Apple's 600,000 iPhone 4 Preorders Crashed System

Apple became a victim of its own success June 15, when an unexpected 600,000 preorders for its iPhone 4 managed to crash both its and AT&T's ordering systems. AT&T continues to be the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States. Apple posted an apology on its Website for what it described as "many order and approval system malfunctions," although demand for the iPhone 4 has pushed the ship date for preorders until July 14. The iPhone 4 represents Apple's latest attempt to hold back the rising challenge presented by Google Android smartphones.

Apple and AT&T found themselves hit by unexpected demand for the iPhone 4, which promptly sold 600,000 units after going on preorder June 15. That effectively crashed both companies' ordering systems; reports circulated of AT&T employees were forced to jot customers' details on paper after store computers melted down, and visitors to both AT&T's and Apple's Websites encountered error messages.

"It was the largest number of preorders Apple has ever taken in a single day and was far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions," read a June 16 statement posted on Apple's Website. "Many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties."

In comments to CNN, an AT&T spokesperson described June 15 as "the busiest online sales day in AT&T history," adding that customers who preordered that afternoon or later would likely receive their device after June 25. Apple also indicated demand-related delays for the iPhone 4, with a note on its Website suggesting that those preordering now would need to wait until July 14 for their smartphone to ship.

Apple had previously announced that the iPhone 4 would be widely available June 24, in either black or white. The 16GB version retails for $199, and the 32GB version for $299, with a two-year contract through AT&T. In addition to a larger battery capable of 7 hours of talk time and a thinner body, the device includes a front-facing camera for video conferencing and a built-in three-axis gyroscope. Its iOS4 operating system, previously dubbed "iPhone OS 4," includes new features such as multitasking.

During his keynote presentation June 7 at Apple's 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that the iPhone 4 represented "the biggest leap since the original iPhone," according to a live transcript of the event, adding: "This is beyond doubt one of the most precise, beautiful things we've ever done."

The iPhone 4 represents Apple's hopes of staying ahead in the consumer smartphone market, where it finds itself confronting a rising threat from the growing family of Google Android devices. Despite the fervor of its competitors, however, Apple has enjoyed a recent run of success, including sales of more than 2 million iPads.