iPhone 4 Preorder Madness

by Doc Coleman - Nifty Tech Editor on June 15, 2010 · 4 comments

in Editorial

It seems that some folks have spent a very sleepless and angry night.

This morning the iPhone 4 went on pre-order at the Apple store. And it would appear that the demand for Apple’s new phone has far outstripped their expectations.  Or at least their servers ability to handle the traffic.

Early bird iPhone fans, who couldn’t bear to wait any longer to pre-order their new phones, have reported great anguish and frustration as the Apple store has repeatedly failed to load, or has aborted their transactions in the middle of processing. Timeouts and long wait times have characterized this experience for most who attempted to put in their pre-orders in the first few hours of the new phone’s availability. One iPhone hopeful who was tweeting her frustration after trying repeatedly to place her order for hours reported that she had actually got to the “Place Order” button, and then lost her session when she clicked it.

Why does this sort of thing happen time and again when Apple rolls out a new product? Is Apple underestimating the demand? Are they underestimating the server resources required to process the influx of orders?

Perhaps the problem doesn’t lie with Apple. In processing the pre-orders, at least in the United States, the Apple Store has to gain approval from their phone partner(s) before completing the transaction. It may be that Apple’s servers have been able to handle the load, but they have been slowed down by overwhelmed servers on the end of AT&T and other partners. Each of these pending transactions takes up additional system resources and leads quickly to Apple’s servers being overwhelmed.

Or perhaps we should lay the blame with the consumer? With that odd desire to be the first to acquire a new gadget or device. Pre-orders on the 15th will arrive at the same time as pre-orders on the 16th, 17th, or even the 21st. These devices aren’t being built to order. They’ve already been shipped to Apple warehouses about the country. But there is still that desire for immediate gratification. Another twitterer showing his frustration with the Apple store this morning, upon my asking him why he didn’t wait for a later time, responded, “But I want it NOOOOWWWWW!” Thus technology doth make five-year-olds of us all.

Of course, Apple could have throttled down the server resources for the first few hours in order to inflate the appearance of demand for the new phone. It would be a horribly cynical thing to do, creating bad public relations in order to capitalize off the publicity, but it would also satisfy Apple stockholders that the company was sound and that their products are in high demand. But I don’t think Apple would do such a thing. Not because I believe that Apple has high ideals that would prevent them using the same sort of tactics that are regularly used by toy companies to generate Christmas demand. No, I doubt that Apple would employ such tactics because they are so committed to providing a good user experience, I don’t think they would willingly sabotage their own site and create a bad user experience, no matter how lucrative it might be.

In the end, we have only ourselves to blame.  After all, you can still pre-order tomorrow.

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