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iPhone 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 Now Available

Apple overhauled its mobile computing offerings last week, making the iPhone OS 3.0 software available on 17-Jun-09 and then releasing the iPhone 3GS two days later on 19-Jun-09.

The iPhone 3GS release didn’t create the same lengthy waits as last year, when some people stood in line for hours. (I spent 8 hours at the Apple Store University Village to buy an iPhone 3G for my wife; see “iPhone 3G: On the Line in Seattle,” 2008-07-13.) Purchasers this year were able to pre-order models and have them shipped for delivery on the 19th or for pickup at an Apple Store; iPhone 3G buyers needed to activate the phones in person at an Apple Store or AT&T retail location.

Supplies seem to be plentiful, with shipping estimates from the online Apple Store quoting 2-4 business days.

Today, Apple announced that it had sold 1 million iPhone 3GS units during the opening weekend, an impressive feat considering the new model was introduced in just eight countries; the iPhone 3G, which also sold a million units in its first weekend, debuted in 24 countries. Apple also reported 6 million copies of the iPhone OS 3.0 software were downloaded in the same time period.

iPhone OS 3.0 — The iPhone OS 3.0 Software Update is a free update for owners of all existing iPhone models. Owners of all iPod touch models can purchase the update for $9.95 (the pricing is required because of how Apple reports iPod revenue). For details on what’s new, see “Apple Previews iPhone 3.0 Software” (2009-03-17) and “iPhone OS 3.0 Ships 17-Jun-09” (2009-06-08).

To get the update, connect your iPhone or iPod touch to your computer, launch iTunes, and let it synchronize and back up the device. Next, click the device’s name in the sidebar and click the Check for Update button. iTunes downloads the software (approximately 230 MB, depending on the model of device you’re updating) and applies the update. It will take some time to download and install, so don’t do this if you expect to need your phone within the next hour or so.

Activation Troubles, Again — Although not as rocky an introduction as the iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0 last year, the launch still taxed Apple’s resources.

When the iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0 software were released on the same day in July last year, the launch was severely marred by the overwhelming flood of activation requests to Apple’s servers, which left many people with unactivated devices. The load was compounded by the introduction of MobileMe, which replaced Apple’s .Mac service. (See “MobileMe Fails to Launch Well, but Finally Launches,” 2008-07-12; and “MobileMea Culpa: Apple Apologizes and Explains Tiger Situation,” 2008-07-16.)

This year’s release was better, but activation woes still bedeviled new iPhone owners and upgraders. According to a report posted to AppleInsider, some customers were alerted in iTunes that the activation process could take up to 48 hours. My new iPhone 3GS (white, 32 GB) had no cellular access for about 3 hours on Friday; my original iPhone was also offline during that time.

According to Ars Technica, Apple is offering $30 iTunes Store credits to people who were affected by the activation delays. It’s not yet clear who will receive the credits – I presume there’s a minimum wait time – but email messages with the offer are due to be sent from Apple today.

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