iPhone love / T-Mobile hate.
After all the waiting, I finally have an iPhone. And it is excellent. Those minutes that I spent playing with it before the official launch (previous postings) did not really give me a sense of real-world usage. Till now. It is truly the most elegant, well engineered, intuitive handheld device I have ever owned. Everything really does ‘just work’. It does not really feel like a phone to me, it feels like a little Mac in my pocket. I got the iPhone on Friday morning, at the T-Punkt store in Alexanderplatz, Berlin. Everyone was eager to get their hands on the phone, and T-Mobile handled it…..
…absolutely fscking terribly.
I have never seen such a fiasco for an official launch of something in my life. Put it this way, if T-Mobile was trying to change its official german image as a stuffy, bureaucratic, out-of-touch institution with the iPhone…it was full of FAIL.I will outline the major fsckups:
1) Although the queue was small (by U.S standards), it was clear that quite a few people wanted to put down €400 on a new mobile phone. Unlike the U.S and U.K launch, there was no love for these people from T-Mobile. No one handed out coffee (it was freezing cold outside), nothing. It was like the people queuing were nothing more than an annoyance, loitering outside the store.
2) When the doors finally opened, there was no queuing system inside. It was just a mad dash to the counter. It then IMMEDIATELY became clear that the staff (2 guys) were in a state of panic, due to the ‘baying mob’ waiting in the store. Why no queue? Why two relatively uninterested guys? Anyway…the people were willing to be quiet, and not freak out the staff as everyone should be done after they just payed for the iPhone right?
3) The first people in the queue (that was me, and a couple of friends) were taking an inordinate amount of time buying the phone. Why? Should be quick eh? Just like the official Apple ‘Aktivierungs’ video on the Apple.de website? NOPE. T-Mobile had decided that making and selecting a contract or tariff through a iTunes web portal was just too..hmm…modern. You had to decide there and then what tariff you wanted. You had to sign 7 different legal documents. It took an average of 30 mins per customer. People were absolutely pissed. At one point I thought a mini riot would kick off. It didn’t (germans don’t like confrontation generally), but the mood had soured the experience. Glum faces abound. So, after filling out every standard document that is inside a standard T-Mobile contract, I can go now eh?
4) I, and everyone else, after filling out these forms, were then told that we could NOT have the iPhone until the SHUFA (german credit agency) had cleared us, and also not until T-Mobile had activated your phone number. One by one we were told that it could take between 1 hr and 3hrs per person. If you failed the check, then you can come back (a few hours later, after waiting) and be told that you CANNOT have the iPhone, and erm….thanks and goodbye I guess. You could smell a mixture of fear from the T-Mobile staff, and boiling anger from the people queuing up. I left to go to a local coffee shop (with my friends, who were in the same boat). One guy (Matteas) who was with us already had a T-Mobile account, and still was told to wait like us. As we sat in the coffee shop, feeling a potent mixture of caffeine, anxiety, anger and misery Matteas had enough. He called T-Mobile customer service (on his Blackberry) and asked if his new iPhone account had been cleared/approved. Yes, they said. So he also did a great thing and checked if all our iPhone accounts had been approved. They all had. Feeling elated, and with a renewed sense of light-at-the-end-of-a-tunnel energy. We trooped back to the store to get our MOTHERFSCKING IPHONES! Should be over in a matter of minutes…
We then had to join the back of the queue (of people going through the first part of the process) and wait. and wait…and wait. Then when we eventually got to the front, the staff could not remember where they had put our delegated numbered iPhones. Then they did not know how to deal with payment for the phones (by this time 3 guys were working behind the counter, but with only 1 cash till) More administrative chaos ensued.I walked out with my iPhone approx 2 hours after signing the initial contracts.I went home and exhaustedly activated my iPhone in iTunes. Done. I then fell asleep.
Quite simply, T-Mobile had absolutely failed on launch. They were just lucky that people wanted the iPhone so much. To me, as an Englishman living in Germany, this whole thing reeked of german FAIL. Clearly the worst launch yet for the iPhone. I am getting tired of the german inability to modernise their culture, ‘speed up’ a little, and cut the bloody red tape.
Apple gave T-Mobile an olive branch to the future with the iPhone, and as usual here, they didn’t get it, and just dropped it.