Demand derails iPhone presales

(NBC) - Technical problems kept thousands from pre-ordering Apple's iPhone 4 on Tuesday.

The fourth-generation phone is scheduled for release later this month and customers reported problems trying to order the phone on the web sites of both AT&T and Apple.

The web sites have had various problems every year since the first iPhone launched in 2007. Eddie Hinojoza had to come to the Apple Store on Knox Street in Dallas, Texas to secure his phone. Hinojoza said he and several co-workers kept trying to order the phone online, but couldn't complete the transaction.

"We'd get halfway through there, and it would time us out," Hinojoza said.  "And every once in a while we'd get farther and farther, and we'd get little glimmers of hope, then it would time us out again."

Joe Crafton walked into the Apple Store after his ordering process timed out several times.

Crafton, who is ordering two of the phones, said he was a little frustrated. He was able to pre-order his phones using a store computer but said even that had some problems.

"They were all spinning at the same time, trying to get through to the website, right here in their store, so even they are somewhat captive to the web," Crafton said.

Dallas-based AT&T Inc., the iPhone's exclusive United States carrier, released a statement through its public relations firm after media inquiries into the problem.

"Because of the incredible interest in iPhone 4, today was the busiest online sales day in AT&T history," the company said. "As of Tuesday afternoon, customers who pre-order iPhone 4 moving forward will receive their device on June 25 or later, depending on when the order is placed. We'll e-mail customers with confirmation once their order is placed, and again when it ships. In addition, we will have devices available on a first-come, first-serve basis in our stores beginning on June 24."

The statement didn't directly address what caused the problems or how long it would take to fix the issues. Several readers of technology web site Gizmodo.com also reported that they were sent into strangers' accounts when they tried to log into their AT&T accounts to upgrade to the iPhone 4.

Once inside an account, an unauthorized user can get to the account owner's personal information, so if customers are being misdirected that could set the stage for identity theft scams such as ordering other products under that person's name. AT&T said late Tuesday that it had received reports of customers seeing the wrong account information but wasn't able to replicate the problem and was investigating.

The company said the personal information users were seeing in one another's accounts didn't include Social Security numbers, credit card information or detailed call logs. Apple fans said they are still excited about the phone.

"I think we all put up with a broken button or cracked screen until such time we can get the next greatest thing, and this seems to be the next greatest thing," Crafton said.

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