Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

Summary: Apple said that the number of preorders was "far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions."

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Apple said Wednesday that it took more than 600,000 preorders for the iPhone 4 in one day.

In a statement (Techmeme), Apple said that the number of preorders was "far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions."

Apple then apologized for everyone that was turned away.

There's a good news, bad news situation here. First, it's good that Apple sold a lot of  iPhone 4 devices. In fact, it's already more than halfway to Piper Jaffray's estimates after a few hours.

The bad news: Apple's planning with its partners was too conservative and its capacity and IT systems fell short. AT&T also took a lot of heat on Tuesday.

Also: iPhone 4 pre-orders sell out; Apple bumps ship date for new orders

Indeed, AT&T said in a statement that it stopped taking preorders so it could meet demand.

iPhone 4 pre-order sales yesterday were 10-times higher than the first day of pre-ordering for the iPhone 3G S last year... Given this unprecedented demand and our current expectations for our iPhone 4 inventory levels when the device is available June 24, we're suspending pre-ordering today in order to fulfill the orders we've already received.

The availability of additional inventory will determine if we can resume taking pre-orders.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Smartphones

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87 comments
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  • Nice to see Apple taking part of the blame

    and 10 times higher than the previous generation. That is insane and yet people expect companies to foresee the future. Other bloggers and commenters need to stop bashing AT&T primarily for this system overload. I am sure some customer service reps said that people would get a phone but how were they to know it would be such a high demand. Of course this phone has quite a bit more features over the 3GS since the 3GS was very very close to the 3G.

    Does anyone know what the pre-order demand was for the original iPhone or the iPhone 3G. Probably considerably less than this.
    bobiroc
    • I agree that its hard to predict volume, but...

      @bobiroc I thought that there were companies out there that provide server farms for spikes like this. I wouldn't expect AT&T to upgrade systems to handle that kind of volume internally, but I still think that the prudent thing would have been to have some way to temporarily handle this kind of thing. I'm not a network architect, but I would think that there are solutions that would allow for dynamic scaling for a day that you knew would be heavy. This just added insult to injury for AT&T's already battered reputation. Maybe they don't deserve it, but I'm not prepared to give them a complete pass on this.

      And to answer your question about volume, this was reportedly 10x volume of 3GS. Sold out 3GS in 5 days, 4 in one day.
      jgpeters
      • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

        @jgpeters

        Well if it is true that AT&T could not communicate with Apple's servers then it is hard to place the blame. I have heard that AT&T orders direct from Apple 1 to 1 as they do not stock many phones in a warehouse or anything (at least very long). So if this is true then how come only the blame on AT&T from most of these bloggers and commentators?
        bobiroc
      • You make a good point

        @bobiroc This was a joint effort involving communications between two systems. Apple should have taken precautions to make sure that its customers had a successful experience, which by extension means making sure that AT&T could process transactions. And I know that they are AT&T's customers as well, but I am only an AT&T customer BECAUSE I have an iPhone. So, I think that there should be plenty of blame to spread around. I guess many of us are quick to blame AT&T and reluctant to criticize Apple, but they likely deserve it in this case.
        jgpeters
    • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

      @bobiroc
      Think this was bad?
      Wait till delivery day and they try to activate those phones.
      System melt part deux?

      Let me get the popcorn.....
      rhonin
      • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

        @zenwalker

        I know right... The Sales rep said they are making appointments at their store and are going to call the customers who pre-ordered to try and make that smooth as possible based on the order people came into pre-order so they told me (even though I was number 1 for that store) that some may not get theirs activated that night unless they come in and get the phone and try and do activation themselves. If mine comes in and is available thursday morning I am thankful I am close to the Best Buy and can sneak out of work to get this done if I need to. If not then I wait and try to be patient.
        bobiroc
  • OK, Apple was partly to blame, but seriously! AT&T

    Why would AT&T's website make me sign into each and every screen on their webpage yesterday and why would I get kicked out, over and over, just for looking at my own account? I wasn't even trying to order an IPhone yesterday when I was booted. Several Times! I was researching my data usage and reading AT&T's new data plan policies. I couldn't use the site and I never went to preorders or upgrades!

    Apple is taking the blame so People don't hate AT&T!!!
    bbroaddu
    • OK Apple

      @bbroaddu@... I spoke with some guys at AT&T and the problem was the overload and session tracking getting hammered......
      htotten
  • REALITY: a system crashed. SPIN: Look how popular we are!

    This is classic corporate spin. How typical of the Apple corporation to take a failure in technology they use (bear in mind they're supposedly a leading tech company) and spin it into "Wow, look how many orders we had."<br><br>Making claims about the number of units ordered is an excellent distraction technique, detracting from Apple's failings, as perfectly demonstrated by the headline of this article.<br><br>Focusing on individual companies or IT systems which failed is academic. Apple knew what it was setting up, and the fact is the system chosen and used by Apple failed. The figure quoted is highly spurious, and the cause of the problem, if a genuine problem existed, will be impossible to discern amidst all the corporate propaganda.<br><br><a href="http://www.timacheson.com/Tags/Tag?tag=apple" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.timacheson.com/Tags/Tag?tag=apple" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.timacheson.com/Tags/Tag?tag=apple</a></a>
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

      @Tim Acheson

      And other systems and servers have fallen for the same reasons. Look at some new video game releases or shopping sites for other popular items on launch/pre-order day. When they build a server or farm of servers the IT department does their best to account for high usage but on days such as this no one can just expand capacity in an instant I don't care who they are.

