Two Out Of Three Of My iPhones Were Defective And The Third Won't Receive Calls

Reader Michael is having a rough time with the iPhone. He says that two out of three of the iPhones purchased by his family were defective, and the third one wouldn’t receive calls. Weirdly, this story has a happy ending, because Michael found some contact information on Consumerist that got his problem solved in 5 minutes.

Michael says:

On Saturday, July 12th, my father stood in line outside of the Apple retail store in Oklahoma City for approximately three hours. As soon as he made it inside the store, it did not take very long to purchase a Family Plan with three new 8GB iPhone 3Gs. The checkout process was fairly simple (although he did have to purchase gift cards because he couldn’t use cash) and everyone treated him well.

However, when we got home and started to look at our new iPhones, mine froze shortly after opening it. After I reset it, it would not turn on. The next day I took it back to the Apple store, and it was soon determined I needed a new iPhone. However, during the activation process, something went wrong and my phone got my dad’s phone number assigned to it. I was then told that I needed to go to an AT&T store (luckily there is one in the mall) to get a new sim card for my phone and put my old sim card in my dad’s phone. I did this, and my phone started working.

However, the third iPhone (my sister’s) had been showing a weak signal ever since it was opened. It often showed “No Signal” when it was right next to my iPhone with full bars. We took it back to the Apple store and they tried to fix it by doing various things, including restoring the software. This did nothing, and so it came to be that for the second time in as many hours one of our iPhones was being replaced. Luckily the new iPhone activation went smoothly and her new iPhone showed full bars.

We thought that we were finally done with all the problems, so we left the store. So far, of the three iPhones purchased on Saturday, one had died shortly after leaving the box and one had been defective. Only my dad’s iPhone was the original one from Saturday. However, when we got home, we quickly discovered that although his iPhone could send and receive text messages and make calls, it could not receive calls.

All calls to my father’s iPhone went straight to his old voice mailbox from the previous carrier. They did not ring through to the iPhone and they did not show up on his iPhone’s voicemail. I then spent a long time trying to get a hold of AT&T support (not easy to do on a Sunday evening). I finally talked to a person, who after hearing about my problem decided it was an iPhone problem and forwarded my call to Apple iPhone support. After close to an hour and a half on hold, I was quickly given back to AT&T. However the Apple rep did make sure to stay on the line and explain the problem to the (different) AT&T rep. After doing several things to try and fix the problem, the AT&T rep said he thought it was a problem with the port request, and put another port request in. This was at about 9 p.m., and he said he thought it might go through by midnight. It is right now 1:45 a.m., and it still does not work.

Although I was treated very well throughout my experience by both Apple and AT&T, spending an entire day having to replace two out of three iPhones and have the third one not be able to receive calls was not a pleasant experience.

Here’s the happy ending, a few hours after Michael emailed us, he emailed us again. He tried our contact information for AT&T’s executive customer service and it worked!

Update: I called one of the numbers from this post and had my problem solved in less than five minutes. Thank you so much!

If you’re having problems with your new iPhone and regular AT&T customer service isn’t working for you, why not give these numbers a call?

(Photo: qshio )


Edit Your Comment

  1. asten77 says:

    So, uh, 3 out of 3 defective then. Usually, making phone calls is a paramount feature for a, uh, phone.

  2. asten77 says:

    And yes, it was an AT&T problem, but still, if 3/3 don’t work when you buy them, it’s a defect.

  3. remusrm says:

    ha ha ha… i find the iphone shit… its all glitsy, but that is all… look at some real phones at .

  4. Sidecutter says:

    @asten77: No, 2 out of 3 were defective. The third was clearly a problem with the phone service or the SIM card, not the phone itself.

  5. AMetamorphosis says:

    As much as I enjoy and like new gadgets I try to follow the rule that I do when purchasing a new car …

    Wait @ least 6 – 12 months till a majority or the bugs are worked out and your sure thats the product that was advertised.

    The “Holy Grail” of phones is still a useless chunk if it doesn’t work.

  6. renilyn says:

    And THIS is why I will never be an early adopter.

  7. puka_pai says:

    I’m not going to be buying an iPhone, ever, but I’m curious what the solution was for the dad’s phone. If Michael could post it, it might be helpful for someone else facing a similar problem.

  8. mthrndr says:

    If you adopt early, you can expect a certain number of these problems.

  9. Nogard13 says:

    Two out of three were iPhone problems, the other was just an ATT problem.

    There were over 1 million phones sold last weekend, it stands to reason that some of them will be defective. If only .5% of them are bad (a very good number, mind you), that means that 5000 of them are defective. In all the blogs and posts I’ve read, I’ve only seen maybe 10 people complain about having bad iPhones and having to exchange them. That’s not a bad ratio for any company.

  10. This cracks me up. I’ve not had a single problem with my first generation iPhone. I feel bad for this dude, but man, I’m glad I am an early adopter.

  11. backbroken says:

    On behalf of Apple and AT&T, we would like to thank you for participating in our alpha testing. We will soon be moving into the beta testing phase.

  12. dweebster says:

    The irony of a tanking economy offering people enough free time to wait in long lines to spend premium money to beta test glitzy gadgets is not lost upon me.

  13. statnut says:

    I’ll stick with my Ipod Touch until Apple and At&T are no longer exclusive with each other.

  14. hellinmyeyes says:

    Yeah, I’m not quite sure what the resolution was for the products. Any ideas on what technically was wrong with them and/or the system? Sounds like either a bad batch of lemons all around or maybe AT&T service issues intermixed. Not bad for them to help him out, though. Sounds a lot less excruciatingly painful than some other experiences posted this year with AT&T.

