wouldn’t be anything new from Microsoft’s perspective, just a deal with a new telephone handset maker — Apple.”

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