Landing the elusive iPhone 3G

July 23, 2008 by  

So you want an iPhone 3G. The problem is, so do thousands of others who have yet to land one. How to get yours? I offer some tips from my recent successful (though long and frustrating) journey.

First, decide how badly you want a particular model. The 8GB black and 16GB white models have been available daily at most Apple stores. But if you want the black 16GB iPhone, then you are going to have some serious competition. This one has been harder to find both at Apple stores and through AT&T. Depending on how diligent you want to be in this quest, you have two ways to go.

Hurry up and wait

If you don’t want to play the game of cat-and-mouse that Apple has created, you can always go down to your local AT&T store and do what is called a direct-fulfillment order. However, you’ll have to be patient. It’s taking anywhere from 10 to 21 business days for new orders to come in. Going this route does have its advantages. There is no waiting in a long line. No guessing on when new shipments will arrive. And since you’re already at an AT&T store, you will get access to all the phone plans and account information – something you can’t get at an Apple store. If there are some complicated circumstances on your account (discounts, 14 Russian cousins you want to add to your family plan from four different networks) this may be the way to go.

Notification is good, too. While there will be this dead zone between the time you order your iPhone and it ships, the emails fire up when it’s ready to head your way. You receive an e-mail when your iPhone ships, get a link to FedEx tracking, and an email and phone call when it arrives at the AT&T store where you ordered it. One tip to save money: don’t pay extra for shipping. My phone arrived via FedEx without any upgrade. I was emailed the day it shipped, and had it in hand the next day.

Apple Safari

Or, you can play cat-and-mouse with the Apple Store. Apple’s web site has a section that is updated at 9 p.m. each night with the next day’s iPhone 3G availability. Well, sort of. The problem is a store may list no stock for the next day, but when you call it or show up in person, there will be a line of customers waiting to buy one of the phones that weren’t supposed to be there. It turns out most stores get a daily shipement in the late morning. So even if a store is not supposed to have any, show up in the morning, around 10 a.m. Find out when the shipment is to arrive (You’ll get the whole, “we don’t know what we’re getting in” speech). Depending on how long it will take you may need to hang around the mall, go to Starbucks and back, or loiter and play on the computers and iPhones in the Apple Store. But be ready. Suddenly employees will start organizing a line and you’ll be out of luck if you’re too busy watching one-legged surfing squirrels on YouTube.

If you do make it to line, be patient. It takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to go through the activation process, and that’s if there’s no hiccups. It can be infuriating when you’re in line and the person in front has no ID or poor credit and holds up the line. And be prepared that you may have to compromise on what model you want. During a recent trip to Walnut Creek, the Apple Store only had 16GB white models.

Ultimately you will be able to land an iPhone 3G. It’s just a matter of how much work you want to put into it. But either route you go rest assured that one day you will walk out of a store tapping away on your shiny new iPhone.

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3 Responses to “Landing the elusive iPhone 3G”

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