Eager Verizon customers are logging onto both Verizon's and Apple's Web sites to preorder a limited inventory of iPhone 4 smartphones. And they're posting at online forums trying to sort out a welter of misinformation, confusion and glitches.
Some posters rant that they've been unable to complete their preorder, or even get to the Verizon Web site. But for many, at least on Verizon's own user forums, the process seems pretty smooth.
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Verizon's community bulletin boards for the iPhone have been intensely active all day as customers share experiences -- good and bad -- and ask for help, clarity, and links.
Verizon has a lengthy online FAQ related to the iPhone.
One user, Skier_Girl, wrote a panic post at 7:50 a.m.: "IS THE IPHONE4 SOLD OUT??? I have been trying since 3:00am and am continuously receiving the error message. Please let me know!"
A quick reply from another user pointed her to Apple's own ordering site, and at 8:16, Skier_Girl posted a heartfelt "Thank you!!! I didn't even realize I could purchase through Apple, I just successfully purchased it!"
One customer who did not try to log on at 3 a.m., SuffolkD, complained that at 8:32 a.m., the link to the Verizon site is "dead." He wasn't happy with Verizon's customer service, which advised him to reboot his computer and try again. "Apparently its a tech issue or their 'limited' quantities ran out before 8:AM. AT&T maybe? I bet I could have one today in hand if I did that," he wrote.
That drew an unsympathetic response from another forum poster. "It humors me that when people have issues with the Verizon website they instantly want to go to AT&T," posted hmvargo. "You're gonna start reaching a point today where the lines will get busy with people who didn't wake up at three am and they are all, like you, trying to get on. did you try apple.com? they're working just fine."
One business user, Disco63, was dismayed because just as he was about to start the preorder, he saw onscreen, "Corporate Discount not Available." He explained, "I get a 20% discount on my plan including data. To verify, I tried to order a Droid and the 20% data plan discount was included. However, when I got to the data plan screen for the iPhone, it was full price $29.99!!"
But Tsheley copied a statement from Verizon's Web site that says "eligible discounts" are applicable, but the discounts are applied after the purchase:
"If you are placing an iPhone 4 order today, you will receive any eligible discounts thru your Employee Discount Program. However, those discounts will not appear in your shopping cart. After you place your order and receive your iPhone 4, register your new line of service thru here: Discount Eligibility Form."
Verizon iPhone 4 order status issues
Some customers were confused or worried by Verizon's "order status" report. At midmorning, Oriolesbeth1 wrote, "My order status says...'Here is the status of your Pre-order: We received your order and it is in process.' Anybody have anything different?"
Another user, barnanimal, replied, "I am glad I am not the only one. This message on top of the fact that my card has not yet been charged was worrying me for a bit."
One poster, hmvargo, urged them not to worry: that Verizon won't execute the charge until the customer's iPhone actually ships, to avoid having to issue a refund if there's a problem. Another, ccockerill, reported he had not yet gotten a shipment e-mail, but his order status check showed the phone had been shipped, and his credit card charged.
Some found conflicting information, for example around whether the iPhone 4 could be billed to their existing Verizon account. Several posters said they were not able to do that, as they had in the past with other phones. One poster, bford, said, "I was told last week you could, but I see no way to do it on the order page." Another, Skky, confirmed that "currently online, there isn't an option [for that]. I called customer service this morning and the lady confirmed that the iPhone cannot be billed to acct."
One customer complained of a bind when he tried to have the phone shipped to a business address. The online ordering wizard "does not create a 'company name' field but will not let me continue until i enter 'company name.' Is there a fix for this?"
One respondent, Tornado2010, hopes he solved it by making innovative use of the available fields: "I had the same problem. I just put my full name in the FIRST field, company name in the LAST field & left it on Ship to Residence."
A number of customers were understandably frustrated when they simply could not get past the initial Verizon preorder page. "The 'Start my Order' button automatically goes to a premade page that says, 'Sorry, an error has occurred. We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can. Please try again,'" wrote bcruzbike, "What a terrible way to lead your own customers on and waste our time!" Another user, ams5, said he'd been trying since 3 a.m., continually running into the same error.
"You're not the only one to have trouble but the people completing far out weighs the number having issues," replied another user. "Its just the way of the world my friend. Get use to it. The sheer number of people ordering right now. Its no wonder a few will have problems ordering. Only advice I can give it is keep trying or give up and wait until the 10th and buy it from a real store or Apple."
And then, there were the kibitzers. Zippy the Droid, clearly not pining for an iPhone, posted, "So Verizon expects people to get an iPhone that runs on their 3G network, is almost a year old, can't do data and voice at the same time, and expects them to want to keep this thing for two years when there will be a new iPhone this summer? Am I missing the excitement?"
Judging from the rest of the forum responses, the answer must be "yes."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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