Rough Launch for iPhone 3G

Apple iPhone
Source: Reuters

The launch of the iPhone 3G has not gone smoothly. Existing iPhone customers have had difficulty downloading the new version of iTunes and the new 2.0 firmware. Meanwhile, some of the new customers for the iPhone 3G have had to deal with activation problems and insufficient inventory.

In his constant quest of oneupsmanship, CEO Steve Jobs promised a 22-nation rollout on July 11. That overreach may have been part of the problem. Sites like Engadget, Gizmodo and MacRumors reported that stores were sold out by mid-day, and people attempting to download the new software and firmware suffered repeated timeouts.

Ken Levy, a programmer in the Seattle area, relayed his experience early Friday morning in an e-mail to

“So about 35 minutes ago, the iPhone 2.0 [firmware] was finally available. About halfway through, the process backed out and did a firmware restore. It then said ‘factory default’ settings complete, and my iPhone is deactivated. I don’t know if I lost all my data and settings, but it appears I may have. Now when I load iTunes, it says it cannot connect to the servers.”

Later in the day, Levy had better news. He was able to connect to the servers, the download continued, the 2.0 firmware was installed and he had no lost any of his data. “I don’t think it will be a matter of people losing anything, they just have to be patient. It’s just one of those things that happens when you launch a new phone,” he said.

Analyst Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group said Apple was foolish to try such a huge launch, especially since the initial iPhone launch last year had its own problems with customer overload bogging down the network. “For a vendor to do this mistake twice is stupid,” he told “They should have staggered this launch. There’s no advantage to a global launch other than bragging rights.”

Levy also felt the company should have staggered the launch. “I think they would have frustrated customers a lot less if they had to wait 24 or 48 hours rather than go through this,” he said. “If they would have distributed the update only to new people and 1.0 [iPhone customers] waited, it’s possible all the new customers would have had a better experience.”

Calls to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) for comment were not returned by press time.

iPhones being bricked

Beyond just the slowness of the launch, Enderle postulated that the numerous reports of old iPhones being bricked by failed firmware updates may be endemic of a bigger problem. Just as installing a new operating system on an old PC is often a recipe for disaster, he thinks it might be time to apply that caution to the smart phone market.

“Traditionally, what we’ve done is if someone wants the new features, customers get a new phone. As we turn these phones more and more into laptop computers, I really wonder if we shouldn’t rethink how we apply new operating systems on the phone,” he said.

Perhaps customers could go to the store and have the process of backup and installation done by techs there, who know what they are doing and have the tools necessary for the job, Enderle suggested. It might be smarter than letting someone download an update and install it, especially if they are traveling for business and their cell phone is bricked by a bad update. “The underlying process as it currently exists seems way too risky for me,” said Enderle.

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