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Apple & AT&T Victims of Own Success with iPhone 4S Activation Failures



UPS dropped off my iPhone 4s this morning and I tried to wirelessly activate it (which is nice, as you used to have to hook it up to a computer running iTunes). After three attempts activation failed. I searched Twitter, and guess what? Many people experienced the same thing. Sadly, the vaunted “Apple Out of Box Experience” looks a little less shiny today for me. I’ve purchased many iPhones, iPods, two iPads and two MacBooks and each time the out of box experience whipped the competition. Their products perform great almost immediately.

Today, they left me waiting. And GottaBeMobile editor Tobias Buckell reports he’s been trying since 9:30AM to get his phone to activate via AT&T with no luck, so I’m not alone in my frustration.

iPhone Activation Failed

Here's the screen you get if your activation fails

I know. Be patient! A lot of people bought an iPhone 4S. Many are trying to get their’s activated at home or in a store today. It’s just too bad that Apple and AT&T couldn’t prepare for this and make it a much better experience. Fortunately for them the early adopters are the hard-core buyers who will likely keep buying their products. But each time their servers struggle I get slightly less confident in this product. After all they touted the cloud as one of the primary new features that makes this phone a big upgrade over the iPhone 4S. Apple and the wireless carriers went down on the first day of preorders. Apple struggled under the load of iOS 5 updating, along with all the various other updates that came along for the ride. Now AT&T struggles to even activate your phone to make it useful.

The good news – patience wins and you will be activated eventually. Just keep trying and you will get through. As I said it took me three tries. How many did it take for you?

Under normal circumstances, this wireless process will provide a better experience for users. If you don’t buy your phone and receive it the same day that millions of others do, you should enjoy a much better activation experience than I did (or than buyers used to enjoy when it required hooking up to a computer to get online, which also used to have server issues in the past).



  1. Cardinal

    10/14/2011 at 11:20 am

    I’m up to try number 9

  2. Nigel

    10/14/2011 at 11:24 am

    it’s all providers it’s not just att.  it’s the appler servers

    • Karen

      10/14/2011 at 11:37 am

      I heard it was ONLY AT&T. *Goes to Google* ;) 

      • Johnson

        10/14/2011 at 11:43 am

        Typical AT&T basher, ignoring the fact that it’s all carriers.  I’m at try 27 and counting… yay

    • Buff_girl

      10/14/2011 at 1:08 pm

      Apple made the hardware and designed the software. We all have no problem ordering the phone on line and it did in fact arrived on Oct 14th as promised. We have to activate the phone through our phone carrier AT&T correct? The activation issue is with AT&T, not Apple!!!  

  3. Gus

    10/14/2011 at 11:27 am

    AT&T is so terrible…..the sooner you figure that out, the better.

    • Jay

      10/14/2011 at 11:35 am

      They’re getting the bulk of the bad press but Verizon and Sprint are having the same issues.  Don’t make heroes out of them

  4. Greg

    10/14/2011 at 11:28 am

    I am at attempt number 17!!!

  5. Jonnygoheavy

    10/14/2011 at 11:33 am

    After trying for an hour I called AT&T, they did it for me over the phone.

    • Guest

      10/14/2011 at 12:26 pm

      REALLY!? I called and sat on hold for 35 minutes to be told they couldn’t do it over the phone. That makes me even more frustrated.

  6. Jay

    10/14/2011 at 11:35 am

    Only three times?  If only.  I have tried nearly ten times in the last hours and a half and it’s a no go through either the wireless update or plugging in and going through iTunes.

  7. Karen

    10/14/2011 at 11:36 am

    10+ tries here. I WAS excited. I know, patience, but I’ve always been patient.  This is the first time I’ve bought the phone as soon as it was out and it’s been a downer, to say the least. 

    • Tangelwood42

      10/14/2011 at 12:06 pm

      Your pretty

    • Tangelwood42

      10/14/2011 at 12:08 pm

      Your really pretty

      • Tangelwood42

        10/14/2011 at 12:17 pm

        Are you busy l8tr?

