Finally, at 9:00, the doors opened and about five minutes later the manager finally arrived. Just as well, too, because the single member of staff who had arrived couldn't get anything to work. Systems were down, no orders could be processed and after an hour and a half we were told they'd put handsets aside for us and call us back. Being a customer of the O2 through The Carphone Warehouse it turned out, according the store manager at least, I'd need to get a PAC code.
So, when I got back to the office, I called to get one. As it turns out I didn't really need one, since it would be automatically generated with the order. I was also told that I could order over the phone and have one delivered on Monday. After my experience earlier in the day this seemed like a good idea. After five minutes it was all done. Will I get one on Monday? I'm not holding my breath, but I certainly hope so!
Clearly, my experience is one that many will be able to relate to. To add insult to injury, the activation process had problems as well, as many readers have attested to:
Benjamin said: "All morning and part of Monday afternoon spent messing about trying to upgrade online and O2's systems crash under the strain. Friday morning, try to upgrade in O2's store, system crashes under the strain. Finally get iPhone home and try to activate ... well you know the story by now. I think this launch can be described as unprofessionally clumsy at best but I can think of many other ways to put it too."
Tony Walker said: "Finally, my turn. The servers were acting up again but finally the Apple guy got the chance to activate the phone. KABOOM!! The servers exploded again. A further chance was attempted a short while later with the same result."
But, in the midst of all the chaos, praise was to be had too:
Bradders said: "I got my 16GB iPhone by 9.30am. I arrived at Knightsbridge branch of Carphone Warehouse at a very civilised 7.50am there were only 4 people in front of me in the queue. Yes, the systems were slow, but the efficient staff took our details and started the ball rolling with our upgrades/new contracts. I went for a coffee and breakfast and was called about 9.30 to say my phone was all ready to collect."
Others had praise for Apple stores and their considerate treatment of customers during the troubles, while others were able to walk in and out of stores within minutes. As ever it's hard to know what percentage of customers had good or bad experiences, but the consensus seems to be there were some clear and obvious failings.
Who takes the blame? Clearly both O2 and Apple had their fair share of problems, be it making credit checks, processing orders and activating phones. Yet, from the beginning of the week it was clear preparation for this launch hadn't been as good as it could have been. In shop systems, clearly more used to dealing with a small number of requests per day, were ill suited to a mass onslaught and the online ordering systems weren't much better.
Paradoxically, of course, whatever the travails of customers, the iPhone 3G has predictably sold out - a perverse sort of success. Will Apple be re-considering its exclusive deal with O2 for the iPhone? No one would blame it for doing so and O2 need to do some serious work to regain the trust of its customers. Though, when you have a monopoly, what choice does a consumer have? A Nokia E71 perhaps?