10 Things Apple, Consumers Can Learn from iPhone Preorder Snafu

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-06-17

10 Things Apple, Consumers Can Learn from iPhone Preorder Snafu

When Apple first introduced the iPhone 4 and said consumers could start preordering the device on June 15, there was a general belief that the process would be handled properly. After all, this is the fourth-generation iPhone.

It would seem that by now, Apple and AT&T would know what they needed to do in order to handle demand for the smartphone. But it seems that, once again, they failed miserably. After long delays, private information leaks and all kinds of bad stories coming out of preorder day, Apple and AT&T are left to pick up the pieces of their mistakes.

On the consumer side, there are some valuable lessons to be learned. Not only does it illustrate the downright ineptitude of companies, but it shows what consumers should and should not do when one of the biggest releases of the year is available for preorder. There are some lessons to be learned by every stakeholder that was affected by the iPhone preorder snafu.

Let's take a look at 10 things that Apple and consumers can learn from the iPhone preorder debacle.

1. Don't trust AT&T

AT&T might be a fine carrier for its customers, but Apple should know by now that when AT&T says it will do something the right way, it typically fails. Although Apple and AT&T offered to take preorders for the iPhone 4, a source later claimed that AT&T never tested the system that it used to accept those orders, according to tech blog Gizmodo. AT&T didn't know for sure if the system could handle the load that buyers put on it. As expected by those who knew how high the demand would be, the preordering system went into a full meltdown. That's unacceptable. In the future, AT&T should be held to a higher standard.

2. Demand is getting greater

It seemed that everyone but Apple and AT&T knew that demand for the iPhone 4 would be greater than for the iPhone 3GS. In a news release sent out by AT&T, it complained that traffic related to iPhone 4 upgrades was much higher than the traffic it experienced in 2009 when the iPhone 3GS was released. Why AT&T thought that was such a surprise is anyone's guess. Steve Jobs said himself that the iPhone 4 is one of the biggest upgrades the iPhone has ever had. The device has so many of the features that consumers have been waiting for. It only makes sense that demand is growing.

3. Waiting is not an option

In the future, consumers should know that waiting until their lunch breaks to try and preorder an iPhone just isn't the best idea. As soon as preorders are made available, Apple customers need to start hitting AT&T's servers. Not only does it cut down the chances of them being kept out of launch-day units, but it also helps guard against massive downtime that occurs later in the day. If nothing else, consumers learned this week that putting off preordering is never a good idea.

4. Going to stores isn't a bad idea

Some of the luckier iPhone customers decided to head to their local AT&T brick-and-mortar stores June 15 to place a preorder. Although folks were required to stand in long lines to order an iPhone 4, the majority of them were able to get their requests in. Those that tried to go to an AT&T store on June 16, though, were mostly turned away. For next year, consumers should keep that in mind. Maybe driving to a local AT&T store on preorder day is a better idea than trying to compete with millions across the United States on the Web.

Theres Plenty of Blame to Go Around

 5. This won't be the last time

Make no mistake: iPhone preordering snafus will never end. Over the next few years, it's entirely likely that Apple will sell ever more iPhones. And when it does, the company will be putting even more pressure on its partner's (or partners') servers. Realizing that, consumers will need to come up with better ways of getting their orders in before the crowds start slowing everything down. And all the while, they're going to have to accept that, unfortunately, similar preorder debacles will continue to plague the market until someone finds a solution.

6. Privacy is never guaranteed

Surfing to AT&T's site and entering personal account credentials should seem like a safe practice, right? Think again. According to reports, AT&T's server glitches caused some users to log in to the wrong accounts. They were able to view plan information, a stranger's name, number and address, and much more. The problem was quickly addressed, but it's a real privacy concern. Consumers must keep in mind that privacy is never guaranteed. And being as prudent as possible is always best when surfing the Web.

7. There is still hope

Believe it or not, those who were locked out of the preordering process might still have a slight chance of getting their hands on an iPhone 4 when it hits store shelves next week. According to Apple, a small number of iPhones will be available to purchase on launch day in its stores. A limited stock should also be available at Apple's retail partners, RadioShack, Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Admittedly, the available stock will be small, so only the early birds will get the iPhones. But it's worth a try for folks who want Apple's new smartphone on the day it launches.

8. The preorder process is broken

Although there is probably no way around it, AT&T's preorder debacle proves once again that the very idea of accepting preorders for a product either in a store or online is the wrong way to go about accommodating customers. Yes, demand is high for the iPhone and there are few opportunities for companies to easily manage all the orders that will come through on launch day. But having brick-and-mortars, Web users and other Apple customers all competing for a finite number of iPhones on launch day is a pain. Something needs to be done to address the preordering process.

9. There is something to be said for patience

There is something to be said for waiting for an iPhone 4. On June 16, Apple announced that those who preordered the iPhone 4 would be getting their devices on July 2. Starting June 17, those dates were pushed back to July 14. As annoying as that might be for some folks, it's not such a bad thing to wait. There should be ample supplies in stores in the coming month, and customers won't need to worry about the hassle of trying to pick up their phones in stores on June 24.

10. Apple isn't innocent

It seems that most of the coverage of the preordering issue has focused on AT&T's handling of the situation. And although the company is certainly wrong and it should be held accountable, Apple is also to blame. It should have insisted that AT&T test its system before the iPhone 4 was offered for preorder, if in fact that wasn't done. Apple could have also done a better job of handling demand and determining how many people would want to get their hands on the latest iPhone. AT&T is certainly the bigger factor in this situation, but Apple shouldn't come out of it unscathed. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include the source of the claim that AT&T didn't test its preorder system.

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