Is this the New Apple?

Is this the New Apple?

Summary: PowerPage podcaster Youngmoo Kim relays his experience with trying to get an iPhone 3G and on being an "IRU" Individual Responsible User.Apple just doesn't want me to have an iPhone 3G.


PowerPage podcaster Youngmoo Kim relays his experience with trying to get an iPhone 3G and on being an "IRU" Individual Responsible User.

Apple just doesn't want me to have an iPhone 3G.  After a few half-hearted attempts (bailing at the sight of long lines), I spent about two hours in line at the Apple Store this morning (starting about 7:15am), only to find out that my account has somehow been tagged with the dreaded "IRU" (Individual Responsible User), signaling that it is tied to some kind of corporate plan (it's not... nor am I receiving any discounts).In short, they told me I wouldn't be getting 3G'd today, no way, no how, and I had to leave empty handed. Everyone who knows me knows I am pretty much an Apple fanboy, but to put it mildly, I'm quite frustrated with this experience. Given Apple's recent troubles (unavailable iPhone activation servers, the MobileMe launch disaster, product delays, etc.), I am starting to wonder whether Apple is no longer the Apple of recent memory. Instead of under-promising and over-delivering, we're starting to see broken promises and hedges. AirDisk can be used for Time Machine, right?  MobileMe "pushes" your contacts and calendar to the desktop, right Phil Schiller? Apparently not.

The longer version of my story is after the jump...

So, I was the 23rd person in line at the Apple Store, King of Prussia this morning. The store opened at 8am, and shortly thereafter an Apple Store employee proceeded down the line of customers to inform us of the basic requirements and restrictions (contract status, IDs, credit cards, etc.). When he asked if my plan had any discounts, I wasn't 100% sure, so he told me to call 611 (customer service). So I called, and after talking to an AT&T customer service representative, they verified that I wasn't receiving any discount. About 15 minutes later, another Apple Store employee (carrying a handheld account verification device) came by and asked for my account information, which he typed into the handheld, and the dreaded IRU came up. (As an aside, "IRU" shows up inside a big red text box on the display, I suppose for dramatic effect. It might as well say "Danger!" or "Radioactive!").

That's when the employee told me that I couldn't upgrade through the Apple Store. I protested: "I just spoke to customer service and verified there's no discount" (to no avail). He claimed that there was nothing they could do from their end, and that I needed to talk to AT&T. "Can I call them back and have the IRU removed?" According to the Apple Store employee, it would take 24 hours for the IRU to be removed (more on this below). So my only options were to upgrade through an AT&T store (yeah, right... they might get more phones by Christmas) or call AT&T customer service, wait 24 hours, and get back in line. To their credit, the Apple Store employees were very apologetic ("I wish there's something I could do...") and seemed genuinely sorry. In the end, I believed them and walked away empty handed... (this may have been incredibly stupid on my part, see below).

This has been pointed out elsewhere, but the iPhone 3G purchasing experience is far from "Apple-like". Is this really how Apple wants to treat a bunch of customers for whom this may be their first Apple purchase?  You need to know quite a bit about your existing mobile contract, you must bring sufficient documentation, and there are other "gotchas" (if you're on a family plan, the primary account holder must be present... that one nabbed at least one or two people in line ahead of me). All necessary info, perhaps... but does it make the process seamless? Far from it.  Now I know that this is a complex process involving two large corporations, but one of the reasons we love Apple is that they know how to make complex things simple. Last year's launch was simplicity itself... you walked in, you bought a phone, you walked out. No contract verification, no IDs, no IRUs. Then you went home to activate. Usually we expect things to be improved the second time around.

My primary purpose in writing this is to warn others that there are still (after more than a week) potential issues in obtaining an iPhone 3G launch. You can think you have everything right (I'm a current iPhone owner... what could go wrong?), and still be caught by some contract minutae that the Apple Store can't (or won't) help you with.  Why the heck should it matter whether or not I'm getting discounts or not? Whether I'm on a corporate plan or not? Why isn't there a big warning on Apple's iPhone Web site that says "Current iPhone owners: ask AT&T if your account is marked IRU"? Of course I understand Apple is a corporation, and their goal is to make money for their shareholders. But the old Apple seemed to get these details right while still generating a ton of revenue. Is this the new Apple?

Epilogue (it gets worse)... I returned to the office and just got off the phone with AT&T. The rep told me that the "IRU" has been removed... just like that. Apparently, it was put there when I looked into discounts through my University, even though none had been applied. On top of that, the rep said she'd done it for people while they were waiting in line at the Apple Store, and it takes effect immediately. So either the Apple Store employee was misinformed or just didn't want to deal with the hassle of my account.

