On the stock charts, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) hit an all-time high last week. But as Apple and AT&T (NYSE: T ) continue to botch the iPhone 4 rollout, I'd argue that the iEmpire is hitting new lows instead.
Consider my rose-colored glasses thoroughly shattered. When I preordered my wife's new iPhone last week, I thought it was a done deal. I was given the option of free shipping by July 2, or a June 24 pickup at my local Apple store.
I decided to go the bricks-and-mortar route, and was told that my reserved phone would be waiting at my Apple store this Thursday. A confirmation email would follow shortly.
It didn't. I decided to follow through by calling, only to realize my worst fears. After being left on hold interminably at both Apple's support number and then my local store, Apple had no record of my upgrade order.
I'm not alone, apparently. Plenty of prospective iPhone buyers got burned last week, and the news got even uglier over the weekend.
Engadget and Gizmodo are reporting that AT&T and Apple are sending off emails to some confirmed pre-order customers, cancelling the orders as a result of failures in the authorization process.
On the one hand, this will be a coup for Apple, as frustrated masses line up at its retail stores and other chains carrying the phone. The media will report on the long queues as signs of the iEmpire's growing hero worship. Unfortunately, unlike previous iPhone rollouts, where preorders went somewhat smoothly, there will be plenty of disgruntled early risers who feel cheated following their botched preorder attempts.
If Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) were smart, now would be a good time for a little guerilla marketing. Handing out flyers for its EVO 4G phone to those standing in line for an iPhone 4 couldn't hurt.
A shortage of iPhone 4 devices will create buzz, but the real winners here will be Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and its fast-growing Android platform, along with the AT&T rivals leaning on Android devices for their high-end wireless handsets.
AT&T has grown increasingly vulnerable in the past year. In addition to subscribers' growing grumbles about network coverage, the once and future Ma Bell has axed unlimited data plans on new contracts to public scorn, and suffered an embarrassing iPad security breach.
Did Apple or AT&T blow the iPhone 4 rollout? Does it matter? Exclusivity has joined the two at the hip, and Apple will suffer by association with its fumbling partner.
Having a single stateside wireless partner hasn't exactly hurt Apple until now. Apple is clearly in better shape than rivals Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) , and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , which offer their phones via several carriers. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's once-flattering headlines turn sour over the next few days.
Having a hot product is a blessing, but blowing its launch is another thing entirely.
Is AT&T good or bad for Apple? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.