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Some iPhone glitches reported

Hang-ups include activation problems and insufficient tech aid, an analyst says. But many new owners are thrilled.

July 02, 2007|Josh Friedman and Ronald D. White | Times Staff Writers

Apple Inc.'s iPhone was a sellout at many AT&T stores, but the flood of new phones also caused network glitches for some customers.

Shoppers snatched up about 525,000 of the devices at Apple and AT&T stores from Friday's launch through Sunday, said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research in San Francisco.

A "small percentage" of customers experienced problems activating the devices, said spokesman Mark Siegel of AT&T Inc.

"Our first priority is to get them up and rolling as quickly as we can," Siegel said.

He said the problems were minimal, considering the "revolutionary" device and a new activation process.

AT&T -- the only wireless service that works with the multifunctional iPhone -- typically activates mobile phones in its stores, but for iPhones the process is handled online at Apple's iTunes website.

Some delays have arisen because customers with cellphone service through their workplaces need approval from their companies to switch to personal accounts for iPhone service, Siegel said.

Half of the Apple stores on the West Coast sold out of the devices on the first day, Chowdhry estimated.

AT&T declined to comment on the availability of the device or sales totals, but according to news reports most of its 1,800 stores ran out of stock by Saturday.

Chowdhry said AT&T apparently had insufficient technical support staff on hand because it hadn't prepared for such heavy demand.

"The load was more than the system was designed to handle," Chowdhry said.

One buyer who was thrilled with her purchase was business owner Pam Shan, who was biking on the ocean trail near Newport Beach on Sunday afternoon.

She was talking on her iPhone, which was linked to her Oakley Bluetooth sunglasses, and enjoying better reception than she ever had near the beach before.

"Mostly this phone just works really well," she said. "We haven't stopped playing with it. We've been adding photos and enlarging them. I've added 600 songs to it. I'm using the date calendar. It's neat. It's like having a computer in my hand."

Shan was having just one problem, but not an insignificant one. No voicemail was getting through, she said, although her iPhone did register that she had received a call and gave her the telephone number.

Otherwise, she called the device a big improvement over the Palm Treo she'd owned previously.

"It wasn't easy to see things, and you had that little pencil that wasn't easy to use, and if you lost it you were up an alley," she said. "This is all touch screen, and the quality of the pictures is fantastic."

To describe just how much in love with his iPhone he was, Sean Kersaint launched into his best imitation of Gollum, the nasty little creature from "The Lord of the Rings."

"Oh, it's my precious," the New Yorker said as he strolled down West Broadway on a breezy evening. Kersaint had never owned a BlackBerry or a Treo and never considered himself very technical, but the iPhone was making it easy to feel like he was.

"It's very user-friendly," he said. "I was just listening to music and it faded and once I hang up, the music will resume from the point it stopped. I can text-message and be on the phone at the same time. I can run other applications while I'm doing something else. I can work on the Internet while listening to music."

Another buyer's expectations were quite high after a nearly 24-hour wait in line, but 17-year-old receptionist Veronica Bautista of Sunnyvale, Calif., said she was pleased so far.

"Everyone that I have showed it to really likes it," she said. "I've used it for the Internet, texting and for e-mails. Some of the phones I had before had lousy cameras, but this one is really good. It's as good as a Razr phone camera."

josh.friedman@latimes.com

ron.white@latimes.com

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