How to navigate an iPhone order gone wrong

Apple sells and ships millions of iPhones, but not every order goes smoothly. Here's how to resolve an iPhone order gone wrong.

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The transaction began without incident. I placed an order directly with Apple for a new iPhone 11. As part of the purchase, I authorized the corresponding cellular service provider to transfer an existing telephone number to the new device.

Everything proceeded as you'd hope. I received a timely email message confirming the iPhone 11 order. The confirmation included an order number, device details, price, and shipping and delivery information. The message also confirmed the details for returning a trade-in device.

One week later, I received an order update stating the device was shipping earlier than expected. Then I received a message providing a shipment tracking link, followed by another message confirming AppleCare+ proof of coverage for the new device.

Perfect!

Except the box Apple shipped included no iPhone. Mind you, an iPhone 11 box containing a charging block lightning charge cable and earbuds were inside the sealed FedEx box, but there was no iPhone.

What to do? Do you call the cellular service provider? FedEx? Or, should I call Apple? Since the transaction originated with Apple, calling Apple proved the correct choice.

SEE: iPhone 11: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Late on a Saturday evening the Apple customer service worker assured me a new device would be sent within a few days. The customer service employee confirmed there would be no charge for the replacement.

I raised the primary concern I had at that juncture, as the customer service representative didn't broach the subject: What happens to the phone calls and SMS text messages that would presumably be automatically forwarded to the misplaced or stolen device as soon as the missing device was powered on? I was assured that, with my phone call to Apple, order updates were being entered within the corresponding provisioning system that would ensure the cellular service provider immediately removed the programming that would forward calls associated with the corresponding telephone number to the new device.

All I had to do now was wait for a new, replacement device to ship, which it did just a few days later. That's when the real frustrations began.

While Apple should be credited with speeding delivery of the replacement iPhone 11, which arrived this time within a shrink-wrapped iPhone box, the new iPhone operation proved problematic on arrival. Something went wrong in the handoff between Apple and the cellular services provider configuring the new phone and applying AppleCare+ to the new device. As a result, the new iPhone 11 would not activate on the cellular network or send or receive telephone calls or SMS text messages.

Again, the who to call conundrum arose. I chose Apple, which proved the wrong choice. Apple directed me to the cellular service provider, whose customer service representatives were unavailable after 9:00pm Eastern time, pushing attempts to resolve the issue to the next day.

The cellular service provider was able to resolve the issue following an approximately 20- to 30-minute telephone call to customer service. If the occasion not been the third such customer service call I'd had to place resolving issues with the iPhone order, that would maybe have been OK--but alas, such was not the case, and I was already becoming tired of navigating various interactive voice response menus and outlasting multiple extended periods on hold.

After providing the cellular service provider with the new replacement iPhone's IMEI and ICCID, and after multiple resetting of Network and All Settings on the new iPhone, handshakes between the iPhone and the cellular network began completing and telephone calls and text messages began flowing properly. Success, but it was only an incremental win.

The iPhone continued warning within General Settings that the device was eligible for AppleCare+. If you or anyone in your office encounter similar trouble, in which AppleCare+ is purchased with an iPhone but the AppleCare+ agreement isn't associated with the iPhone, remember the problem is solved by calling an AppleCare customer service representative at 1-800-APLCARE, as I was told Apple's chat-based customer support personnel are unable to resolve such an issue.

Fortunately, the AppleCare support team was able to migrate the initial AppleCare+ contract to the new device; the phone call, however, ultimately required 40 minutes to complete. Once I provided the original AppleCare+ agreement and the new device's serial number (two pieces of data I believe Apple should already have possessed) and that information was entered into Apple's provisioning system, I received the desired email message confirming the AppleCare+ contract migrated was now associated with the new, replacement iPhone 11.

All told, four phone calls and hours of time were required to resolve the myriad issues resulting from one missing iPhone. If similar trouble should arise, at least we now know which party is responsible for addressing which task. Regardless, I would have preferred the second device, sent to replace the initial missing device, functioned properly and possessed AppleCare+ coverage. But as a famous band often reminds us: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need."

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Image: Shara Tibken/CNET