Networking

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.

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--15 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...

9 comments
nour yakine lamrani
nour yakine lamrani

hello has all I want to know why my telefone it does not load the same load that I am I see that it charge my phone but that he finish drying the phone is etindre I want to know this information about telephone iphone 3gs

victorfrazee
victorfrazee

I cannot see WHY so many people want the latest and greatest CRAP only to have a newer version be released in less than a year. You hard earned money is feeding the coffers of corporate bosses with company paid vacations and endless perks> Just think, in less than a year, you'll be doing this again.

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

Is that shirt "light red" or pink...? ;-)

justin.ellenbecker
justin.ellenbecker

I am getting fairly fed up with all of these products and thier "Supply Problems" They have been hyping a device for months and somehow cannot make the device available. This isn't the only product that has these problems either. I knew it was going to be hell to get one. I live in a smaller part of the state of WI and we seem to always get hosed on these types of things so much so in fact I will probably never buy a 3G iPhone. Everyone says it helps keep interest, well I for one lost all interest. The other problem is they have a ton of product at launch and then for the next 2 months there are none available.

zefficace
zefficace

Before, in early history, man used to establish his social status by how many goats he had. Now it's how big his SUV is and which tech he posesses. No real [personnal, social] evolution there if you just traded goats for fancy phones. Standing in line for an high priced phone, usually just to show off afterward is quite primitive. Aside from the TR reporters, who where doing their job, I would seriously think anyone who stood in line for a phone is mentally challenged.

Jediguardian
Jediguardian

It was strong red, but UV rays faded out the color... so many hours to get your hands on that thing and the only thing he gets is his shirt discolored...

IT_Goddess
IT_Goddess

when did pink become *light red*? hmmmm possibly when one stands in line for too long?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I couldn't agree more. If TechRepublic wasn't paying me to wait for an iPhone 3G, there is no way I'd bake in the morning sun for AT&T to bless me with Jobs and company's latest creation. I just don't need a new cell phone THAT badly. What I find really fascinating are the people who wait in these lines for purely personal reasons. I saw parents buying the iPhone for their teen's upcoming birthday. I saw existing iPhone customers who had damaged phones and wanted to trade up. But then there were true tech "line waiters." These people stood in line for the original iPhone, the Xbox 360, the Wii, the PS3 and who knows what else. They love gadgets and want to have the latest tech first. Now, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool nerd. I like gadgets, sci-fi movies, computer games, and just about every Nova episode. When I was in college, I even stood in line to watch the Star Wars prequels. (Lucas still owes me $7.50 for Jar Jar Binks.) But, I will never understand why seemingly reasonable adults would stand in line for hours to buy a cell phone. It's a very nice phone. But, a phone nonetheless.

Jediguardian
Jediguardian

I totally agree with you. I'm waiting till the lines to buy are over.