Pre-orders for the new iPhone 4 began today, and AT&T's systems, as well as Apple's, were inundated with customers, slowing transactions to a crawl. In some cases, according to reports, the systems took customer data without completing the orders. AT&T said in a statement late Tuesday that no crucial personal data was shared. However, the crush of problems also means that anyone ordering the phone from Tuesday afternoon on "will receive their device on June 25 or later, depending on when the order is placed.
"We’ll email customers with confirmation once their order is placed, and again when it ships. In addition, we will have devices available on a first-come, first-serve basis in our stores beginning on June 24," AT&T said in a statement.
"Because of the incredible interest in iPhone 4, today was the busiest online sales day in AT&T history."
There were problems on several fronts Tuesday, a day that was meant to make everything iPhone-related easier, especially come June 24, when the phone goes on sale.
Apple introduced a free Apple Store app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but that may have added to the crush.
"The rush of iPhone 4 pre-orders that slowed the online Apple Store to a crawl also tripped up the Apple Store app. For some customers, it simply wouldn't open. For others, it started taking data — phone numbers, social security digits and ZIP codes — and then crashed," Fortune magazine reported.
"Trying to pre-order an iPhone 4. Keeps choking in different ways, Working for anyone?" said technology writer Harry McCracken on Twitter.
Early in the day, AT&T declined to comment on the problems. But later, the company said in a statement: "We have received reports of customers inadvertently seeing the wrong account information during the iPhone 4 purchasing process. We have been unable to replicate the issue, but the information displayed did not include call-detail records, social security numbers, or credit card information.
"In the meantime, we are looking into this matter."
The topic is touchy because of its nature, but also because AT&T received somewhat of a black eye last week when it was revealed that a hacker's group breached the wireless carrier's Web servers and accessed 114,000 e-mail addresses of iPad 3G customers. The FBI has said it is looking into what happened, with many of those customers being military and government officials.
Tuesday, one customer who tried to place a pre-order and couldn't, called Apple and was told by a customer service representative: “We have teams actively working on a solution but an ETA for when the situation will be resolved has not been issued.” The Apple representative described the situation as "all hands on deck."
Computerworld's editor-in-chief, Scot Finnie, "spent more than five hours trying to order an iPhone 4, and was repeatedly blocked by the upgrade eligibility check," the publication said on its website.
"When others at Computerworld tried to place an order, AT&T's site returned the message, 'Due to a system upgrade the site is temporarily unavailable, please try again later.' At least one Computerworld editor managed to successfully place an order around 8:15 a.m. ET."
Others had better luck. "Just used the new iPhone Apple Retail App ... reserved my iPhone 4 for in-store pickup in under 60 seconds while running (between) meetings. Score," said Sebastian Cross, a research specialist for Forrester Research around 3 p.m. ET on Twitter.
Long lines were evident in many cities around the country, but it's not clear yet whether the lines are long because orders now appear to be being taken by hand rather than computer, or because of true demand.
Even the iPhone-based Apple Store app, which Apple launched to make it convenient for customers to pre-order from their current phones, seemed under siege Tuesday, several customers noted on Web sites and on Twitter.
The iPhone 4, which becomes available June 24, costs $299 for a 32-gigabyte model with a two-year AT&T contract, and $199 for a 16 GB model.
To the additional disappointment and surprise of some customers, the white iPhone, shown by Apple CEO Steve Jobs last week, is not available for pre-order. The only color available is black.
The pre-order problems may have extended to other countries.
"Japan is already wild for Apple's latest iPhone," wrote Tomoko A. Hosaka, Associated Press reporter in Tokyo. "Pre-orders began Tuesday at 5 p.m., and the early rush for the iPhone 4 led to long lines around Tokyo and overwhelmed computer servers struggling to keep up with demand."