iPhone 3G debuts, some glitches reported

Sydney, Tokyo launches go off without a hitch but software snafus hit London, crowd trouble in the US

Apple started selling its new iPhone 3G Friday, with crowds reported in locations from Tokyo and Europe to New York City, where the new faster phone went on sale at 8 a.m. local time.

The launch was not without problems, however, as the UK debut was delayed by a software snafu and police were called to a Florida AT&T store to deal with an altercation among people waiting in line.

Shoppers in Sydney were among the first in the world to pick up the new phone during a midnight event at a local Optus store.

Users of first-generation iPhones, meanwhile, waited for Apple to throw the switch and offer them the software upgrade that will let them download third-party applications and sync their mail, calendars and contacts with corporate exchange servers or the new MobileMe service.

Lines at one of Apple's flagship retail stores, the glass cube-shaped outlet on 5th Ave., were substantial, according to reports by technology blogs such as Engadget, but the first customers allowed in were back out the door about 15 minutes later, iPhone 3G in hand.

Both Apple and AT&T, Apple's exclusive mobile carrier partner in the US, had estimated this week that it would take customers 10 to 15 minutes once inside their stores to sign a contract and activate and pay for their phones. This is the first time that Apple and AT&T have required in-store activation for the iPhone, a change brought on by the shift toward up-front subsidies for the phone, rather than operators sharing subscriber revenue with Apple.

In other US locations, lines also formed. According to Computerworld freelance writer Michael DeAgonia, Apple stores in Orlando sported lines of hundreds of people, while area AT&T stores had much smaller lines of around 50 people. Ryan Faas, another Computerworld freelance writer waiting to buy the new iPhone in New York said he was told "that there's a national issue with iTunes activations."

DeAgonia, too, reported activation problems in his area.

In Japan, where Softbank Mobile Corp. has rights to sell the iPhone, a crowd of about 1,000 gathered at the company's store in the Harajuku district, according to the IDG News Service. The Harajuku store began selling the iPhone at 7 a.m. local time (6 p.m. Thursday, EDT in the US). This is the first time that Apple's iPhone has been available in Japan through sanctioned channels.

In London, meanwhile, software problems delayed the iPhone launch for several hours, as the activation systems used by O2, the sole carrier partner in the UK, were initially overwhelmed by demand.

Early customers left O2 stores frustrated and empty-handed, reported IDG News, which was not able to obtain details because the mobile operator was not letting reporters into its stores. However, an O2 spokeswoman was quoted as saying that the problem had been solved by 5:30 a.m. EDT in the US.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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