  15. ZoeSchizzel says:

    I must be the only person on the planet without a cell phone. Call my home number. If I’m home and I want to talk to you, I’ll answer it. Either way, if I don’t answer, leave a message. If I’m at work, and I’ve given you the number there and you need to speak to me, call me. If I’m out, then I’m busy and I don’t want to talk to anyone because I’m BUSY. If you’ve got a problem, and you can’t reach me, handle it. If a tragedy has occurred, then I’ve got that extra cushion of time before life turns to shit. Everyone I know who has a cell phone is on it all the time, constantly harassed by friends, family, coworkers, supervisors, etc. I’m simply not so important that I need to be accessible every minute of the day.

  16. bugbiteme says:

    boo friggin hoo!

    “by three iPones?…send kid to college?…by three iPones?…send kid to college?…”

    decisions decisions.

    I wonder what percentage of these iPhone buyers defaulted on their home-loans!

  17. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Just wait a couple months. Steve Jobs will announce a price cut on the new iphones.


  18. moore850 says:

    1 iphone doesnt work: return it
    2 iphones don’t work: return it
    3 iphones… maybe stop buying iphones?

  19. AMetamorphosis says:


    My Mom used to have this attitude until I taught her that she could still carry a cell phone without it being a hssle if she did two things:

    1. Only give the number out to people she actually wants to hear from.

    2. Answer or use the phone only when it suits her schedule.

    Life would be wonderful now since she carries one if only she wouldn’t keep losing the damn thing under the front seat of her car … lol

    Seriously, we gave up a home phone and went to two cell phones. Our bill is now only 66 dollars a month, we control who calls and through voice mail when we take calls. We know how to turn them off and have nice messages explaining that we will get back to the caller when its convienent to our schedules. Family members on the same network can be called for free. There really can be a lot of advantages.

    It’s not cell phones but how they are used.

    Technology is a great thing if people use it intelligently.

  20. Gopher bond says:

    I don’t have a cell phone or a land line. It’s great. People are always asking, “What do you do if someone needs to get a hold of you?” I respond, “Exactly.”

  21. Why is the happy ending “weird”?

  22. AgentTuttle says:

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t camp out all night to get this brick? I am. Let those people be the test guinea pigs, I’ll wait until all the bugs are worked out.

  23. backbroken says:

    @Michael Belisle: Because “happy” is not a natural state of being.

  24. Raven009 says:

    Unfortunately, I had a similar problem, only I went through 4 phones to get a working one. After waiting in line for 6 hours, the first phone had a physical defect – some plastic sticking out from the bevel – which they swapped immediately. Eveything looked good, until later that night when I sent to the movies and hit the silence switch – which did nothing. Tried restoring software and resets, but it was a hardware problem. Back to Apple. After swapping the phone and activating, I left the mall to have lunch, where I noticed a dead pixel (I didn’t notice it in the store until I used the Notebook app). Back again, phone number 4. So far, everything is fine with this one. I have to say, Apple was very understanding and friendly through the whole process, but was a major pain to activate each phone each time — let’s see if AT&T tries to charge me for each activation on my bill.

  25. digitalgimpus says:

    @asten77: There likely was nothing really wrong with the phones. As mentioned here the other day, only 5% of products are generally defective:


    That’s why they made this person get on the phone and speak with people. Generally the customer won’t admit the mistake (forgot to turn it on, didn’t press send after dialing the number, whatever), but it’s “now fixed”, which is obviously cheaper than the return itself.

    Don’t worry, returned devices will be checked, and shipped as refurbs and repair units for those who have problems… so actual loss isn’t very much.

    2/3 defective doesn’t sound very likely. Especially considering Apple does very well in regards to reliability and support ratings. Then add in 5% of returns are defective, and this story reeks of what’s defined as “user error”.

    That said, issue was resolved, so the system does work… sometimes.

  26. backbroken says:

    @digitalgimpus: You are misreading the statistic.

    5% of all returns are defective. The article doesn’t say that 5% of all products returned for a defect are actually defective.

  27. Scuba Steve says:

    People need to wait a while for all things iphone.. Sure, you might be able to resell, but the truth of the matter is that you’re beta testing for them.

  28. trujunglist says:


    I tend to use my cell phone as a pager for incoming calls. I almost never answer the phone, because quite frankly, I really don’t want to talk to anyone most of the time. But, it’s handy as a pager, so I can call whomever back when I do feel up to it. That’s why I miss pagers; there was a built-in excuse for not calling back right away unless you felt like it. Now, people are like why don’t you answer your phone, oh no!

  29. drjayphd says:

    @bugbiteme: And, uh, why was this the decision the OP had to make? Got any proof the OP can’t pay the bills?

  30. pudkaplan says:

    I tried upgrading my 2G iPhone to 2.0 firmware last night. It ended up frying the display on my phone. All I can see is a black background with a white line down the middle. AT&T gave me a new SIM card and that did nothing. Supposed to go to the Genius Bar Wednesday night. With demand so high, will there even be a phone for me to use as a loaner, or will I be forced to upgrade? I’m sure as hell not paying $699 right now. This sucks not having a cell phone.

  31. dasunst3r says:

    And to think that I just bought a BlackBerry Curve for T-Mobile for $ 400. It works like an absolute charm the moment I took it out of the box and finished setting it up.