        • Tangelwood42

          10/14/2011 at 12:18 pm

          Oh BTW, Greg? I hate your iPhone

        • Tangelwood42

          10/14/2011 at 12:20 pm

          Ugh! I need to get a life. When I start posting creepy crap like that, I know I’ve jumped off the deep end.
          Oh btw, apple activation sucks

  8. greg

    10/14/2011 at 11:37 am

    I took 8 tries. It went thru but said it was still in process and I will get an email when it is complete.

    • Phil

      10/14/2011 at 11:42 am

      ha, greg. i’ve got the deed to a bridge i can sell you too.

  9. REsrtd

    10/14/2011 at 11:47 am

    7 So far…

  10. Cooper Miller

    10/14/2011 at 11:47 am

    I did have done it at least 30 times… called and they did it over the phone, but it did nothing. They said that servers are backed up and though my phone is activated it may not work for 24 hours…. WTF

    • Guest

      10/14/2011 at 12:27 pm

      That’s what I got too “15 minutes to 24 hours”. Why thanks…

  11. Yet another Greg

    10/14/2011 at 11:48 am

    I’ve lost count

  12. Abe

    10/14/2011 at 11:51 am

    AT&T should be aware that everyone is trying to activate today, but they do nothing!  So annoying, I’ve tried too many times with no success…

  13. Anonymous

    10/14/2011 at 11:57 am

    im at like 30+ wtf oh well

  14. Guest

    10/14/2011 at 12:05 pm

    Tried about 50 times, called AT&T, said they activated over phone, still not working.  Called back, now I guess I have to wait for activation to sync up with servers.

    • Matthew Alex Ong

      10/14/2011 at 1:50 pm

      I tried to activate over the phone and ended up with my original phone not working. I had to switch out the sim card just to be able to use my original phone but the 4s still wont work lol. apparently they activated the sim card that came with the 4s and in the process deactivated my first sim card.

  15. Vick

    10/14/2011 at 12:05 pm

    3 hours+.. so disappointing!

  16. itsme

    10/14/2011 at 12:05 pm

    Everyone stop trying to I can activate my iphone

  17. Peter Jacobs

    10/14/2011 at 12:13 pm

    15 tries so far and still waiting on hold for ATT to come on the line. I hate them and wish so much that I had switched to Verizon. Rollover minutes aren’t worth crappy service.

  18. pdm777

    10/14/2011 at 12:17 pm

    The is only like…2 million people trying to activate their iPhone all at once…still ATT leads the pack…and I am sure they are not going to spend million to solve a problem that happens once a year.  I am just glad it is not just ATT that is having the problem.

  19. Vyahoo

    10/14/2011 at 12:40 pm

    when I called att they said it’s all itunes….they are so backed up and there is nothing they can do!

  20. Hermannbddlk

    10/14/2011 at 12:51 pm

    I was told not to try til monday…..

  21. B440bethea

    10/14/2011 at 1:10 pm

    I’m on try number 15 and a trip to ATT, not upset though. I love their products and being in such demand will keep theses coming. I can wait to meet my new personal assistant.  hehe….

  22. Community Organizer

    10/14/2011 at 1:18 pm

    Apple continues to make great products… AT&T continues to have lousy service.

    I’d advise anyone looking for the new iPhone 4S to sign-up with Sprint.

  23. Joshua

    10/14/2011 at 1:20 pm

    Tried 30+ times. Tried over cellular, wifi and iTunes. No dice. I’ll just keep trying. Sorry for clogging the system even more.

  24. tang

    10/14/2011 at 2:47 pm

    After trying 3-4 times via wifi, I tried with iTunes (tethered) and it worked on the first try. Hope that helps some of you.

  25. Ravann

    10/14/2011 at 3:09 pm

    i called AT&T and asked them to do a direct activation.  they manually entered my IMEI & ICCID numbers. 20min later, i was able to activate my phone through iTunes.  

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