      Lets say all orders had to go through Apple for approval right? They took 600,000 orders in probably a 6 - 7 hour window at the peak time before shutting things down right. That is like 1430 phones ordered every minute or 24 phones every second. Now these are just estimates but I would suspect the bulk of the ordering was done after 7am online or 9am/10am at the stores and most had shut down by early to mid-afternoon or so. I think that makes it a decently accurate estimate.

      So think of that in that perspective and tell me if you know of any company that handled that type of ordering smoothly and without any hiccups.
      bobiroc
      • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

        @bobiroc
        wow what nonsense. Are you kidding me. A $200 billion+ company can't handle 600,000 transactions?!?!?

        Thats what scalable servers are for. Thats what virtualization and server farms are for. If you can't handle 2,000 transactions per minute there is something seriously wrong with your infrastructure.

        How many millions of transactions/day do you think amazon deals with during the holiday season? Even small banks handle thousands of transactions/minute. The makers of warcraft has to handle millions of users and those users are not just simply doing a few form transactions. Each customer add persistent load/stress on the servers for hours.

        I highly doubt that the problem is with load. But if it is, thats just sad and pathetic. Its a nice spin on bad publicity.
        rengek
      • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

        @rengek
        Funny thing about holidays: they happen at the same time every year. Amazon is able to ramp up capacity in an orderly manner in preparation for a known date and 15 years of shopping data to forecast traffic. Not to mention that Amazon runs an entire infrastructure service for hosting (AWS). Apple has 3 years of iPhone releases to forecast with and they don't have an entire infrastructure for hosting (no MobileMe is not comparable to AWS).
        Look at Amazon in 2000: http://news.cnet.com/E-tail-sites-crash-over-holiday-weekend/2100-1017_3-249048.html "But holiday outages have become commonplace enough and appear to indicate that even with loads of preparation and experience, online stores are still vulnerable to spikes in traffic."
        hawks5999
      • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

        @rengek

        Yes But Amazon is an online store that takes large orders every day and they know this is gonna happen day in and day out just like banks and other companies that do it every second of every day. They have large server farms all over the country/world because that is their business every single second of every day. This is not business as usual for the two companies that had issues yesterday. This probably only happens to AT&T and Apple once (twice at most) a year. Should they have been more prepared, yes and I am not saying they do not have some apologizing to do but even stores like Amazon or banks have their issues. So if you can forgive the pun you are comparing apples to oranges. Some expert probably made an estimate that they would get lets say 100,000 pre-orders on day one and they prepared for let's say 200,000 to give it a cushion and they exceeded those estimates by way more than that. I know I am making some numbers up but I am just trying to illustrate a point that unless you have some 6th sense you cannot prepare for everything and basically sh!t happens.

        So since their systems were designed for X amount of transactions and they hit X to the third power of transactions they system couldn't handle it. It sucks but that is they way it is. They normally do not get anywhere near that let alone within a few hour period so the other 350 or so days a year they would be sitting idle.

        Maybe Apple and AT&T will learn and ramp up their systems and maybe they won't but for you or anyone to expect such is nonsense.
        bobiroc
      • FWIW...

        @bobiroc
        I got right though on the App Store App with little delay at abut 10:00 am on Tuesday.

        I do agree that 600,000 competed transactions (and what? another 600,000-1,000,000 failed/curiosity) does not sound like a huge number figuring what iTMS does every day.
        Bruizer
    • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

      @Tim Acheson
      Apple didnt fail, the succeeded in selling out the first day. Its so funny to see an MS fanboy bitching and moaning about success.
      smartin007
    • Really?

      @Tim Acheson You must know that "spurious" means "fake or false" so I am curious as to how you know Apple's figure is "highly spurious"?
      frabjous
      • Apple's never really been up front with their numbers

        And a company with Apple's history of "selling out" of products can be called into question simply because, they happen to do it each time?

        iPhone 3GS sold out due to: "unprecedented demand and our current expectations"
        iPod Touch sold out due to "unprecedented demand and our current expectations"
        iPad WiFi "sold out due to "unprecedented demand and our current expectations"

        So how is it any company, especially one like Apple, can get caught short handed each and every time? I though "real" companies learn to adapt, and understand how to plan for the next time? It seems each and every time, Apple hasn't learned a thing.

        So for a person like Tim Acheson to question those figures is not out of the realm of possibility.
        John Zern
    • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

      @Tim Acheson So THIS is the attack of a Microsoft Shill? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Come on who could have anticipated 10x the orders for the iPhone 4 (as compared to the iPhone 3GS)? I'll bet they won't have any of these issues when WP 7 rolls out...
      athynz
    • RE: Apple: 600,000 iPhone preorders crashed systems

      @Tim Acheson
      Wow, I just visited your diatribe of a blog.
      You sir, are seriously deranged and consumed by Apple hatred. I feel for you... not
      frogspaw
    • Rather conspiratorial doncha think?

      @Tim Acheson All wildly popular events cause logjams. We don't need to get Machiavellian about it.

      Personally, I avoid the crowds and practice a bit of patience when I want to purchase a popular, just released product.
      godsfault