Day long iPhone 3G S buying saga ends in success

Summary:Earlier today, I described by early line experience and if you saw my Tweets I was pretty angry at the time after waiting for four hours in line and not having that wait time considered at all by Apple. I am a sucker for shiny new phones though and couldn't resist, so I headed over to another Apple store at Southcenter at lunchtime to find there were only about 15 people in the coach (non-reserved line) and another 12 or so in the first class (reserved) line. I was able to speak with someone now that I was calm and collected and found out what the issue was with pre-authorization and pre-ordering. I then waited approximately 45 minutes to get through the line and into the store where I went through the buying process.

Earlier today, I described by early line experience and if you saw my Tweets I was pretty angry at the time after waiting for four hours in line and not having that wait time considered at all by Apple. I am a sucker for shiny new phones though and couldn't resist, so I headed over to another Apple store at Southcenter at lunchtime to find there were only about 15 people in the coach (non-reserved line) and another 12 or so in the first class (reserved) line. I was able to speak with someone now that I was calm and collected and found out what the issue was with pre-authorization and pre-ordering. I then waited approximately 45 minutes to get through the line and into the store where I went through the buying process.

To start with here are my definitions of the two terms that Apple is using for the iPhone 3G S ordering system (which is changed from each of the last two methods of purchasing an iPhone):

  • Pre-authorization: A process you go through online after selecting the Buy Now option that asks you all about your AT&T account, what phone options and prices you have based on your account details, what data/text message plan you will be buying, and what store you will be going to. You receive an email confirmation telling you the next step is to visit your nearest Apple store to complete the buying process. This entire process is worth nothing and is only designed to let you know how much things will cost and has no relation to anything that Apple cares about.
  • Pre-ordering: A process that appears much the same as above, however this process ended on Wednesday night and was never defined on the Apple website as being any different than pre-authorization. I learned at the end of this process though you select the particular iPhone 3G S model you want and what specific store you will visit. You are then placed on the magical Apple "list" so Apple can let you in a special first class line when you get to the store. However, being on this "list" does not guarantee you will get an iPhone 3G S and it is still a first come, first serve process.

Neither process asks for any billing info and as clear as I can tell the pre-authorization is just to inform you personally what your costs will be while the pre-order process lets Apple know about how many people plan to visit their stores over the weekend. I think this process could have been much clearer so people knew what to expect.

So, back to my Apple iPhone 3G S saga for 19 June 2009. After being told I would have to go to the back of the coach line I took off and went into the office to work. I then ordered my iPhone 3G online and succumbed to the fact I would have it delivered sometime next week and give up on the line plan. I was then chatting back and forth with my buddy Joel Evans from Geek.com who was in Boston and we both decided to head to the Apple store to see how the lines were and try again to pick up an iPhone 3G S in person.

I headed to the Southcenter Mall Apple store around noon and found there were only about 15 people in the coach line and 12 or so in the 1st class line. Apple was taking about a two to one ratio of 1st class (preorder) to coach (no preorder) people into the store to go through the buying process. We moved fairly quickly and I was in the store after about an hour I made it into the store and told the guy I wanted a black iPhone 3G S, MacBook Pro 13 inch, and iLife family pack. He put in the order, grabbed my items and then took me to a guy who was going to go through the activation process.

One thing that was a bit strange was that they took my existing SIM, put it into the new iPhone to copy contacts from the SIM (I told them I didn't need to do this since I use Exchange and don't backup contacts to my SIM), then handed me back my existing SIM and attempted to activate the iPhone with the new SIM. After about 30 minutes of nothing happening (paid for my gear during this time), my attendant left to go help someone else for a bit so I took the iPhone, conducted a soft reset (turned on and off) and the iPhone was activated almost immediately. I then left after this and went home to start testing out my new gear.

I think Apple may want to consider a process where people pre-order and pay for the iPhone so they know they will get one if they order it, unlike the false security of the current pre-order process. Also, it should be a completely first come, first serve process on launch day at the stores just like the first generation. The two line process just creates a system that is confusing and a bit unfair for those who messed it up and didn't happen to order on the announcement day.

My last step of this very long day will be to cancel my online order and start working on my first impressions and review for the site here. Did anyone else have a day like I did today?

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPhone, Mobility

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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