iPhone: Why no Pre Sale?

by Chris Seibold Jun 26, 2008

If you look at an AT&T store you'll note that there is nothing to remind you that they will be selling one of the hottest products of the year. No slick banner saying "On July 11th Orgasm Goes Wireless" or whatever marketing twaddle the big brains behind consumer compulsion currently think will whip consumers into a buying frenzy. Heck, AT&T isn't even going for the easy profits to be gained by installing showers that work off tokens for the inevitable iPhone campers to avail themselves of.

It seems crazy, the must have product of the year and nothing to indicate AT&T will be selling it, but there is logic behind the move. Well, at least the not advertising the iPhone part, not installing token run showers is just stupid. For AT&T every iPhone banner that hangs saying July 11th is an excuse not to sign up with AT&T today. If someone wanders into to the store looking for a wayward child or something and becomes smitten by the not so enviable Nokia 6085 there's no way they'll be signing a contract with a ten foot, full bleed poster hanging up telling them that the closest they'll ever get to nirvana is coming on July 11th.

Apple stores only sell one phone so it makes sense for Apple Stores to advertise the iPhone while AT&T stores don't. At least it makes sense since no one is willing to do any pre sales. You can put a deposit on video games before they come out, want Madden '08? Loan target $5 bucks until the release and you can get one guaranteed. So why can't you drop a hundy at the Apple Store or AT&T to get your iPhone love on the day the things come out without the interminable line?

You're thinking that the last time you bought an iPhone it wasn't bad. Perhaps you waited in line but once you got inside the store everything was easy. You saw the iPhone, you bought the iPhone, you went home and set it up with iTunes. It was the greatest cell phone shopping experience ever right?

This time it won't be so easy. The last time was cell phone purchasing paradise. The transaction made sense: you give money to retailer they give you product. This time it will be full of in store activations and qualifying. The procedure, unless we've all been implanted with microchips or AT&T has stopped being a cell phone company, will suck.

The transaction that took five minutes the last iPhone go around will take half an hour (at least). The transparent transaction of 07 (I give you money, you give me phone) will become positively inscrutable and there is a good chance, in fact a great chance, that while your transaction will only take thirty minutes the guy in front of will spend four hours getting his iPhone.

It will go something like this:

Guy in front of you: iPhone me!

AT&T rep: Sure, no problem. IT's $199 for the 8 GB version and $299 for the 16 GB version.

GiF: Well, its only money. Give me the 16 GB version (insert lame joke about bigger being better if the rep is female).

AT&T: No problem. You want to port your number?

GiF: I've already got AT&T. I want the iPhone.

AT&T: No problem. When did you sign your contract?

GiF: 7 months ago. I got a Motorola bitch2TXT. It's okay but I want the internet.

AT&T: I'm afraid you don't qualify for the new iPhone at $199.

GiF: What? Are you kidding me? I've paid my bill every month. How much are we looking at?

AT&T: (Reaches under counter)

GiF: What are you doing…. is that some kind of lubricant? No, NO! Not BOHiCA!*


This will continue for many painful, frustrating hours. They'll talk about the data plan and in the end either the guy will cave or walk off in a huff. His time and your time will have been wasted by the vagaries of buying a cell phone. You could start a pretty major heroin addiction in less time. But that is the way it will shake out.

AT&T and Apple could avoid the pain by preselling and prequalifying would be iPhone owners. Instead of standing in line on a hot July day you could migrate into the store anytime between now and the day of worldwide joy and get all the hard work out of the way. You could get prequalified, you could sign the new contract and even avoid the guy who is determined to make everyone else's day very unpleasant by arguing with the AT&T rep.

That all could have happened but it didn't. Instead of more bars in more places you'll only be caring about how many bars you can get standing in line outside the AT&T store or how fast the Wi Fi at Apple is. Sure, Apple would lose the excitement over the rollout but the customer would benefit. There is a bright side to what is going to be a horrible experience if you're already an iPhone owner: You can surf while you wait. But bring an alternative way to power the iPhone because if you want an iPhone on July 11th you're going to spend a lot of time waiting.

*BOHICA: Bend Over Here it Comes Again. (Stolen from the Jim Rome show)


  • “On July 11th Orgasm Goes Wireless”
    “You could start a pretty major heroin addiction in less time. But that is the way it will shake out.”
    *BOHICA: Bend Over Here it Comes Again”.

    You rotten Apple hating POS.

    zato3 had this to say on Jun 26, 2008 Posts: 26
  • I’m not convinced that it’s a fear of not selling any other phones over the next few weeks.  They did, after all, manage to sell other phones while carrying the actual iPhone in all its glory in the store.  I can’t see how a banner would somehow be more disruptive to their overall business model, especially when the TCO of the phone is laid out for them.

    These things usually come down to business-to-business contracts and deals far more boring than we’d care to discuss.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 26, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • @zato: Thanks for the comment man!
    @beeblebrox: I cheated, I got my info from an AT&T;worker.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Jun 26, 2008 Posts: 354
  • Wow, you’re so right about this. I went into a local AT&T;store today, and the guy said he was even sure if they will be carrying the iPhone on the 11th. He said something them not being an AT&T;store, though they handle all the products and services there. He suggested that I simply go to the Apple to get the iPhone! You can tell he’s been kept way out of the loop. I mean there was not one single sign in the store about the iPhone. I wonder if in the long run AT&T;could hurt iPhone sells for Apple.

    Bakari had this to say on Jun 27, 2008 Posts: 37
  • I don’t care. IPhone 3G is finally mine comes 7/11 (with some luck).

    What have me curious is that the tubes are barely warming up like the iPhone Buzz of ‘07. Yes, the hype is out but not deafening like ‘07. Hmmm. I wonder if its because the G1 folks will be S-O-L this time “upgrading” while still under their contracts.

    Well, good for them. They can wait their turn and not clog up the lines when I walk in.

    At least Apple and Ma Bell would let out some of their 7/11 plans - I mean we are clueless as how they will handle all the new activations, existing upgrades, and number ports. Can all these be done with iTunes?

    Robomac had this to say on Jun 29, 2008 Posts: 846
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