iPhone 4 runs into preorder problems

Preorders were to begin Tuesday, but customers report that problems with the online ordering process prevented them from reserving or placing an order.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
3 min read
iPhone 4 preorder
Customer reports of problems in preordering the iPhone 4 were all over the Web on Tuesday. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

When a deluge of customers hit the Web on Tuesday morning to preorder the iPhone 4, many reported errors in the online ordering process.

A number of them took to Twitter to report that the process of preordering would stall halfway through giving error messages like the one pictured above.

It's not clear if the problem is on AT&T's end or if Apple's site is just overloaded. When ordering through Apple.com, the order process stalls when it comes to the time for a current subscriber's account to be verified through AT&T. But the process also sometimes hangs in other places, according to reports.

Apple's customer service phone lines appear to be equally overloaded. The recorded message when calling 1-800-MY-APPLE says that due to "extremely high call volumes" they're not currently taking new calls.

Several Gizmodo readers reported security issues with AT&T's iPhone ordering site. When the preorder process stalled and they refreshed the page, they say they were rerouted to someone else's account.

Apple has not responded to requests for comment. AT&T declined to comment.

Nathan Peck, 34, tried preordering the new iPhone 4 Tuesday morning from home. He tried AT&T's Web site and Apple's Web site and kept getting errors. So he walked around the corner from his Upper West Side apartment in New York City to the local AT&T store.

He wasn't alone. At 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday afternoon, the queue to preorder a phone at the 95th and Broadway AT&T store in Manhattan was 20 people deep. Peck was told he'd have to wait at least 45 minutes before he could be helped. The AT&T salesperson signing people in at the crowded store said the company was no longer allowing people to preorder the iPhone 4 online via the AT&T Web site. She said all preorders through AT&T would have to be entered manually at the store by an AT&T sales associate. She gave no reason for the glitch or long line, but simply added names to the list on her clipboard as one person after another came into the store.

"I don't stand in line for many things," said Peck, who wants to upgrade from his iPhone 3G to the new iPhone 4. "I thought by preordering I'd avoid all the craziness of getting the phone on the first day. But it seems like preordering is just as bad as waiting in line on the first day. "

Frustration with iPhone ordering isn't new: AT&T and Apple had widespread problems with the huge number of activations of the iPhone when it was first released in 2007, as well as in 2008, and, though less so, in 2009. But this is the first time the preorder process has experienced such a delay.

Another surprise in the preorder process: Although Apple announced last week that the iPhone 4 would come in two sizes (16GB and 32GB) and two colors (black and white), as of Tuesday morning, the site states that only the black model may be preordered. The white model just says "currently unavailable."

Besides Apple and AT&T, RadioShack and Best Buy are also places to preorder the latest iPhone, which officially goes on sale June 24.

iPhone 4 preorder fail
The process stalls in a different stage of the order on Apple.com. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

This story was updated several times, the last time at 11:24 a.m. PDT.

CNET's Marguerite Reardon contributed to this story.