iPhone 4S Launches, System Chokes

The iPhone 4S went on sale this morning at Apple, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and select third-party retailers. The Web was abuzz with tales of long lines everywhere. But in what has become almost customary for AT&T subscribers trying to activate their shiny new devices, the oldest iPhone carrier partner appears to be having trouble handling the rush of new phones signing onto their network.

Two hours after receiving our iPhone 4S, we could not activate it on the AT&T network, and reports suggest we are not alone. Attempts to authorize the phone on AT&T both directly from the device and when connected via iTunes on a PC have produced the same error message:

"Your activation is still pending. You will receive an email notification once your activation is complete. We're sorry. There was a problem connecting to the server. Please try again later." 

iPhone 4s launch

The system seems to recognize the user log-in information and retrieves the correct number for the phone. But once the customer agrees to the terms of service, attempts to finalize the activation time out.

Users on CultofMac report similar issues on the AT&T network, although it was unclear whether customers on Sprint or Verizon were experiencing similar problems. At least one Sprint customer reported to the site a successful activation on that network.

By mid-afternoon Eastern time, users were starting to succeed in activating their iPhone 4S units. According to reports, the difficulties in activating iPhones were system-wide and not just with AT&T.

Reporting over 1 million iPhones pre-ordered in the first 24 hours last week, Apple's successor to the iPhone 4 is proving to be an unexpectedly hot commodity --  it is not surprising that the AT&T infrastructure is creaking under the strain. The much-maligned carrier has been the weak link in first-day iPhone activations pretty much from the launch of the Apple device in 2007.

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