Why are Apple, AT&T untouchables on iPhone pre-order fiasco?

The iPhone-AT&T pre-order fiasco should have created some consumer backlash and revolt but Apple instead comes out smelling like a rose with 600,000 pre-orders submitted - despite AT&T's shortcomings.

If this were any other company, this whole iPhone 4 pre-order fiasco that caused AT&T's servers to buckle yesterday would be considered a complete train wreck. Consumers would be up-in-arms, demanding refunds, storming out of stores and swearing to not come back until these companies can get their acts together.

But this is Apple - and that means that the truly faithful will 1) keep trying, no matter the obstacles thrown at them and 2) forgive the shortcomings the moment they get a confirmation saying the order was successful. And the beauty of it is that this can pretty much happen without the PR team in Cupertino even having to think for a minute about "spin control."

Also see: AT&T melts down again; will Apple ever learn?

Seriously, at some point yesterday, customers were reporting unauthorized access to other customers' accounts - but nothing really came of that. Customers were reporting that their orders had gone through - and then were being cancelled. Customers were reporting multiple charges to their credit cards.

But today, no one is talking about that. The only headline that matters today is: "Apple pre-sells 600,000 iPhones; Far exceeds expectations."

And with that said, those who were persistent and were able to submit a pre-order are suddenly among the elite group of consumers who will be first to get the phones in their hands when it ships later this month.

Oh, wait. It seems that, at some point today, that ship date was changed to July 14 - no explanation given. Oh, and the white iPhone you wanted? Yeah, that's unavailable right now.

But, of course, none of this really matters, right? Apple and AT&T already have the money orders for those 600,000 devices - and it's not like anyone is really going to ask for a refund cancel an order, right? I mean, what's a few more weeks when you get to be the first among your friends to have the new iPhone?

Again, none of this would fly with any other company. Even AT&T gets a free pass from widespread customer revolt because it's the only carrier in the country to offer the iPhone. It must be nice to be under that protective umbrella with Apple, huh?

I'm a Mac guy - so it's hard for me to sit here and criticize Apple or its fan/customer base. But I'm also a stickler for customer service and Apple and AT&T have fallen short on that front in my opinion. But why should either of those companies care about my feelings about customer service, reliability of the network or even multiple credit card charges?

After all, when you have 600,000 pre-orders on the Day One, you can pretty much snub your nose at your critics. And, seeing how those 600,000 pre-orders will dazzle Wall Street when Apple reports its next quarterly earnings report - even though the phones themselves won't be received by customers until the following quarter - everyone is happy, right?

I know I'm happy - happy, that is, to not be caught up in this iPhone craze.

update: As a reader points out, Apple wouldn't necessarily book the revenue for these pre-orders until the product ships. That changes part of my argument, which I've adjusted in the post. It also changes the investor's note from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who adjusted his outlook for Apple to account for an uptick in the quarter when the product was slated to ship before the end of the quarter on June 30.

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