iPhone 3G Launch Plagued By Long Waits, Phone Shortages And Activation Problems

The new phone may be cheaper and streamlined, but getting one has proved quite a hassle for many.

You'd think after the initial headaches and gripes about eBay-gouging when Apple's fanboy-dubbed "Jesus Phone" debuted last year, people would be a bit more chill this time around. But across the country, in the hours before the first 3G iPhones went on sale Friday (July 11), there were lines around the block and, according to most reports, not nearly enough phones to go around.

In Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News reported that some die-hards began lining up as early as 6 p.m. on Thursday, and as the 8 a.m. launch time approached, there were whoops of joy among the 100 or so fanatics at one Apple store. In Tokyo, the lines began forming even earlier and snaked around entire city blocks, and in Manhattan's flagship Apple store, hundreds were lined up, many of whom were already owners of the first generation of the phone but were eager to trade up.

(One MTV News producer braved the iPhone lines and lived to tell his tale in the Newsroom blog.)

The newest version of the phone is cheaper ($199- $299) than the original iPhone and runs on a faster network (but the mandatory two-year contract is more expensive), plus it has a built-in GPS system and the ability to download cheap or free applications from the new Apps Store. Among them: an iPhone version of Pandora that helps you to create on-the-go radio stations or tap in to your old ones; myMetronome, in case you need a metronome on the road; a weekly RingtoneFeeder; a dedicated feed of Weezer information; Midomi, which helps you identify songs playing on the radio by holding the phone up to a speaker or singing a few bars; Tour Volume, which searches for concerts in your area; the LaLaLa Lyrics Search engine; a guitar tuner called Guitar Toolkit; a plug-in that turns your phone into a wireless remote for iTunes and Apple TV; and Kompoz, a social-networking app that allows musicians around the world to collaborate on new tunes.

(For a look at some more iPhone extras, check out our Multiplayer blog's take on new games for the cell.)

While a spokesperson for Apple would not return calls for comment, Gene Muster, a technology analyst for investment firm Piper Jaffray, estimated that Apple will sell nearly 13 million iPhones this year and 45 million next year.

But for a company whose trademark is slick design and ease of use, the launch of the new iPhone in 21 countries was a bumpy ride. Shortly after the first phones were unwrapped, users began complaining that there were widespread problems activating them in the Apple and AT&T stores. Unlike the original iPhone launch, the plan for the 3G phone was to activate the device in the store in order to get customers to sign a contract with AT&T, which is helping to subsidize the cheaper price of the new phone.

CNET reported that while the long lines that plagued the original iPhone launch didn't recur for the most part, this time around it was the interminable wait to get the phones activated that was the frustrating factor for many users, some of whom waited 45 minutes or more to get their phones turned on, only to face overloaded servers and network outages. Later in the day, Apple decided to ditch the in-store activation and let users hook up the phones at home in order to ease store crowding.

The software glitch even snared owners of the previous iPhone model, according to The Associated Press, requiring them to reactivate their phones through iTunes on Friday.

Even though anyone who wanted an iPhone last time around could easily purchase one if they waited until the initial frenzy was over, that didn't stop some people from believing the hype all over again this time around. According to one CNET blog, a woman waiting outside the Salt Lake City Apple store bought a place in line for $200, while some New Yorkers were able to stroll up just half an hour before the doors opened to secure a good spot in the line.

Apple did not release figures on how many iPhones were distributed to each store, but an employee at one AT&T store in New York said they'd received around 100, which very quickly sold out, and that she understood most of the other stores in Manhattan had received a similar amount. Of the four out of eight stores who answered their phones when MTV News called on Friday afternoon, all said they were sold out but were expecting another shipment as early as Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

But according to CNET, that didn't stop some iPhone-ophiles from freaking out on Friday and getting into a brawl at one AT&T store when a group of people tried to jump the line during what some in the Twitter-verse dubbed the "iPocalypse."