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AT&T temporarily suspends iPhone pre-orders

Image: AT&T iPhone pre-order screenshot
This message greeted customers who went to AT&T's Web site Wednesday to pre-order the iPhone 4, which goes on sale June 24.

AT&T has temporarily suspended pre-orders of the iPhone 4, after system problems Tuesday with processing orders for Apple's new phone resulted in confusion, frustration and possible data breaches. Meanwhile, Apple continues to take pre-orders at its Web site, but said the phone will ship "by July 14," nearly three weeks after it goes on sale.

Those who visited AT&T's website Wednesday to pre-order the device were greeted with the stark message: "Pre-orders for iPhone temporarily suspended."

"iPhone 4 pre-order sales yesterday were 10 times higher than the first day of pre-ordering for the iPhone 3G S last year," AT&T said in a statement. "Given this unprecedented demand and our current expectations for our iPhone 4 inventory levels when the device is available June 24, we’re suspending pre-ordering today in order to fulfill the orders we’ve already received."

The company said "the availability of additional inventory will determine if we can resume taking pre-orders."

Apple, in a rare public statement, said the company and AT&T took pre-orders for more than 600,000 iPhone 4's on Tuesday, the first day of pre-orders.

"It was the largest number of pre-orders Apple has ever taken in a single day and was far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions," Apple said.

"Many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties, and hope that they will try again or visit an Apple or carrier store once the iPhone 4 is in stock."

Tuesday brought "unprecedented pre-order sales," AT&T said, with "more than 13 million visits to AT&T’s website where customers can check to see if they are eligible to upgrade to a new phone; that number is about three times higher than the previous record for eligibility upgrade checks in one day."

Apple's website for iPhone pre-orders Wednesday appeared to be up and running, despite a deluge on Tuesday and slowness in getting through to the site. Apple's site was accepting orders only for black models — and not the white iPhone.

The jam-up at the pre-order stage almost guarantees long lines outside Apple and AT&T stores that have typified iPhone releases since 2007, when it first came out.

Apple Tuesday also had problems with the company's new Apple Store app for the iPhone meant to facilitate pre-ordering of the new phone by current iPhone customers.

AT&T said late Tuesday that it was looking into problems that resulted in "customers inadvertently seeing the wrong account information during the iPhone 4 purchasing process," after reports by some who were placing orders that they were seeing the data of other AT&T customers. In some cases, AT&T's systems took customer data without completing the orders.

"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," AT&T said.

Any release of personal information is added aggravation for the carrier, as well as a concern to consumers. Last week, AT&T apologized for a security breach that enabled hackers to obtain 114,000 e-mail addresses of Apple iPad 3G customers, including many government and military officials. The FBI said it is investigating.

AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States. The new phone, which includes video calling between iPhone 4 users, costs $299 for a 32-gigabyte model with a two-year AT&T contract, and $199 for a 16 GB model.

Troubles in meeting demand for the iPhone aren't new. But the latest apparent breach and other recent security foul-ups by AT&T could lead to identity theft — and have consequences for both companies. Customers have called for Apple to allow other carriers to serve the iPhone in the U.S., and the latest problems offer another argument.

Some customers who tried to buy an iPhone 4 on Tuesday said they were met with error messages on the company websites, and lines formed in stores as clerks tried to get orders into their systems.

On, a technology website, several readers posted stories of trying to log into their AT&T accounts to upgrade to the newest iPhone and being sent instead into strangers' accounts. That could set the stage for identity theft scams such as ordering other products under that person's name.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.