With New iPhone, Consumers Find A Disconnect

There have been complaints about the new iPhone. i i

hide captionProblems with availability, activation and software bugs have plagued the new iPhone.

Cyrus Farivar for NPR
There have been complaints about the new iPhone.

Problems with availability, activation and software bugs have plagued the new iPhone.

Cyrus Farivar for NPR

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If you went to the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco on Tuesday, you would have seen a sign in the window: "Sorry, iPhone 3G is not available today." Madi Mattali, a local student from Tunisia, says he and his cousin tried to buy one.

"It's sold out, so hopefully we can get one tomorrow," he says. "It's out of stock. They will get some tomorrow, so we'll be here tomorrow."

All over the country, there just aren't enough phones to go around. But that may be the least of Apple's worries. Even for people who have managed to get a phone, there's a lot more complicated paperwork to wade through in the store before buyers can even make a call — a hassle that didn't exist last year when the first iPhone came out. On top of that, there are bugs in the new version of the phone's software.

When other companies stumble in similar ways, they can be forgiven, but with Apple, known for perfection, these kinds of problems are unheard of, says Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"Everything that they do is highly polished, and if there are hiccups, they normally ride them out very, very quickly and right the ship," he says.

Apple also has been promoting its new e-mail and calendar-synching service called MobileMe, which hasn't been working right. It's been panned by reviewers.

Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld magazine, says that with the release of these new products all at once, Apple may have bitten off more than it could chew.

"I think Apple was under a lot of pressure to essentially do a magic trick and pull the veil off of these products on one day, which was July 11," he says, calling it an unnecessary and "fundamental mistake." Company officials "could have spread this out over time. They could have launched MobileMe and then the new iPhone and then the new software for the old iPhone, and they could have avoided a lot of this."

Even Apple loyalists are really frustrated. They think it's bogus that a mysterious employee named "David G." is giving periodic updates on a company blog. He wrote late Monday that the company had fixed the issue of older e-mails being lost and added that there is now a dedicated online chat service to troubleshoot remaining issues.

At the Apple Store in San Francisco, people are still crowding around the iPhone displays. Mattali, the student, says the problems won't deter him.

"I've heard about this," he says. "I'm going to get one anyway."

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