It's going to take a long time before I set foot back in the Apple Store, King of Prussia... maybe I'll just sit this one out. Turns out 3G coverage is pretty spotty out here, anyway ;)

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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  • The joys of the subsidy

    Bring the cost of the iPhone down to $199
    also brought with it the corporate
    overload from ATT that would be paying
    out the money to Apple.

    if the iPhone had only been available in
    ATT stores the problems would probably
    have been reduced, but who really wants
    to work with an ATT employee.

    Hopefully things will settle down after the
    initial surge and we'll get back to normal.
    • The same process and problems ....

      .... existed for the initial iPhone launch so your $199 comment is specious. Care to come up with a different alibi for Apple?
      • RE: The same problems...

        The same problems did not exist for the first launch.
        There were some activation hiccups the first weekend, but
        nothing like what happened this launch. When activation
        happened with the original launch, if you were a corp
        discount customer you simply got a notice that said if you
        activate the iphone plan your discount went away. I know. I
        was in that situation... took like 30 seconds to complete it
        and I was on my way.

        A great deal of what happened this time was due to the
        requirement by the carrier(s) to activate it in-store. That's
        not to say Apple didn't have a part in this. There are things
        they could have done better (like releasing the 2.0 upgrade
        for original iPhones a couple days earlier to alleviate the
        load on the server,) but there is no doubt the in-store
        activation caused many of the headaches.
        • People couldn't activate.

          They had to have a credit card and ID. Some were disqualified. Sounds like the same old tired story to me!
      • No... It didnt...

        There may have been some issues, but this was not one of them. This is related directly to the subsidy and whether you are able to take advantage of it or not. He still could have bought one, but only at the full price.
        • Stuka i think you need to reread the story he said

          ?IRU? (Individual Responsible User), signaling that it is tied to some kind of corporate plan (it?s not? nor am I receiving any discounts)

          so he was just trying to buy a phone a full price but the communist at apple would not sell him one.
          SO.CAL Guy
      • Let me rephrase with kid gloves...

        since someone can't handle the truth. (my original post having been deleted)

        Care to explain your constant, misinformed Apple bashing?

        Personal? Part of your "PC" OEM employer agenda? Or both of the above?

        >>> The same process and problems... existed for the initial iPhone launch so your $199 comment is specious. >>>

        In another post you blast (or question) someone for not reading the article... pot, kettle, black?

        From the customer...
        "Last year?s launch was simplicity itself... you walked in, you bought a phone, you walked out. No contract verification, no IDs, no IRUs. Then you went home to activate."

        Doesn't exactly sound like the "same process and problems" you "speciously" and disingenuously describe.

        But you certainly are predictable.

        Will this pass the censorship, sensitivity test?

        • The quote is not accurate of ....

          ... what occured last year. You did have to have ID and pay with a credit card. The reason was different. It was to prevent phones from being taken overseas but the process was much the same. People were refused phones. Now let me ask you a question?

          What is with your constant misinformed support of Apple? Is it part of your religion or just more RDF?
  • The Apple Store at KOP Mall

    I've allways assumed that the Apple Store at the KOP Mall isn't one of their best staffed, as I've seen (and heard about) problems there.

    But at the same time, when Apple's advertising can hype the masses to buy a product for the cost Apple sells it at, does it really have to be a great expeirience anymore?

    Chances are many of the same people who put up with all of this the first and second time around will be there again for the iPhone 3, no matter how bad an experience they had the previous 2 times.

    And with 2 AT&T stores in the mall, could he just have the issue fixed there

    Welcome to the New Apple. With profits and sales the way they are lately, do you think they're really gonna change anything at this point in time to risk that?
  • RE: Is this the New Apple?

    They asked about the discounts when I was in line July 11.
    I kept my mouth shut and when I got in and my hands on
    my phone the messages came up. We called AT&T and
    they removed it. I just went back to the AT&T store later
    and had the discount re-applied. Really was not that big
    of a deal. Took a while but that was due to volume. So
    the AT&T re you talked to was right. The Apple employee
    was not. You should have stayed in line. What does this
    tell us? Admit to nothing in a long line when it looks like
    they are asking questions to cull the line.
    • He didn't admit to anything.

      The computer disqualified him. did you even read the story?
  • Give Apple a break!

    This is a major undertaking which included multiple corporations, changes in plans and changes in network (to 3G), etc. Would you rather Apple did like everyone else and sell only thru AT&T??? That would be a great experience. Stand in line for 2 hours and then be told you can get your phone. Apple at least is being proactive. No one else is doing their own cell phone sales in a their vendor store front. Give Apple credit for being on the cutting edge in technology and retail business strategy. AND DON'T BOTHER TO TRASH ME BECUASE YOU THINK I'M AN APPLE LEMMING! I OWN NOTHING BY APPLE EXCEPT ITUNES ON MY WINDOWS PC...... I'm an unbiased observer. I plan on getting and IPhone when all the craziness subsides.
    • poor apple i feel so bad for them "not"

      poor apple i feel so bad for them "not"
      SO.CAL Guy
  • RE: Is this the New Apple?

