iTunes, activation outages are rendering new and old iPhones inoperable

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BetaNews correspondents in Maryland and Michigan are seeing first-hand problems as a result of significant system outages affecting both AT&T and iTunes. Many buyers still can't activate their phones hours later.

2:30 pm EDT July 11, 2008 - Six and a half hours after the launch of the iPhone 3G, Apple and AT&T continue to struggle with activation problems, leaving many without any sort of working phone. Although they may be able to get their new AT&T service active, iPhone 3G buyers must still activate the device via iTunes, and Apple's servers can't seem to handle the load.

In reports to BetaNews, most are receiving a message that says "We could not complete your iTunes Store request. An unknown error occurred." The only solution is to keep trying, hoping the request eventually makes it through the clogged pipe.

BetaNews was finally able to get one of our iPhone 3Gs to activate after about 20 attempts.

Existing iPhone users are running into the same issue. Since the update to the first generation iPhone requires a complete wipe of the device, it is also taking the activation with it. Thus, upgraders are being forced to reactivate their device through iTunes, which is proving nearly impossible at the moment.

12:35 pm EDT July 11, 2008 - A few minutes ago, Nate reported that AT&T in-store activation was workable -- meaning, the carrier can recognize the phone as existing -- but iTunes activation was not working. So new phones purchased today remain inactive for many customers.

Supply was not the problem for the Towson, Maryland store, as there appears to be plenty on hand. Some 120 people remained in line as of 12:31 pm EDT. Last year at T+ 4 hours 30 minutes, Nate noted, the line in front of the same store had been eliminated. "There are tons of iPhones in stock," he reports. "People just can't get them fast enough."

Correspondent Eric Steil in Michigan was among those customers sent home by Apple Store personnel, who were told they could actually activate their 3G iPhones remotely via iTunes. This was not the original plan, as the 3G line was supposed to have been activated in-store only, either at AT&T retail outlets or Apple Stores.

But upon taking the store personnel's advice, Eric found iTunes responsiveness to be impossibly slow. The progress bar on his phone indicates it's trying to make contact with iTunes, before sending an error code. With each repeated attempt, the time between the initial request and the error code appeared to grow longer.

Eric finally reported success in getting online with iTunes at 11:42 am Friday morning. Soon afterward, he reported his phone was indeed activated. The synchronization process began immediately thereafter, but six minutes later, he reported his phone was activated and working.

Correspondent Ed Oswald in Philadelphia reports that AT&T stores statewide are experiencing "huge activation problems," with a Pottstown store only opening its doors at 10:45 am this morning -- two hours and 45 minutes after schedule.

Those activation problems were coupled with delivery problems, apparently, as the Pottstown store only had 20 units on hand, after having been promised as many as 200.

Ed goes on to report that the Apple slowdown today appears to have also negatively impacted MobileMe, its suite of synchronized apps that links the iPhone to calendaring and sharing software on Macs and PCs. Synchronizing contacts, for instance, is one of the tasks he reports is hanging this morning.

Editor-in-Chief Nate Mook has joined the lines in Towson, Maryland, where activation problems in-store forced a suspension of sales for a second time. Disappointed and angry customers were told, "It's not our call," as they were told to wait even longer.


  • Activation problems delay sales during iPhone 3G premiere by Nate Mook reporting from Towson, Maryland
  • Eager iPhone 3G buyers begin all-night wait outside stores by Nate Mook reporting from Baltimore
  • Tales from the iPhone 3G launch lines by Tim Conneally reporting from Pikesville, Maryland
  • West Coast lines grow longer as iPhone 3G buyers are told to wait by Michael Hatamoto reporting from San Francisco
  • Apple runs into troubles with MobileMe by Ed Oswald
  • First Look: MobileMe promising, but limps out of the gate by Ed Oswald
  • Software updates for iPhone, AppleTV, iTunes go live by Ed Oswald
  • First Look: iPhone 2.0 software delivers big thanks to App Store by Mykel Nahorniak
  • The new apps for iPhone 2.0: What's good? by Tim Conneally

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