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Launch Day Nightmares and an Apology to AT&T.

So like everyone else who purchased a new iPhone 4S yesterday or had done a preorder and received it yesterday I’ve got a story to tell. Many of my friends here at iSource had a really easy go of it, including some who had a pre-order not get shipped on time and still got to the store to buy a new phone. But my story is a little more in-depth and for the first time in a long time (if ever) I feel like I owe an apology to AT&T.

Let’s start with the basics. On pre-order day I fought with the downtime like everyone else and eventually gave up. I went to bed and after a couple hours of sleep I woke up to find pre-orders working like magic again, so I ordered and then went to work. Yesterday morning (after a blazing fast trip from Shenzen) my iPhone arrived in the hands of UPS. I was the first in my area of Denver according to the UPS delivery driver to actually get mine. All was right with the world at that moment. Unfortunately, that didn’t last.

The first thing I did was take the iPhone box out of the shipping box. Then I dialed 611 (AT&T) and explained I was doing a cross-upgrade. Basically I upgraded my wife’s line but I wanted to use the phone on my line instead. The customer care folks were super happy to help and I was off the phone a couple minutes later. I waited a short while for the system to reflect the changes and then I tried to activate. That’s when the failures began.

For the next couple hours try as I might I couldn’t activate the device. I read a couple posts about people rebooting the phone, restoring the phone but nothing seemed to help. Eventually I had other things to take care of, so I headed out from the house and off to run my errands. There’s an AT&T store along the way so I stopped in.

The AT&T folks decided to try a new sim card. After swapping the sim and trying to activate again they explained that this was an iTunes issue and not an AT&T issue. The sim was being recognized in their system and they could see the device. They suggested I shutdown the phone, leave it alone for a while and try again later. So I moved on. I made my way to Boulder, dropped my car off at the shop and tried again. No Joy.With nothing else to do while my car was being worked on I walked my way over to the 29th Street Apple store. The AT&T folks there came to the same conclusion – Apple activations were backed up and there’s nothing they could do. So I went back to the shop and waited for my car.

As luck would have it, as I’m waiting and still trying to activate, the error message on the screen changed. Now it started to complain that the sim card in my phone did not match the sim card on my account. This happened every time, so I decided to go back over to the Apple store and talk to the folks from AT&T again.

Here’s what happened: Turns out Apple (Not AT&T) had a system issue around 12:30pm Mountain time (confirmed by Apple staff). During that time I was trying to activate, and something got screwed up between the AT&T and Apple systems. Apple I guess did something new this year with the pre-orders that somehow locked the device activation to the line it was ordered for. This combined with the outage earlier caused the cross-upgrade process to fail miserably. The phone was pissed because it wanted the sim card from my wife’s phone, which is a physical impossibility because that sim is in a 3GS and it won’t fit no matter how hard you try. The only solution they could come up with was to swap the phone for one that wasn’t aware of the original order. After some paperwork they swapped the phone and put in the sim I was trying to use. 30 seconds later it was activated. 7.5 hours after I first got a 4S it was finally usable.

So, long story short I spent a lot of time on twitter yesterday and like many I blamed AT&T for the issues I was experiencing activating my iPhone. That blame was misplaced and for that I need to apologize to AT&T. I think we’re all so used to having these failures be AT&T related that we point the blame without a second thought. Yesterday my issues were not AT&T… it was all Apple.

Sorry AT&T. And a huge thanks to Justin from AT&T who was working at the Apple store on 29th Street in Boulder yesterday. Without him, his team and the usual army of friendly Apple store employees I’d likely still be trying to activate my phone right now.



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  • Good to see some integrity in news reporting. 🙂

  • Ravin

    Dude – Which part of “Put the sim that came along with the phone” do you not understand ? I apparently did the upgrade and it worked seamlessly. Guess buddy upgrades are simply not supported

  • Dan

    I believe this was your issue. http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2846

  • Brandon

    @Dan – Yes, that kb is correct and a lot of my problems stemmed from this line:
    “Please do not contact AT&T prior to completing activation of the new iPhone that you ordered.”

    I had contacted AT&T prior to activating the phone knowing I didn’t want to activate for the other line. This was the same process I used last year without issue. Unfortunately the folks at AT&T weren’t aware of this kb when I called. Too bad, could have saved me a lot of time. Thanks for submitting the link!

    @Ravin – The sim card that came with the phone never left the phone until it was in the hands of AT&T. Even with the card that the phone shipped with I was getting sim card errors. I didn’t and couldn’t use a different sim card because the ones I had were full size cards.

  • Andy

    I did the same thing at 3:30 central that day though at my local AT&T store which has top notch employees without problems! Thank goodness!

  • Cedrick

    I was pretty much in the exact same boat, including the cross-upgrade path. What they told us to do is, the MicroSIM that was in the 4S was a dud, so throw it away. Use the SIM card from the iPhone 4 i upgraded to activate the 4S, and then put the SIM card with my new number [I changed my number because I kept getting credit card-related scam calls. Pretty much, it took about two tries to activate the 4S with the SIM card from the number I used for the upgrade, but after that, I popped in my new MicroSIM, and thinks worked perfectly.

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