    "I just got off the phone with AT&T"...

    So, you COULD have called while you were at the Apple store, yes?
  • RE: Is this the New Apple?

    What a moron. I had a discount through the State Dept. While in line, I dialed 611 and asked them to remove the discount. Got two new iPhone 3Gs for my wife and myself. The next day, I went to AT&T's site and added the discount back on.

    If this reporter, or whatever he is, had researched and planned ahead, he would have known to check. This is a known issue and, in fact, Apple and AT&T were advising people to make sure they weren't on corporate plans or getting discounts.

    In fact, aside from the fact I already knew this, Apple staff were reminding people of this up and down our line (where I stood for 4 hours) in a really, really long line last Friday.
    • Rebuttal

      Just for the record... Yes, I knew about the discount and corporate
      plan issues beforehand. As I described in the story, I called 611 to
      verify and they told me I had no discounts. What I'm arguing is:

      1. I believe Apple should be more specific about what users are
      supposed to check ahead of time. If there are three magic letters (IRU)
      that I need to ask AT&T about, give me those three letters. I believe I
      checked my contract status the best I could, given their instructions
      (check for any discounts).

      2. I think that Apple Store employees (who have been selling phones
      for more than a week now) should be more familiar with these issues.
      Rather than telling me (incorrectly) that I'm SOL, why didn't they know
      I could just call AT&T and have the IRU designation removed
      *immediately* (they assured me it would take 24 hours)? Looking
      around the 'net, others have had this done while they were in line / at
      the store.

      3. Overall, I believe the entire process is not "Apple-like". Now I'm
      sure we all have a different opinion of what that means, and I know
      others will disagree with me. I think that Apple has thrived by
      presenting great computers and devices with highly integrated
      hardware and software, and that's what we've come to expect. In the
      case of the iPhone, I think that there's a third component that should
      also be tightly integrated: the phone service. I don't think it's right for
      Apple to say "We created this amazing device. Come buy it!", but then
      when someone has a reasonable (and easily resolvable) mobile
      contract issue to say "That's not our problem, and we're not going to
      help you solve it".

      Note that I am still a very happy iPhone "2G" owner.
      • Mostly agree...

        The premise of this article seems to be that this may be "the new Apple" when it really should be is this the "typical AT&T crap."

        This is an AT&T issue, not an Apple issue. And it is stupid. Yes, if you bought your phone through a corporation, school, or agency (where they centrally manage phones), then sure, you should have to go through your channels to get one.

        However, discounts? Sheesh.

        Actually, I must admit I forgot about the issue until I was in line (still hours from the end) and it occurred to me to call and make sure there were no account issues that could trip up activation. It took the AT&T person some time, but they got it removed. Then I went back to my Kindle...

        However, the 3G phone is definitely superior to the 2G model in terms of speed. It now operates at a reasonable speed (not what I would call snappy fast, but a speed that doesn't leave me feeling like I'm wasting time staring at a phone--which the 2G model did).
    • wow

      I'm amazed that you don't find what you had to do a hassle. As I couldn't care less about the iPhone, I am astounded just how this toy is treated like a rare commodity; ironic since it isn't rare at all; it's sold in the millions.
    • RE: Is This the new Apple?

      I agree about this podcaster/reporter/whatnot - I am a
      HUGE Apple fan-boi, and I did wait in line for 6 hours to
      get my 3G iPhone. I had no problems?you know why?
      Because I checked and checked again with the AT&T store I
      was planning on going to on launch day. I have waited a
      long year to get my first iPhone, and I wasn't about to let
      some kink in the system rain on my parade.

      I was second in line, walked in, paid, signed the contract
      and went home with my iPhone. No problems. (Already on
      with AT&T btw, lucky me.)

      If people paid any attention to the Apple web site, Apple
      e-mails that were sent out and AT&T notices, they would
      have noticed that they BOTH explicitly said, "Go to AT&T
      before launch day and check in to be sure you are eligible
      to get the iPhone 3G."

      But - you can't count on everybody reading e-mails and
      notices I guess. If you REALLY wanted one, you would have
      known what to do, fan-boi.
      Christian Messer
      • I didn't know

        That buying a phone was supposed to be such a difficult process that I had to "do my homework" by making sure I am "eligible."

        It must be a planet-shattering privilege to own one of those jewels.