By Katie Marsal
Published: 03:00 PM EST
Apple Inc.'s iPhone 3G roll-out has quickly shifted from the much ballyhooed consumer electronics launch of the year into a nightmare for both the company and its loyal customers.
Thousands of new iPhone 3G buyers around the world are stuck Friday with iPhone's that aren't able to make calls, as the iTunes servers required to fully activate them experienced a high-tech meltdown due to an overwhelming number of simultaneous requests, ultimately falling offline.
The issues almost immediately soured the US launch of the highly anticipated touchscreen handset, as the backlog of activations kept thousands of other customers waiting in long lines outside of retail stores much longer than they or Apple had anticipated.
What's more, the problems trickled down to first-generation iPhone owners who were attempting to upgrade their devices with version 2.0 of the handset's software, which was also released Friday. Unlike previous updates, the 2.0 release completely erases all data on first-generation iPhones and deactivates them before installation.
After installation, the phones are required to connect to Apple's iTunes servers for reactivation -- the same servers that had fallen offline due to requests for new iPhone 3G activations. As such, existing iPhone owners attempting to update their software were also left with phones that were unable to make calls.
The issues appear to be a result of Apple underestimating the number of simultaneous worldwide connections to its iTunes servers during the iPhone 3G launch, a problem that wasn't helped by the simultaneous release of new software updates for existing owners.
Unlike last year, when the Cupertino-based company launched its first-generation iPhone exclusively in the U.S. and then later followed up with successive launches in a handful of European countries, this year's launch kicked off in 21 countries over the course of 24 hours.
Attempting to stifle the grey market for iPhones that were being purchased in the U.S., then unlocked and resold overseas at higher prices, Apple also did away with home activation, mandating that each and every new iPhone 3G sold in the U.S. be fully activated before it leaves the store.
Apple has also been experiencing a number of problems getting its new set of 'MobileMe' online tools up and running smoothy. The $99 per year 'push' email and calendar service launched early Thursday morning but was still facing a large number of issues outside of email as of Friday afternoon."