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Not all roses for proud new iPhone owners

Proud owners of Apple Inc.’s iPhone raved about their first day with the device on Saturday, but a glitch took the shine off the year’s most anticipated device for a few unlucky customers.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Proud owners of Apple Inc.’s iPhone raved about their first day with the device on Saturday, but a glitch took the shine off the year’s most anticipated device for a few unlucky customers.

Of 11 iPhone owners contacted by Reuters on Saturday, nine reported little or no trouble setting up their handsets, a combined cell phone, music player and Web browser.

“It’s awesome, it’s the best thing I ever saw in my life,” said New York private detective Jerry Gregory. “Once people see this phone they are going to want one. Everybody I show this phone wants one, even people who were anti-iPhone.”

But Brad Bargman of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who waited in line 9 hours on Friday to buy his phone, said excitement turned to dismay when the device stubbornly refused to activate, meaning it can’t be used.

“It’s a real buzz kill,” said Bargman, adding that repeated calls to AT&T failed to get the device to work. “Now I’m soured on it a little bit.”

David Clayman, the third person in line at Apple’s flagship Manhattan store, said he was still unable to activate his iPhone a day later, probably because he couldn’t update the Apple software on his computer needed to start the process

Tim Johnson of Collegeville, Penn., found himself still staring at a crippled — albeit sleek and sexy — gadget on Saturday afternoon, more than 18 hours after he had waited in line to buy the device.

“It looks cool, but I can’t do anything with it,” he said. “I’m angry and frustrated and feel like I wasted my time standing in line.”

Jennifer Bowcock, an Apple spokeswoman, said Apple was also working to minimize the problem for its customers.

Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones were available at launch or sold at its 162 stores, where eager customers camped out for as long as four days.

A feature that allows customers to activate their iPhone’s cell phone service by logging onto Apple’s iTunes software from their computers led many buyers to head straight home to christen the device. Some even logged on from their laptops outside the stores Friday and quickly started using the phone, saying the activation process took only minutes.

“It’s amazing and it was so easy to set up,” said Liz Cecchini of San Antonio, Texas. She and her husband lined up a day before the launch, enduring pouring rain to buy four — one each for themselves, their 15-year-old daughter and a friend.

But untold others were stalled Friday when they received a computer message saying the process “will take some additional time.”

Bowcock would not disclose whether Apple stores were already running out of stock Saturday. The company’s flagship store in San Francisco had sold out of the 8-gigabyte $599 model by Saturday but still had $499 4-gigabyte versions available.

AT&T: We're nearly sold out
But in a sign of strong initial demand, AT&T said it had sold almost all its phones within hours of the device going on sale at its 1,800 stores. The company did not say how many units it had sold.

Asked about problems some buyers were having, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said the “vast majority” of customers were able to use their phones within minutes.

“There are some whose activation process is being delayed and that’s something that can happen in a launch like this and we’re resolving those on a case-by-case basis,” Siegel said.

Apple aims to sell 10 million units in 2008, giving it 1 percent of the global mobile phone market. The company is banking that the iPhone will become its third pillar product alongside its popular iPod music players and Mac computers.

By mid-afternoon on Saturday, Apple’s store in downtown San Francisco was crowded with shoppers interested in the iPhone display. The store was sold out of the $600 models and about 10 $500 models were visible on shelves.

As of 4:45 p.m. EDT Saturday, eBay Inc. said about 745 out of 8,000 iPhone offerings had been sold on the online auction site at an average price of $962.

‘A living sculpture in my hands’
Indeed, the iPhone’s inclusion of so many features into a sleek package triggered a sort of nerd rapture among enthralled gadget freaks.

“It’s not like it’s a computer, it’s not like it’s a phone, it’s like a living sculpture in my hands,” said Dale Larson, a mobile business consultant in San Francisco.

Buyers cited the large screen, full-blown Internet browser, ability to play music and video, and camera quality as among the phone’s best features.

Two of the top concerns raised prior to the phone’s launch -- the on-screen keyboard and quality of AT&T’s network -- were annoying to some people, but no one said they regretted buying the device.

“At first I tried to use my thumbs to type but it didn’t work so well. But if I use my finger it’s okay,” said software developer Tim Brown.