One month later: The iPhone 3G sales experience

The author's experience with buying an iPhone 3G one month after its debut.

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
3 min read
iPhone 3G: Worth the wait? Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

When the Apple iPhone 3G first made its global debut on July 11, Apple stores around the world experienced a cavalcade of technical glitches, mostly due to server meltdowns that weren't able to handle the amount of in-store activations. Days after the phone's debut, there were still long lines at Apple stores across the nation, as people waited patiently for the second-generation device.

Last Thursday, I decided to jump into the iPhone fray. As an Apple fan and a gadget aficionado, I've wanted one for some time, but just couldn't justify the lack of features of the original iPhone. Now that the iPhone 3G has the 3G and GPS functionality I wanted, I figured it was time. Despite the concerns over buggy software and battery issues, I wanted to have a firsthand experience to make my own mind up about it. So I went down to the local Apple store in San Francisco Thursday evening around 5 p.m.

Already, there was an iPhone line outside the store. I was fourth in line, and there was an Apple store employee outside, asking and answering questions. He mostly wanted to know if we were existing AT&T customers or not, and if we were transferring numbers over, he warned us that there would be a credit check, and that we would need our account number from the previous provider.

He then told us we had to wait outside so as to not overcrowd the store. By the time I got there, the employee told me that I would have a 30- to 45-minute wait. So I waited. During those 30 or so minutes, the line grew from 4 people to about 10, and it soon made sense why we were told to wait outside.

When it was my turn to enter the store, I was greeted by an employee, who then ushered me in to a spot next to one of the MacBooks on display. I thought he would be using the laptop to authorize my transaction, but actually he used a small handheld bar scanner with a touch screen to handle the entire activation process. After bringing me a new boxed-up package of the iPhone 3G, he asked me a series of questions about my social security number, billing address, and other necessary account information, all of which he then entered into this small handheld device.

Fifteen minutes later, and I was done. The actual activation process itself only took about five minutes. It was probably one of the most painless experiences I've had in transferring phone numbers from one carrier to another, with excellent customer service to boot. When I took the iPhone 3G home, I was surprised that I was immediately able to make and answer phone calls with my same phone number--the transfer must have already taken place. What a difference from the horror stories I read about from the iPhone 3G launch date.

However, I wonder if I was just lucky. I've heard stories of much longer activation times, and of even longer lines. If you have just bought an iPhone 3G in the past week, let us know how your experience was: painful or painless.

P.S. I've had the iPhone 3G for about three days now, and surprisingly have not had the signal problems or even the battery problems that I've heard so much about. I wonder if it's just because my expectations are so much lower, or if it's the new firmware that's improving things. Again, if you have an iPhone 3G, let us know if you've experienced problems, or if everything's been smooth sailing.