It's Alive! Alive!

45 hours later, the iPhone works. And ... I'm spent.

Unbelievable. The iPhone lives!

The last tip I received from AT&T support worked. I had to go back to the AT&T store and get a new SIM card. Activation was a snap after that.

Of course, getting the SIM card was typically surreal. As I approached the salesman, I told him that AT&T's phone support had told me to come in, and then I gave him a brief explanation. He looked at me and, in rapid succession, said:

"We can't do that."

"I can sell you a SIM card."

"We're not permitted to do that."

I am sure the look on my face was priceless. I was ready to begin either begging, crying or pummeling something, but I gave it one last attempt to explain that his own company had sent me on this fool's errand.

The guy miraculously acquiesced, saying he would give me a SIM card but was not allowed to replace the card in the iPhone. Since I was already a pro at removing the SIM when I foolishly tried to put it in my old cell phone after AT&T canceled my original card the day before, I quickly accepted his terms.

Just for kicks, I had the guy verify my account—that I had been transferred to a newer, iPhone-supported voice plan. Indeed, it was done. Of course, I've heard that before.

Once I got back home, I installed the new SIM into the iPhone. iTunes restarted the activation procedure from scratch, and I entered the exact same information I did almost two full days ago.

Within minutes, it was obvious things were different this time around. The iPhone informed me that activation was almost complete, and I could synchronize data while I waited—something I had not seen before. Next thing I knew, I was getting congratulations and thank-you notes from Apple and AT&T via e-mail regarding my new iPhone.

I know that I'm primed for an argument next month, when I presume AT&T will send me a bill for two activations and phone lines. But that's a problem for next month's Andrew. Today's Andrew is too exhausted to try to even start playing with the damn thing. Well, maybe not ...

To other people in the same activation hell, I have a few suggestions to speed things up. 1) Do anything possible to get them to upgrade your account (via phone, in person, whatever). 2) Have them remove any odd or unusual legacy feature line items. 3) Get a new SIM card.

Here's the stats on my little ordeal:

Time between purchase and activation - 45 hoursActivation wait (1st attempt) - 43 1/2 hoursActivation wait (2nd attempt) - 1/4 hourStore clerks - 3Phone tech support workers - 6Hours on hold (total) - less than an hour (shocking! It was the only thing missing)