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iPhone Activation: Tears of Joy, Tears of Pain

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 2, 2007 12:43 PM PT

New York City and Apple Valley, Minn., are roughly 1,200 miles apart, but based on Jay Morakis' and Axel Sasso's experiences getting their iPhones activated, it would seem they were on different planets.

iPhone Activation: Tears of Joy, Tears of Pain

Morakis, managing partner of JMR Worldwide, clearly has excellent iPhone karma. He stood in line for just five minutes to buy his iPhone and was able to get it activated almost immediately.

Like a Dream

"I had first thought about standing in line at 6 p.m. on Friday to buy one, but the lines were way too long," he told MacNewsWorld. He had even toyed with the idea of sending his assistant to stand in line in his place but he couldn't bring himself to ask her to do that.

Later that evening, he and his wife were driving by the Apple Store on 5th Avenue on their way out of New York for the weekend, and noticed there was a crowd in front of it but no line. The rest of his buying experience went like a dream.

"I walked in, and there was a crowd of staff clapping hands as customers walked in and pointing out where to go," Morakis recalled. "I got to the line, and there were two people ahead of me." Morakis bought two of the coveted 8-gigabyte phones -- the maximum allowed.

"I set up the activation on Saturday and have yet to have any issues with the phone," he concludes. "As a matter of fact, I would say that Apple has revolutionized the activation process by using iTunes."

'I Don't Have Time for This'

Not so fortunate was Axel Sasso, a technical project manager and founder of his own company, The Sasso Group. He too acquired the iPhone on Friday, at an AT&T store in Apple Valley. From there, his experience completely diverges from that of Morakis.

"It was simply a horrible, frustrating situation," Sasso told MacNewsWorld, adding that he was able to get his phone turned on just in the nick of time for a Monday morning conference call.

Sasso's experiences with AT&T included being handed off numerous times by service reps, some of whom he said were outright rude to him as the weekend wore on; being given inaccurate information about his account; and having to switch to another plan at the last minute because he was a former customer of AT&T. When he asked one rep to speak with her manager because she was unable to help, she reportedly replied, "I don't have time for this" and hung up on him.

Sasso is, as he puts it, "stuck" with his once much-coveted iPhone because of the expense he has put in thus far.

"I can tell you this, though: My wife, who originally planned on getting one in a few weeks, has no intention of buying one now. And the people in my office, who I told all about this, are thinking twice about it too."

What Sasso wants now is to have his activation fees waived. "It is the least they can do," he said, "and, obviously, AT&T is apparently determined to do the very least for its customers."

Range of Experiences

It is difficult to tell, some 48 hours after the iPhone went on sale, which experience typifies the norm. A random troll of blogs, news articles and water cooler discussions suggests that it might be Sasso who gets the suddenly dubious distinction of poster child for the iPhone experience.

Paul Armstrong, a PR executive in Santa Monica, Calif., told MacNewsWorld that he bought the iPhone on Friday and as of 9 a.m. PT on Monday, he was still trying to activate it after "several error messages, multiple useless people and one system crash."

Jonathan Greene, a digital marketing executive in Westchester County, N.Y., also had a difficult 43 hours getting his phone activated, he told MacNewsWorld.

After being disconnected from the customer service line a few times, put on hold for hours, and tinkering with the phone countless times -- including trying to replace the SIM (subscriber identity module) card -- Greene suffered the indignity of watching his father activate his own iPhone in seconds.

"I couldn't believe it. There was one glitch -- dad uses a different billing address than his mailing address -- and that initially caused some problems. But then -- and I was sitting right there when this happened -- AT&T called him to make sure the activation went through all right."

Greene's wife also had no problems activating her account, he reports. He recounts his iPhone experiences in his blog.

A Forgone Conclusion

It was almost a given that there would be problems involved in the launch of the iPhone -- a situation that combined fever-pitch demand, near-simultaneous account activations by tens of thousands of people, and the use of thousands of temporary staffers to help man the customer service phones.

The real question is how long iPhone customers' and potential customers' memories of this experience will last.

To its credit, AT&T appears to be doing what it can to spread the word about how to get the iPhone activated. Customers who are migrating to a current phone number may find activation can take longer -- up to several days it says -- depending on the type and status of the former service account, according to its Web site. In the meantime, owners can make calls and use iPhone's other features.

Other advice from the AT&T Web site:

"If you receive an e-mail notification that we are processing your activation, it will take longer as we work to clear the queues. In some cases, we will need to manually push your activation order through. If you call into customer care, ask that a ticket be open on your behalf. Make sure you completely power off your iPhone; power it back on and ensure you have coverage before calling.

The following cases may cause a delay in activation:

  • Account information cannot be verified (SSN, address, etc.) via iTunes;
  • The customer may have an international rate plan that is not compatible with iPhone;
  • The account is not in active status -- it is either suspended or canceled. In that situation, log into myWireless Account to check status; in some cases the account can be reactivated there.

Activation support for existing AT&T Customers purchasing iPhone: 1-877-419-4500

Activation support for existing AT&T Business Customers purchasing iPhone: 1-866-907-3484

Activation support for new AT&T Customers purchasing iPhone: 1-877-800-3701

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