Pre-activated iPhone 3Gs available online in the US

AT&T has simplified the 3G iPhone acquisition and activation process, allowing the iconic device to be purchased pre-activated online.

The iPhone 3G's activation process has earned criticism since the device's launch in July. It differed from its 2G progenitor in that it had to be activated in-store, an aspect which caused immediate delays in availability due to over-stressed AT&T and Apple infrastructure. Many who eagerly waited in line for the iPhone 3G found themselves in line a second time for activation, others were sent home with printed instructions on how to activate the device from home. Home activation proved to be just as much of a hassle.

AT&T has now made the iPhone 3G available not only for purchase online, but also pre-activated. This is the first time US customers are able to purchase the device without having to physically appear in an AT&T or Apple store.

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Apple took a much more relaxed approach in Hong Kong, where it began selling unlocked iPhones online. In the United Kingdom, the device is also sold under less strict conditions.

Pre-activation simply means that a user must only accept terms and conditions through customer care or at att.com for the iPhone to be ready for sync and use.

Apple has not yet made the iPhone available for direct purchase yet, as the company's online store still requires the buyer to go pick up the device at an Apple store if purchased online.

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