The glow is off Steve Jobs' halo. Turns out the patron saint of electronic hipness has feet of clay and they don't walk on water. What should have been a triumphant resurrection of the Jesus Phone turned into a public relations disaster last week, as Apple's servers got overwhelmed by eager phanboys trying to activate their new toys.
Apparently, somebody at Apple thought it was a great idea to pick the same day to a) activate iPhones, ii) launch the iPhone AppStore, and C) make the iPhone 2.0 firmware upgrade available for downloading -- all via iTunes. So not only were new iPhone 3Gs turned into bricks for an entire day, so were many iPhone 1.0 models. That person is now hanging by his or her thumbs in a dungeon deep within the bowels of Apple.
Mitchell Ashley, blogging for Network World, described the problem thusly:
iTunes activation and download servers proved woefully inadequate to handle the demand created by the Apple marketing machine. iTunes not only proved to be the single point of failure for new iPhone 3G buyers, but all of activation problems had the ripple effect of disabling iPhones and iTouch devices which failed in the middle of the 2.0 firmware update process. Only emergency calls could be made from disabled iPhones.
Nice. That's just what the world needed -- a US$200 gizmo for calling 911.
Apparently Apple sorted out the mess by day's end on Friday, though not after distraught iPhone phans had to spend an entire day bereft of their loved ones. (I understand suicide hotlines were overwhelmed with calls for much of the day.)
That's not the only bit of tarnish on St. Stephen's tunic. PC World's Melissa Perenson says she didn't have any problems activating The Holy Phone, but she did say actually locating AT&T's elusive 3G coverage was like looking for Waldo:
I've driven a nearly 2-hour stretch on Long Island, New York--a stretch that is clearly marked on AT&T's coverage map as being 3G capable. Along one stretch of the major highway I achieved wildly varying data rates, spanning from 96 to 350 kilobits per second. Not once did I get above 400 kbps on the iphonenetwork.com bandwidth test.... Plenty of times the phone would register as being on 3G when it was connecting at pokey speeds of 192 kbps or less. I'm guessing that the phone is sensing that I'm on a 3G network, just a slow one. But if that's what I'm going to get, then why buy an iPhone 3G in the first place?
She's also got a few nits to pick with the unit's limited GPS coverage and problems with the AppStore. Meanwhile, PCW's Tim Moynihan has a list of things that should be in the iPhone but aren't -- yet, anyway.