Tough to find instant iPhone gratification at AT&T stores

An informal survey of AT&T stores across the country suggests each store had no more than 100 iPhones prior to launch--many with far less--while Apple stores had plenty.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
3 min read

Those iPhone hopefuls who had planned to avoid long lines at Apple stores by visiting AT&T stores had to get lucky to secure one yesterday, and replacements might not arrive for weeks.

Launch day for the iPhone went very smoothly at Apple's retail stores. Plenty of units were available and long lines of customers were moved swiftly in and out of the store. But 12 of 15 AT&T stores surveyed Saturday sold out of their allotments on Friday night, which ranged from 30 units to 90 units. Only one store in Chicago still had 4GB iPhones (click for CNET's review) available Saturday afternoon.

Traffic was high at the downtown San Francisco Apple store one day after iPhone Day. Tom Krazit/CNET News.com

The pro move leading up to iPhone Day seemed to be to avoid the long lines at Apple stores and slink over to your nearest AT&T store, which even Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested to The Huffington Post at the D: All Things Digital conference. In fact, one couple waiting in line at the San Francisco Apple store about 60 spots back left that store at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning to become first in line at an AT&T store just a few blocks away.

But earlier Saturday an AT&T spokesman told Reuters the company was "virtually out" of iPhones at its stores. In Saturday's survey, the AT&T store that received the highest number of iPhones prior to launch was in Redmond, Wash. (zing!). It had 90 iPhones, and all sold out Friday night.

A Bolyston Street store in Boston had 70 iPhones, all of which were gone by Saturday morning. A store in Des Moines, Iowa, received 45 iPhones, 37 of which sold Friday night and the remainder were gone by Saturday afternoon. A store in Indianapolis sold 30 iPhones in an hour Friday night, and only received two as reinforcements Saturday morning. Yep, those are gone.

A couple of stores had 4GB models remaining on Saturday. But the AT&T store on 5th Street in Austin sold its 4GB models Saturday afternoon, leaving the Roosevelt Road AT&T store in Chicago as the only store in the survey with 4GB models remaining.

Dozens of shoppers get their first taste of the iPhone. Tom Krazit/CNET News.com

Meanwhile, Apple retail stores were still selling iPhones Saturday afternoon. Most of those who were crowded around the iPhone demonstration table at the downtown San Francisco store Saturday appeared to be just taking it for a spin, but several shoppers left the store with iPhones. As of Saturday afternoon, Apple's Web site was still projecting that units would be available Sunday, but check back after 9 p.m. to be sure.

If you want an iPhone, go to an Apple store. If you don't have one of those around, a local AT&T store should be able to take your order and ship you an iPhone from its distribution center once the company receives additional models, which could be anywhere from a week to two weeks, several store employees said. You can also buy one online from Apple with a ship time of two to four weeks.

If you want to get ripped off, buy one on eBay or Craigslist from the dozens of sellers charging a mark-up for a product that's readily available. We'll take a closer look at the secondary market Sunday and Monday, as well as the activation issues that plagued several new iPhone owners this weekend.