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Apple customers turn sour trying to activate iPhones

Julie Sevrens Lyons
Almost 200 people lined up waiting for the local world premier of the Apple Iphone at 6 p.m. in the Apple Store in Lyndhurst, Ohio, Friday, June 29, 2007. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)
San Jose Mercury News (MCT)

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The giddy waiting in all those lines for a new iPhone? That has nothing on all the anxious waiting to get them activated.

One day after Apple Computer's much-hyped phone hit the market, it was being both heralded and hissed at. For some, problems getting the new gadget activated have turned into nightmares.

Hordes of new iPhone owners complained up and down the Internet about their service activation being slow to nonexistent. And, they whined that most of the phone's features just don't work until service has been activated.

"It's like I got a Teddy Ruxpin and had to wait a day for the battery delivery," harped one user on the www.engadget.com web site. "It's annoying that everything is crippled until activation is complete."

Some frustrated users still waiting for their phones to be activated called the products "iPlop," and pointed out they were being charged a $36 fee for the - um, non - activation.

"I am going 14 hours of counting with NO cell phone after trying to activate mine. AT&T said there is no ETA on fixing the problem," wrote one man on the engadget.com site. "So I have the latest and greatest in paper weights."

A spokesman for AT&T, however, said that the glitches had been minor and isolated, and that the company was working to fix them on an individual basis.

"The vast majority of iPhone activations on iTunes are going through in a matter of minutes," said spokesman Ted Carr. "Many of the situations causing a delay are being resolved in a matter of hours. But we are not experiencing any significant companywide activation issues."

Carr said problems seem to be occurring when customers attempt to transfer their numbers from other wireless carriers over to AT&T.

"We're ecstatic about the launch," he said. "Wireless will never be the same again."

A Sacramento, Calif., user wasn't so sure. Venting about the product on Apple's Web site at 3:27 a.m. Saturday, he lamented switching over from Sprint. "I stand in line for 2 hours, spend $700 for the phone, car charger and misc accessories, and now I have been waiting 7 hours, 10 minutes for this `useless brick' to activate. Most unpleasant. Is this the kind of service we should come to accept from AT&T and Apple?"

Multiple calls to Apple's corporate offices were not returned Saturday.

But an accounting consultant from Philadelphia called the San Jose Mercury News to say the activation problem seemed to be rampant.

"I just got told that I was one of over 100,000 people who are red ticketed to have their service activated. If that's not widespread for the number of phones sold, I don't know what is," said the man, who waited more than 20 hours to get service. He said that no phone numbers were listed in any of the iPhone paperwork that he was given, and that it was only after stumbling across a number on an internet blog that he was able to get the help he needed.

For Stephen Smith and his wife, Teresa Rowland, the problem was in finding an iPhone to purchase. The Carmel, Calif., dental professionals struck out with every store they called or visited between Monterey and San Jose. They finally hit paydirt at the Apple store at Westfield Valley Fair Saturday afternoon.

The store was brimming with people but didn't experience the long customer lines of the evening before. Crowds mingled around demonstrations of the hot new gadget, and several people were atwitter over an apparent Jerry Rice sighting in the store moments before.

One of those in the quickly moving line was Kris Ziakas, a San Jose IT expert, who had a complaint of his own. Ziakas had been told that the iPhones with the most memory were sold out when he visited the store Saturday morning. But two hours later, his niece was able to purchase one from the same location. Couldn't Ziakas trade his phone in for the one he really wanted? Not without paying a $50 restocking fee, he was told.

Still, he said, his new phone, which was activated without a hitch, "is pretty cool, I have to say. I'm a huge Apple guy - I don't really have a complaint."

The iPhone, which is built around a large touch-sensitive screen, has been anxiously awaited by many tech savvy - and largely forgiving - fans since it was first announced in January earlier this year. It costs $499 or $599, depending upon the model, and requires a two-year phone service contract. It is expected to go on sale in Europe later this year and in Asia in 2008.

So perhaps it was with some jealousy when someone from Germany encouraged others complaining on Apple's internet discussion board to take the activation snafus in stride.

"Those strange things," the German fan opines, "is what you have to pay to be in the revolution."

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