iPhone 3G Launch Plagued by Long Lines and Network Problems

Yikes! The iPhone 3G launch was a mess.

iPhone 3G

The long-awaited iPhone 3G launch should have been a happy and joyous day for iPhone fans. However, for many, it ended up being an exercise in frustration.

Networking Problems

After waiting in line outside of Apple Stores for hours (or even days), some consumers then spent up to 7 additional hours waiting inside. Network problems slowed or even halted the activation of new iPhones at Apple Stores across the country and the world.

iPhone 3G lines
The iPhone 3G line outside the Manhattan Apple Store on 14th Street at 12:52 PM. Estimated wait time ~4 hours.

Apple’s authentication servers weren’t prepared to handle the amount of global network traffic from new iPhone 3G activations. Network slowdowns were first reported after stores opened in Europe. The network then came to a halt after US East Coast stores opened. By the time American West Coast stores had started selling iPhones, Apple’s servers just couldn’t take it anymore. The whole system started crashing.

Is AT&T or Apple To Blame?

Many people think it was AT&T’s insistence that all phones get activated in the store that caused the problem. During last year’s iPhone 1.0 launch Apple had everyone activate their own phone at home through iTunes.

Apple fans wait in line
Apple fans try to beat the heat with umbrellas while waiting in line for an iPhone 3G.

Rain Checks?!

Some customers were even sent home with a new iPhone and instructions on how to finish activating the phone at home. Or even worse… a rain check. After waiting in lines for hours hoping to get a new iPhone 3G, some customers were asked to come back later with their rain check slip. This definitely made quite a few people mad.


“I skipped work and waited in line from 12 noon to 2 AM to get my boyfriend a new iPhone only to walk away with rain check slip,” Paul Hahn told MethodShop. “The authentication servers were down and an Apple store employee told me I should come back Sunday morning. This sucks. I’m so angry and so hungry right now.” Paul also said that employees at the Apple Store were giving away Apple sun umbrellas and waters to try to keep the crowd happy.

The new iPhone 3G
The new iPhone 3G.

Software Update Issues

Unfortunately, Apple’s network problems also caused headaches for original iPhone and iPod Touch owners who tried to upgrade to the new 2.0 software. “After one of my officemates came back from his lunch hour with a new iPhone, I tried upgrading the software on my old iPod Touch,” said Collin Pisarra, a graphic designer in Manhattan. “I really wanted to check out the new App Store but I guess Apple’s network problems messed up my iPod Touch. It got bricked. I hope I can restore it when Apple’s servers are back online. Right now I’m getting an error message that says: We could not complete your iTunes Store request. An unknown error occurred (type -9838).”

iPhone 3G Networking problems
Networking problems left many users with both iPhones and iPod Touches that couldn’t complete the 2.0 update process.

Apple wasn’t responding to requests for comments, but a spokesman for AT&T, currently the exclusive iPhone carrier in the United States, said the problems were caused by iTunes servers and referred further questions to Apple.

iPhone network problems
Network problems caused many iPhone and iPod Touch users to see this iTunes error screen when attempting to update their device to the new 2.0 software.

minted methodshop

MobileMe Issues

Earlier this week, Apple also had problems with the relaunch of their data service now called MobileMe (it was previously called iTools and .Mac). The MobileMe service is designed to synchronize a user’s personal data across devices, including the iPhone. But many users were denied access to their accounts this week, including Frank Accarrino.

“I’ve been trying to upload pictures from iPhoto to the Mac website for the past few days but it’s offline. I can’t even get my Mac mail. I bet Steve Jobs is pissed right now,” Frank said.

Usually Flawless Product Launches

Apple is usually known for flawless product launch events. Let’s hope Apple solves these network issues for next time. It’s estimated that 1 million iPhone 3G models were sold in the U.S. this weekend.