O2 responds: “You thought the online launch was a mess, wait ’till you try to buy the iPhone in one of our stores!“ - Macenstein

O2 responds: “You thought the online launch was a mess, wait ’till you try to buy the iPhone in one of our stores!

Faithful UK Macenstein reader Steven Haskayne, frustrated over O2’s bungled online iPhone 3G pre-sale earlier this week, fired off a nasty letter to O2’s CEO, Matthew Key with a few choice words. O2’s response, posted in its entirety below, leaves us thinking those hoping to waltz into one of O2’s brick and mortar stores and pick up a 3G iPhone may want to start lining up now, just like their sweaty US counterparts (hey, at least it isn’t 90 degrees over there, right?).

Phrases such as “it is likely that stock will be in very short supply for some weeks to come. “ and “The amount of devices [per store] will vary… on average a few dozen iPhones in each” do not inspire confidence in a smooth launch.

Sprinkled among the fair amount of finger pointing towards Cupertino, there are some interesting facts about the failed online pre-sale. Apparently over 200,000 people tried to order the iPhone online, with orders coming in at a rate of 13,000 per second. Hmm… maybe this iPhone thing will catch on after all….

O2’s Letter:

Dear Mr Haskayne

Thank you for your email. Matthew has asked me as O2 Sales Director responsible for iPhone to reply on his behalf. Up front, I would like to apologise for the disappointing and frustrating experience you had yesterday on our online shop.

At O2 we had said that we would keep all those who had registered their interest in Apple iPhone 3G up to date with the launch developments. We also used the registration data to keep Apple up to date on the phenomenal interest and to support our orders for the phones with them.

We have been working continuously with them to get as much stock for the UK as possible. Unfortunately, they have only been able to supply a small proportion of the number of phones we asked for, because they are launching simultaneously in 22 countries. We are confident that over time we will start to get sufficient volume to meet demand, but it is likely that stock will be in very short supply for some weeks to come.

We opened the online shop yesterday, having only told those who had registered that it was available, to give them a chance to be one of the first to get their hands on the iPhone. This also meant that successful orders could be delivered to customers’ homes on the same day as the retail high street launch, 11th July. To put it in context we had over 200,000 people expressing interest and only a very small proportion of that number of devices available. Faced with this dilemma, we made it clear in the communications that to be fair to all customers the orders would be managed on a first come first served basis, as stock was limited. The response was so great that the online store completely sold
out of iPhones within just a few hours.

We did also take steps to ensure our own customers were not disadvantaged by providing a stock allocation for them. We took as many upgrades orders from O2 customers as we did from the customers of all the other networks put together.

We run one of the busiest and most robust web stores in the UK. I appreciate that it is little comfort to you given your experience, but we had invested heavily to add a huge amount of additional capacity, 250 times its normal rate, and back-up systems. We tested this carefully in advance. The massive simultaneous crush, partly created by our open and honest communications approach with the registered community, exceeded even our worst case assumptions. Demand was at 13,000 orders per second. Frankly, we have to admit we just weren’t prepared for this unprecedented level of demand. No website is.

The next opportunity to get an iPhone will be when the device goes on sale in the high street on 11th July. O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores will be taking new orders and upgrade orders. Apple stores will only be taking new customer contracts. Most shops will open at 8.02am but some stores, particularly in shopping centres where early access is not possible, will open as usual from 9am. The approach on Friday will also be on a first come first served basis. The amount of devices will vary
depending on the store but will be on average a few dozen iPhones in each O2 or CPW store. We are expecting early queues and, like the online site, are expecting to sell out very quickly. Apple stores will have more devices. We will be receiving deliveries from Apple roughly once a week for the foreseeable future but it will be several weeks before stocks increase. We will release stock updates for the online shop as they become available.

I am sorry that you haven’t been successful in getting your hands on the new iPhone and once again I would like to apologise that the experience you had wasn’t as we wanted or you deserve. All I can do is reassure you that we will continue to work closely with Apple to get as much stock as possible for the UK. We will also continue to use the principle of first come first served as stock becomes available for both online and in our stores as we feel that is the best way to be fair and equitable to the many tens of thousands of other customers also desperate to get one.

Thank you

Stephen Shurrock
Sales Director

8 Responses to “O2 responds: “You thought the online launch was a mess, wait ’till you try to buy the iPhone in one of our stores!“”
  1. Ethan says:

    “Apparently over 200,000 people tried to order the iPhone online, with orders coming in at a rate of 13,000 per second.”

    So they were selling iPhones through their website for just over 15 seconds? I think someone at O2 is very, very confused.

  2. Tom Foolery says:


    ahahahaha! lmoa 15 seconds

  3. Steve T says:

    “Apparently over 200,000 people tried to order the iPhone online, with orders coming in at a rate of 13,000 per second.”

    … making up statistics isn’t really the best thing to do when the original text is right above us.

    I see “we had over 200,000 people expressing interest” before the online store made the devices available. That is, over 200,000 people put their name on the list to be notified when the iPhone was available.

    Then “Demand was at 13,000 orders per second.” So, the demand far exceeded the people who has expressed interest. This number is probably also right at the peak of demand, when the servers crashed. I would think it would rise steadily as news of the iPhones being available spread.

    It doesn’t make me very confident about getting one in store though.

  4. Paul says:

    No, most of the time your order failed, so they could have had 13,000 orders per second, its just that 12,999 failed and were retried.

  5. Moose G says:

    What that will probably mean is that the store had 13,000 hits per second, so not everyone who hits the site will be able to purchase.

    If the store had been able to cope with 13000 transactions per second then i don’t think there would have been the complaints about people being able to access it.

    Fairplay to O2 for actually a) responding to the letter, and b) having a website where the front end of it didn’t go down.

  6. As I’ve detailed on my blog (link below) I’m pretty damned sure O2 is fiddling the numbers here, as other people have noted. 200k/13k is not much!


  7. t0mat0 says:

    The simple stats show that the number who pre-registered interest may well exceed the initial number of handsets available on launch day.

  8. Steven Haskayne says:

    Well im glad that i fired off the email to matthew key, even more impressed they actually replied to me, OVER THE MOON now i checked online and my order has appeard from the ‘failover’ page (a basic page put up to cope with demand).

    After not hearing anything and being told i had NO order, it appears the o2 staff know nothing and i have my 16gb black (doh) iphone 3g hand delivered on launch day.


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