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|07-11-2008, 08:47 PM||#1|
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iPhone Users Plagued by Software Problems
iPhone Users Plagued by Software Problems
By JOHN MARKOFF
Published: July 12, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — For many people on Friday, the iPhone was the iCan’t.
Apple suffered extensive network gridlock Friday morning, as many of the six million users of the original iPhone tried to upgrade to new software while the first buyers of the new iPhone 3G were trying to activate their purchases.
The setback was a classic example of the problems that can follow when complex systems have single points of failure. In this case, the company appeared to almost invite the problems by having both existing and new iPhone owners try to get through to its systems at the same time.
“There are certainly lessons in preparedness,” said Richard Doherty, a consumer electronics industry consultant who is president of the Envisioneering Group in Seaford, N.Y. He compared the day with Christmas morning, “the acid test for many years” for electronics companies because customers contact them in droves after opening presents and trying to get gadgets to work.
The problems led to slow-moving lines of would-be iPhone 3G purchasers at Apple and AT&T stores, while current iPhone users found that their phones had stopped working when they tried to upgrade them to the latest software. The iPhone must connect to Apple servers through the iTunes program for authentication before it will function again after a software upgrade.
Apple did not comment publicly on the problems, but privately executives acknowledged the missteps and said the combination of the software upgrades and new iPhone 3G owners trying to complete their activation swamped the company’s servers.
At Apple and AT&T stores on Friday morning, employees began telling buyers to take their new iPhones home and activate them there.
A year ago, when the original iPhone went on sale, customers performed the activation at home. But Apple and its cellphone partners changed the process this time, in part because the carriers are partially subsidizing the cost of the phones, so they are eager to make sure that phone buyers are locked into a contract.
Many of the original iPhones were bought in the United States and then taken overseas for use on foreign carriers. A number of industry executives have said that the change in policy was intended to reduce the number of phones that were bought and then modified for use on unauthorized cellular networks.
Early indications were that the company was facing strong demand for the new phones. In many cases the customers were existing iPhone users looking to upgrade to the iPhone 3G model.
Apple’s stores opened at 8 a.m. At the store in downtown San Francisco at 11:30 a.m., there was still a line of more than 300 customers stretching down one block and around the corner waiting for iPhones. Some customers said they had hired placeholders to stand overnight in line.
Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T, Apple’s cellular partner in the United States, said the company had experienced extraordinary demand and that most of its stores nationwide were sold out of the iPhone during the day. He said he had heard reports that some customers were already camped out in front of stores waiting for the next shipment of iPhones on Saturday, but he could not identify a particular store.
Mr. Siegel said the rush of customers and upgrades had overwhelmed Apple’s servers, and that he sympathized with the company’s predicament.
“Apparently the iTunes system has just been overwhelmed by demand and Apple is working very hard to get this fixed,” he said.
He acknowledged that part of the problem was the new policy of requiring authorization in the stores.
In a related issue, customers had problems with Apple’s switchover from its .Mac Web service to a new service called MobileMe that is intended to seamlessly share information between Macintosh computers and the iPhone.
Apple’s stumble was an unusual one for a company that has taken pains in recent years to become more customer-oriented. The technology blog Gizmodo dubbed it the iPocalypse. When the original iPhone was introduced, AT&T took the blame for most of the early service problems.
Sergio Martinez, an editor at Teak Motion Visuals in San Francisco, said in an e-mail message that he had run into trouble with the software upgrade. “Like everyone else across the world, I have had no luck upgrading,” he wrote. “Bill Gates must be enjoying this one.”
Laurie J. Flynn contributed reporting.
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