Five reasons why Apple will deliver iPhone 4 preorders early

The notices went out last night: iPhone 4 will arrive a day early for some people -- perhaps even all who successfully preordered on June 15 for a June 24 delivery date. Now why is that? I've got five reasons, but first the obligatory background information.

I placed my order around 7:40 p.m. PT on June 15. Hours earlier, many Apple enthusiast and tech blogs reported that iPhone 4 preorders had sold out and the new arrival date was July 2. I credit these, ah, mistaken reports for the sudden responsiveness of Apple's online iPhone 4 ordering system late on June 15. I finally got through the process with ease, after about a dozen failed attempts throughout the day.

I plan to test the smartphone over the 30 days after activation, and I won't make a final decision on keeping or returning it until Day 28 of the "buyer's remorse" period. I want to assess the phone's new features, AT&T call quality, iPhone 4 battery life and whether the $25/month 2GB data-capped plan will be enough for typical usage.

Like many other iPhone 4 preorderers, I received a shipment notice on June 20 stating "delivers by Jun 23, 2010." Apple isn't set to launch the phone until June 24, and that's the arrival date attached to the order online. Late yesterday, I got two additional e-mails, one from AT&T and the other from Apple. AT&T sent a new service welcome letter. Apple sent this:

Dear Apple Store Customer,

You recently received a Shipment Notification email from Apple advising you that your iPhone has shipped.

This email is to confirm that your delivery will occur on June 23rd. Although Apple and FedEx tracking information may currently indicate a later date, you can check the FedEx website the morning of the June 23rd to track your package to your doorstep.

In the event that you will not be available to accept delivery on June 23rd, it may be more convenient to use our pre-sign delivery option by visiting our Order Status website at http://www.apple.com/orderstatus.

Sincerely,

The Apple Store Team

It's highly unusual for Apple to deliver a hot, new product early -- not that there have been that many preorder situations by which to judge. But June 23 makes a helluva lot of sense to me, and it's what I would do if logistically planning for as smooth a launch day as possible. The five reasons:

1. Apple and AT&T can lighten the load of launch-day activations -- that's assuming people getting phones on June 23 won't have to wait until the 24th to use them. Based on the three previous iPhone launches and the preordering breakdown that occurred on June 15, there are good reasons to expect activation problems on Thursday. Apple can reduce the activation bottleneck by letting some customers complete the process earlier.

2. Apple can reduce problems with supporting services, mainly MobileMe. Many iPhone buyers will do more than activate; they'll set up MobileMe, too. That means an extra heavy load on the online service, which could be ginormous should Apple soon make MobileMe free as has long been rumored.

3. It's good customer service, and keeps with Apple's longstanding practice of promising one thing but delivering more. Apple also can ease any bad feelings some people may have about problems making the preorders. Some of my earlier preorder attempts got to the last stage before failing. Most anyone excited about getting the phone early will forget any hardships placing the order.

4. The delivery change is good buzz marketing -- but it isn't cheaply gotten. From the day Gizmodo posted stories, pics and videos of the stolen iPhone 4 prototype, Apple's launch plans were in jeopardy. The company has surprisingly and quite effectively used the June 7 announcement and key processes afterwards -- preorder day, apology about preorder problems and shipping -- to feed iPhone 4 buzz. Typically, this kind of buzz would be considered free marketing. Not here. Apple must be spending mucho dollars to move 600,000 or more handsets from China to the launch countries in just a few days. My phone shipped from China on June 20 and is in Anchorage, Alaska today.

5. The buzz is good for Apple's share price, which is nearing escape velocity. There's not a lot to add about this one beyond yesterday's post: "iPhone 4 isn't one launch but a series of smaller announcements timed to drive up Apple's stock price." Simply stated: The buzz has many Apple investors and Wall Street analysts feeling light-headed as shares reach the thin air before outer space.

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