They Murdered the Experience: iPhone purchase and activation

One of the first things that gave me joy about iPhone 1.0 was the purchase, activation and setup experience.

If you’ve ever bought a cell phone, you’ve probably experienced pain going through all the many confusing options (in store or over the phone) for plans, dealing with upselling for warranties and accessories, answering all the questions and waiting for computer problems, credit checks, etc. Then onto quirks activating and setting up. Nothing about the process seems considerate of the customer, their time and frustration. Before iPhone 1.0, this was true across all the carriers and handsets out there.

iPhone 1.0 and AT&T changed all that, simplifying plans and choices, allowing you to purchase a phone with a credit card in seconds (like buying groceries), and providing for activation at your home computer with just a few simple questions.

I’d often evangelized this part of the experience as setting iPhone apart, as a brilliant move by Apple, and as something that would hopefully have an impact on the industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, it seems that in solving a business problem, AT&T and Apple have dropped that focus on the customer and their experience and taken us back to the days before iPhone 1.0. I can only hope that they will consider this a mistake, learn from it, and find a way to put the experience first again while addressing the business problems. They still have it in them to change the industry.

I’d love to hear from Apple or AT&T how they went about deciding this way to do things, retreating so far from the brave stand they took with 1.0.

4 thoughts on “They Murdered the Experience: iPhone purchase and activation

  1. I was there and listened in to your experience (I was several people behind you in line). With all due respect, they had warned you beforehand that you were a corporate customer and had to buy from an ATT store, but you insisted they help you anyway which they went out of their way to do. I think you need to take a little responsibility for your experience.

  2. I was there and listened in to your experience (I was several people behind you in line). With all due respect, they had warned you beforehand that you were a corporate customer and had to buy from an ATT store, but you insisted they help you anyway which they went out of their way to do. I think you need to take a little responsibility for your experience.

  3. Thanks for your comment.It’s entirely possible that I missed something that you caught while we were in line, but I honestly had no idea that this was going to be an issue or that it applied to me.Apple handed out a card that said we’d need our SSN, ID and a credit card, to buy a phone. Apparently, I failed to read and fully understand some of the small print.Only after having been in the store for quite some time did I learn that, in addition to the problems with servers being down on the sales side and iTunes being overwhelmed on the activation side, there was an issue for me because my personal account once had a corporate discount attached to it (it’s not a “corporate account” and I’m not a “corporate customer”).That discount had been unused since I bought the original iPhone (which originally didn’t allow discounts). It didn’t enter my mind and I had no idea it might cause a problem.Apple found they couldn’t remove the discount (without a 72 hour delay), couldn’t sell me a phone without removing the discount, and couldn’t find an AT&T store that still had stock available to sell me (since they had limited allocation for Friday). They literally couldn’t help me except by giving me a phone or turning me away empty handed.I think the folks at the Apple Store did a great job with a miserable situation that corporate never should have put them in.I stand by my statement that this kind of complication is exactly the thing that makes buying cell service and handsets a nightmare for the consumer. Even someone who cares a lot about the details misses some when confronted with too many. It’s a shame that the last iPhone was so simple to buy and this one is so difficult.After all the hoopla that Apple is now supporting corporate customers with the new iPhone, isn’t it ironic that someone in line at an Apple Store can’t be served because of a corporate discount that once applied to their account?

  4. Thanks for your comment.It’s entirely possible that I missed something that you caught while we were in line, but I honestly had no idea that this was going to be an issue or that it applied to me.Apple handed out a card that said we’d need our SSN, ID and a credit card, to buy a phone. Apparently, I failed to read and fully understand some of the small print.Only after having been in the store for quite some time did I learn that, in addition to the problems with servers being down on the sales side and iTunes being overwhelmed on the activation side, there was an issue for me because my personal account once had a corporate discount attached to it (it’s not a “corporate account” and I’m not a “corporate customer”).That discount had been unused since I bought the original iPhone (which originally didn’t allow discounts). It didn’t enter my mind and I had no idea it might cause a problem.Apple found they couldn’t remove the discount (without a 72 hour delay), couldn’t sell me a phone without removing the discount, and couldn’t find an AT&T; store that still had stock available to sell me (since they had limited allocation for Friday). They literally couldn’t help me except by giving me a phone or turning me away empty handed.I think the folks at the Apple Store did a great job with a miserable situation that corporate never should have put them in.I stand by my statement that this kind of complication is exactly the thing that makes buying cell service and handsets a nightmare for the consumer. Even someone who cares a lot about the details misses some when confronted with too many. It’s a shame that the last iPhone was so simple to buy and this one is so difficult.After all the hoopla that Apple is now supporting corporate customers with the new iPhone, isn’t it ironic that someone in line at an Apple Store can’t be served because of a corporate discount that once applied to their account?

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