3G iPhone launch descends into farce in US and UK

It was almost inevitable, given all the hype around Apple's 3G iPhone launched in 22 countries last Friday, including Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the UK.

In the UK, O2's credit checking system crashed so that besieged Apple stores couldn't connect to the O2 network.

This was a microcosm of the US launch, where customers couldn't get their phones to work either due to software glitch and huge numbers of people had to stand in line for hours. A spokesman for AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the US, said there was a global problem with Apple's iTunes servers that prevented the phones from being fully activated in the stores, as planned.

In the UK there were complaints that it took up to an hour to deal with each customer; carrying out credit checks manually led to huge queues building up. Having waited for several hours, it turned out that there weren't enough 16Gb devices go round either.

Earlier in the week, O2's website had collapsed under the weight of the interest shown in the new 3G iPhone. Carphone Warehouse, the other UK iPhone outlet didn't get phones to many of its customers on Friday either, causing considerable fury.

Many of the problems in the UK were blamed on the convoluted procedures put in place in an attempt to stop users unlocking the device for use on the network of their choice an iPhone, forcing them to provide photographic ID.

Initial problems aside, there seems to be general satisfaction among users, despite the fact that you can't send or receive MMS, that the camera hasn't been upgraded (still no flash or zoom facility) and the grease-attracting composite back is less classy then the chrome back of the first generation.

Also, users can't open the unit to insert a fresh battery, which would have been a boon, given that some reviewers claim the battery only lasts 4 hours or so using 3G.

Still it has got GPS and the new app store should do wonders for the download app market, even if it is stitched into iTunes very tightly and of a heavy American bias.

As The Inquirer commented, "Overall though, the device is still playing on its own within a crowded market - its heads and tails above the other miserable excuses for touch-screen phones."