Early iPhone 4S Pre-Order Experience: Not Great

For a company that prides itself on the customer experience and tight control of its products and launches, Apple’s iPhone 4S pre-order launch has been dismal with constant crashes, stores not in place at the right time, and broken links. The launch anomaly during tonight’s pre-orders, which began at 12:01 Pacific Time on October 7th, shows carriers rising to the challenge as a Jobs-less Apple buckles under pressure.

In the first two hours of pre-orders, we see Verizon’s online store operating flawlessly while there have been numerous reports of problems with other web stores, including Apple’s own. While I initially suggested users go to Apple first to pre-order, tonight’s early launch report suggests that users may have better experiences with their carriers.

Here’s how it went down tonight:

Apple

Apple’s store was missing in action for the first 40 minutes of launch. The store was under maintenance for the first 40 minutes of pre-orders and was not down, it seems, due to heavy traffic load, which is odd for the polish that Apple is known for. Perhaps, in trying not to break the launch early, the web team took a long break and…to use Tim Cook’s language…went and had a cup of coffee. An hour into the launch, and the links weren’t working right, and some steps in the pre-order process were broken and required constant refreshes or to start over.

AT&T

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Next up is AT&T, which had crashed initially under heavy traffic assault. When the site did go live, it didn’t allow users to even pre-order the iPhone 4S initially, leaving only the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS. When the iPhone 4S finally was made available for pre-order, various processes timed out or did not work, including the eligibility checker, credit card verification, and others.

Sprint

Sprint did a commendable job for its first time offering an iPhone on its network. The pre-order page was live when it should have been, unlike with Apple’s store, and handled initial traffic fine. As traffic increased though, Sprint did buckle under pressure.

Verizon Wireless

And Verizon, with its robust network, shows that it had placed as much planning into the iPhone 4S pre-order as it did with its network. Nothing to complain about here.

The question remains though is that with all the traffic and pre-orders going on, how much inventory is Apple allocating to each carrier for the initial days of launch? With tight supply and strong demand, if you were not among the first to pre-order with your carrier, would you still get an iPhone 4S shipped to you for October 14th or would you have to wait in line?

In the past, carriers received far less supply than if customers were to order through Apple. With pre-orders on AT&T last year, some customers had to wait days or a week to get their pre-order while Apple delivered all their pre-0rders on launch day. While your pre-order experience may be smoother going through your carrier right now, the issue of inventory still remains for those who are eager to be among the first on the blog to get their iPhone 4S on launch day.

More importantly though, those who want to be among the first to get the iPhone 4S should pre-order and get their devices delivered. This way, they are guaranteed the device that they want in the color that they want and customers don’t need to wait in line come October 14.

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