iPhone Activation

So, I bought an iPhone over the weekend. There’s been plenty of praise for the iPhone out there on the web–hell, it came out in the US months ago. Since other sites have pretty much said most of what there is to say about how nice it is, I’ll just say that I love it, and move on.

I wanted to share two aspects of the activation process which struck me–one good, one not so. This is the UK, and so this is O2 we’re talking about, network-wise.

So I got my shiny box home, docked it with the computer, and was off and running in iTunes to do the activation. First snag: I already have an iTunes account from the US (I lived there up until fall 2006), so I put in my username and password at the prompt in the activation window. iTunes informs me that I’ll need a UK-based account to activate my phone.

“Fuck!,” I curse, thinking that iTunes is about to try to force me to repurchase all my US-downloaded tracks in order to use them with my iPhone.

But I enter create a new account, thinking, worst case scenario, I can just burn all my tracks to CD using my laptop, then re-rip them DRM-free. Well, I was pleasantly surprised when it came to sync my music–iTunes happily loaded everything onto the iPhone, and the iPhone has made no complaint about playing them. So, well done there, with the not-screwing-over people-who-move-overseas.

No, the biggest problem came when everything was finished in iTunes and I looked over to my iPhone again. It said it was connecting to the network to complete activation. “Fair enough,” I said. It did some more thinking, and then declared that no network service was available, and that perhaps I should try a different location. “Strange,” thought I, “I’ve never had problems getting mobile service in my room before.” I moved to a window, reset the phone, but still, it came back, “No Service.” I looked through Apple.com’s support pages, through O2’s support pages, and followed their suggestions–including a complete restore of my iPhone to its factory settings, forcing me to go through the tedious process of copying all my music again. I even went out into the street in pajama pants and slippers to give the iPhone a tediously clear view of the night sky. “No Service,” said the iPhone.

I went to bed convinced that there was something wrong with my phone, that the radio was not working, or the internal antenna was left on the factory floor, or something. I didn’t sleep well wondering if I’d be able to get a replacement at my local (Oxford) O2 store, or if I would have to trek all the way back to Regent Street, London to get it sorted. It was horrible!

In the morning, I called O2’s tech line for the iPhone. Well done there, O2, with a dedicated support team for iPhone issues. Phone tree? Tacky, but perhaps a necessary evil. Anyway, a few touch-tones later, I was talking to a real person! No “Your call is important to us”-bullshit or anything. He explained that the “No Service” simply means that O2’s network is backlogged with activations, and that I should have service before the end of the day. By 11:30am, I did have service, and was joyful.

My point, is that descriptive error messages are important! The original message led me to believe that the issue was with my phone or my location, not with their servers. So I tried to fix things by doing resets and taking the phone for a walk and went to bed frustrated. From their perspective, this issue generated an unnecessary call to their service center, and I can imagine I’m not alone in calling in to ask, “what’s the deal?” It probably cost them a lot of extra money which could have been saved by a simple, “Waiting for O2 to activate your phone,” message.

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