Jul 12, 2008

Rotten Apple

The launch of Apple Inc.'s much-anticipated new iPhone turned into an information-technology meltdown on Friday, as customers were unable to get their phones working.

"It's such grief and aggravation," said Frederick Smalls, an insurance broker in Whitman, Massachusetts, after spending two hours on the phone with Apple and AT&T Inc., trying to get his new iPhone to work.

In stores, people waited at counters to get the phones activated, as lines built behind them. Many of the customers had already camped out for several hours in line to become among the first with the new phone, which updates the one launched a year ago by speeding Internet access and adding a navigation chip.

Enthusiasm was high ahead of the Friday morning launch of the phone. Alex Cavallo, 24, was one of hundreds lined up at the Fifth Avenue store in New York, just as he had been a year ago for the original iPhone. He sold that one recently on eBay in anticipation of the new one. In the meantime, he has been using another phone, which felt "uncomfortable." Video Watch people lining up to purchase the iPhone »

"The iPhone is just a superior user experience," he said. The phone also proved a decent investment for him: He bought the old model for $599 and sold it for $570.

Nick Epperson, a 24-year-old graduate student, spent the night outside an AT&T store in Atlanta, Georgia, keeping his cheer up with bags of Doritos, three games of Scrabble and two packs of cigarettes. Asked why he was waiting in line, he responded simply "Chicks dig the iPhone."

IPhone fever was strong even in Japan, where consumers are used to tech-heavy phones that do restaurant searches, e-mail, music downloads, reading digital novels and electronic shopping. More than 1,000 people lined up at the Softbank Corp. store in Tokyo and the phone quickly sold out.

"Just look at this obviously innovative design," Yuki Kurita, 23, said as he emerged from buying his iPhone, carrying bags of clothing and a skateboard he had used as a chair during his wait outside the Tokyo store. "I am so thrilled just thinking about how I get to touch this."

It's such grief and aggravation... yeah, I imagine it is, when your happiness seems to be so dependent on acquiring and expressing yourself through overpriced digital gadgets, and buying a trendy new cell phone to be one with the rest of the clones is actually a momentous occasion in your life.

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