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Apple stores hold iPhone 3Gs leave AT&T holding the bag

Bill Detwiler and Jason Hiner battle long lines and Apple's iTunes meltdown to obtain an iPhone 3G. Industry analysts speculated that launch supplies would be plentiful, but AT&T seems to have come up short as Apple sent most phones to its own stores.

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Unlike Apple's anointed tech reviewers, Jason Hiner, TechRepublic Executive Editor, and I joined the masses on Friday morning waiting for our chance to plunk down $299, sign a two-year AT&T contract, and walk away with a brand new iPhone 3G.To improve our chances of snagging an iPhone 3G, Jason and I split up. I went to the AT&T store at 2444 Bardstown Road and Jason went to the Apple store in the Oxmoor mall (both in Louisville, KY). I arrived at the AT&T store around 7:45 AM󈟟 minutes before it opened at 8:00. I was about 50th in line. Believing the speculation that Apple would make plenty of iPhone 3Gs in stock, I figured I had a very good chance of getting one. Two and a half hours later, I would leave the AT&T store empty handed.

Waiting in line for an iPhone 3G

Bill Detwiler waiting in line for an iPhone 3G

Michelle Jones (Consuminglouisville.com) took this photo.  I'm in the light red shirt and jeans.

So what happened? Apple appears to have reserved the vast majority of iPhone 3Gs for their Apple stores. While the other iPhone 3G hopefuls and I stood in the sun, an AT&T store employee would periodically come out and tell us how many phones they had. According to him, this particular AT&T location started with 40 iPhone 3Gs (20 16GB models and 20 8GB models). Smaller AT&T locations were allotted 30 phones and larger stores were given 50. (I think it was 50. My main goal was getting a phone and not taking notes. It was either 50 or 70.) According to the AT&T Web site, there are 10 corporate AT&T stores in the greater Louisville area (five in Kentucky and five in southern Indiana). Given that not all of the stores had the maximum number of phone, I estimate the total launch supply between 400 and 500 phones.

According to one of the other people in line (who had a contact at the local Apple store, each Apple store was rumored to have 700 to 1,000 phones. While I have no confirmation from Apple of this number, the evidence supports a launch supply of several hundred, if not more than 1,000, per store. People were still lining up for and buying phones at the Louisville Apple store on Saturday night.

By the time I reached the AT&T store's front door, all the iPhone 3Gs were gone. The guy in front of me was let in and walked right back out. "There all gone," he said. The AT&T store employee, who had been giving us periodic updates, sheepishly offered to take orders for "direct fulfillment"—you order the phone and then come back in a week and pick it up. Was he serious? I and most, if not all, of the people standing in line turned around and headed off. I spoke with several who were going to grab something to eat and then head over to the Apple store. I returned to the TechRepublic offices. Jason was now our only hope.

Cracking Open the Apple iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G disassembled

Click the photo to view the complete Cracking Open gallery.

Luckily, the plentiful Apple store supply rumor proved to be true. It took nearly eight hours, but Jason walked away with a brand new iPhone 3G, which we immediately began to take apart.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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