2007-06-16 16:07:20 UTC
The great iPhone hunt of 2007
By Anne Broache, Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently gave free advice to a columnist asking how to
get an iPhone when they go on sale: head to an AT&T store, Jobs suggested,
rather than Apple's own retail outlets.
A CNET News.com survey of 75 Apple and AT&T stores indicates that may be a
Not one Apple store contacted offered would-be iPhone buyers the chance to
get on a waiting list, but some AT&T stores and retailers did. The catch:
not all stores that sell AT&T phones expect to be selling the iPhone on
June 29, and some that will expressed concern about receiving sufficient
quantities of the highly anticipated device.
An AT&T-owned store in Times Square in midtown Manhattan, for instance,
said that about 100 people had been placed on a waiting list. When asked
whether being on that list guarantees priority for buying an iPhone, a
store employee replied, "It depends how accessible you make yourself. I'm
going to call you. If you're here, you'll get it."
One open question is whether AT&T/Cingular franchises and resellers will
ever be selling the iPhone. (Because exclusive Cingular agents have signs
and decor that looked just like company-owned stores, it hasn't been easy
to tell them apart. But as of a few weeks ago, locally owned stores are now
called AT&T authorized retailers and are labeled as such in the company's
AT&T spokesman John Kampfe initially denied on Tuesday that any franchises
or resellers would receive iPhones. "The iPhone will be available in all
AT&T-owned retail stores nationwide, which number about 1,800. Again it
will be sold only in AT&T-owned retail stores, Apple retail stores and
through Apple's online store," Kampfe said in an e-mail interview.
But in the News.com survey, some franchises have said the opposite: that
they expect to supply customers with iPhones starting June 29. Others,
however, have said they're not getting the product at all; some say they're
unsure whether they'll stock them; and some said that if they did, the
phones would likely not arrive until at least July.
A Manhattan AT&T franchise on Third Avenue said on Tuesday that it's also
expecting the phone on June 29 but did not have a waiting list. In Miami,
an employee at an AT&T franchise on Dixie Highway said she had 16 people on
a waiting list for the 15 phones expected in the first shipment and would
continue taking names for the next batch of 15 phones. Those are expected
to arrive two weeks later.
In a follow-up conversation, AT&T's Kampfe indicated that franchises might
be able to start selling phones after June 29. "We haven't disclosed what
we're doing beyond the 29th," he said. "That's not to say we are going to
make them available, but as of the 29th, it is only going to be in
AT&T-owned stores, Apple stores, and Apple online."
Some other tidbits that surfaced in the survey:
When asked whether it was possible to get on a waiting list or preorder
the iPhone, many AT&T store representatives cited an internal company
memorandum barring both practices. But AT&T's Kampfe said he could not
confirm or comment on the existence of such a policy. "Our policy is that
it is going to be sold on the day--no advance sales or anything of that
nature," he told CNET News.com in a phone interview.
In San Francisco, an AT&T franchise store on Chestnut Street said it had
assembled a waiting list of sorts, but "maxed out" about two weeks ago and
would no longer be adding names to the list. That store said it expected to
receive about 30 iPhones, but most likely not until at least a few days
after the projected launch date. Five more stores in San Francisco, most of
them AT&T-owned, said they weren't taking preorders or starting waiting
lists, as did the downtown Apple store. Another franchise on Kearny Street
said it wasn't stocking the phone at all.
Two stores in the Los Angeles area, which appeared from their directory
listing to be AT&T-owned, said they were taking down names for an informal
waiting list, but they couldn't guarantee that those on the list would
actually get their hands on the first crop of phones. (Three other area
stores, however, declined such requests at all.)
Very few employees at AT&T or Apple stores had the faintest idea how many
phones their stores will stock, with many of them blaming that lack of
information on secrecy from the corporate powers at Apple.
But some were more optimistic than others about the quantities. A Miami
Beach Apple store employee enthusiastically predicted that there would be
"enough" for everyone who wanted one, while an Apple store employee in
Cambridge, Mass., said she'd heard "good numbers" of iPhones would be
available at her location. A Salt Lake City Apple store employee, for his
part, couldn't be more specific than "a bunch." Estimates by some AT&T
store employees were more conservative, however. Employees at company-owned
stores in downtown San Francisco and Tampa, Fla., admitted they were
expecting only a "limited" number, at least at first.
The cube-shaped Apple store on New York's Fifth Avenue may be open for
business 24 hours a day, but a representative who answered the phone
chuckled (knowingly?) when asked whether that location would begin selling
the phones at midnight on June 29. Apple hasn't told the store anything
about that, she said.
At Apple's Salt Lake City outpost, an employee said he had heard buzz
about a midnight launch party, but knew only one thing for certain: come
June 29, there was sure to be a line going out the door. Almost every
customer that walks into the store asks about the iPhone, he said.
An Omaha, Neb., Apple store employee said he fully expected to see people
camping outside before the launch, while a Portland, Ore. employee actually
advised doing so: "I recommend pitching a tent," he said, perhaps only half
Tips for landing an iPhone
Log on to Apple's Web-based store on June 29. The phone is set to go on
sale at 6 p.m. that day, Jobs announced. Sign up for updates here. But
forget trying AT&T's e-commerce site; the company says it won't be selling
iPhones online, at least initially.
Call a few local AT&T stores and see if you can get on their waiting
lists or if your local sales representative has any tips about how that
particular store is handling requests. Most will tell you it's all
first-come, first-served, but practices appear to vary widely.
Show up early at an Apple store or company-owned AT&T store before they
open on June 29. Most stores say they will be keeping normal hours that
day, although midnight parties at Apple stores don't appear to be
completely ruled out. The big question is how many phones each store will
Wait until the June 29 mania dies down and hope that AT&T and Apple
decide to allow locally owned AT&T franchises and resellers to carry the
product as well. More locations should mean more units--and shorter lines.