Wednesday, July 16, 2008
iPhone 3G redo - B+ Apple & ATT customer service - F
Last year I got an iPhone around 10 pm on the first night they went on sale, with no waiting. This year, on the sixth day, the Apple stores still have five-hour lines, and the all-night store where I got my phone last year stops the line around 5 pm. Meanwhile, AT&T stores sold out the first morning, and my local store is offering to deliver a phone in 3 weeks. And here in the US, we can't order online, unlike the rest of the world. Why?
Well, last year AT&T didn't subsidize the price of the phone, and it turned out that a significant number of the expensive phones were never activated with AT&T: presumably they went to Dubai or Leningrad or somewhere like that. This year AT&T is subsidizing the phone, and they want to make sure you use their service (which they're charging more for, because of the subsidy). So instead of last year's two-minute process, in which the Apple or AT&T rep ran your credit card and then handed you a boxed iPhone, the rep now registers your phone, which reportedly takes around 15 minutes — or up to 5 hours on the first day.
That first day delay had three causes, all caused by bad planning on Apple's part. First although they had the new iPhone software online the day before the new iPhone went on sale, Apple chose to release the new software and the new iPhone on the same day. So millions of old iPhone users were trying to download the software at the same time that hundreds of thousands of buyers worldwide were trying to register their phones and download information on to them. The unsurprising result was hours of error messages and crashes.
Second, Apple's .Mac service frequently acted like a troublesome Beta service the last few months, while Apple worked on getting its replacement (the unfortunately named "me.com") ready. But when the big day came, they weren't ready. A lot of jaded .Mac users weren't surprised.
Third, AT&T stores ran out of phones the first morning because Apple greedily kept the lion's share of the phones for themselves. There are many more AT&T stores than Apple stores, and the long lines could have been quickly reduced. But noooooooooo.
All in all, it doesn't seem like Apple and AT&T gave much consideration to what their customers wanted — namely phones in their hands without waiting in line. In England, my brother ordered a phone online that came the first morning. And there in London, which costs twice as much to live in as New York, the local provider charges the same price that AT&T charges in the US, and gives more minutes and data download with their standard plans.
So why didn't Apple and AT&T do something like this: use the same speedy sales process as last year, and let customers get an automatic refund when they register with AT&T; and let AT&T stores have a fair share of the sales?
Last but not least, I did briefly use one of the new phones at an Apple store. It seems better than the phone I have, which is a great phone. But problems like the battery life for 3G use are a problem, just as Steve Jobs said a year ago. I give the basic phone an A, but wish Apple had done more with the upgrade — hence the B+. The biggest reason for buying the new phone is the 3G service, and in another year Apple will have another phone with better battery life, along with the cut and paste that eveyone wants.
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Actually, the comparison between O2 (the UK provider) and AT&T is even a little worse than you say. We get 600 SMS texts with our plan as well. With AT&T, that's a bolt on. Also, they provide 3G service in most of the UK and at increasingly at HDSPA speeds (soon to be up to 7.2Mbps) compared to AT&T's spotty coverage that offers 1.3Mbps at best for the foreseeable future. They don't call AT&T 'The Deathstar' for nothing. The Empire has struck back. Ironic given that Jobs and Woz seeded Apple financially by building the infamous 'Blue Box' that allowed you to make phone calls for free all over the world from your AT&T phone.
Posted by: Thomas Massengale at Jul 17, 2008 4:22:43 AM
All of your points are well taken. I was lucky to have a Genius Bar appointment on Sunday at 9:30, when the store wasn't supposed to open until 11. I arrived with my son and there was already a line that he hopped into. As I headed into the store for my Genius Bar appointment I learned that the Apple staff was already in full operation selling phones. 40 minutes later I finished my appointment and my son was only 5 people from the front of the line. By noon we were out of the store with two new iPhone 3G's. The delay was due to AT&T being totally screwed up. The Apple sales person was great.
Regarding the battery, the main reason that it runs out so fast is that I'm spending every waking moment using it. Damn, I wish that they would have made the phone less functional so that my battery would last longer.
Posted by: Stuart Berman at Jul 17, 2008 3:04:39 PM
You're lucky Stu. At all three NYC stores people lined up at 4:30 for 7 am openings. The last few days some people did that without getting phones. One night the Apple website reported the 14th Street store had all three phones available the next day, and people lined up. In reality, they had two white phones, so everyone else stood in line for nothing.
PS: You need a Solio.
Posted by: john massengale at Jul 23, 2008 2:03:17 PM