I camped out for the iPhone 3GS launch so that I could be near the front of the line. The Apple employees greeted us at the store doors with fanfare and applause and made me feel like a desired, appreciated customer, and a part of something bigger than me, something to remember. Unfortunately, the iPhone 3GS comes cuffed to one of the dumbest companies on the planet. It is amazing how iPhone 3GS contract problems can sour my experience with Apple.

iPhone 3GS

The buying process was painless and amazingly flexible. I was just shy in the bank, so I paid for part of it with cash (they did that by using a gift card to do it). When I did the credit check at the reservation process beforehand, it informed me I would have to pay a $750 deposit on top of the $299 32-gig phone and a 2-year contract. I spoke with the representative who greeted me at the store to take my order, and asked if there was a way I didn’t have to do a 2-year contract. No problem, just pay the full price for $747.93 after tax! That’s a little easier to swallow than the $1,087.93 I’d have had to pay to do the 2-year agreement. So, that’s what I did. But he didn’t get the full story from AT&T. Neither did the AT&T employee I called before opening the phone in order to verify.

You read that right: I spoke to two different people from the companies that both corroborated the same story – no need for a starting deposit since I’d paid full price for the iPhone. So, I went ahead and opened the phone and hooked it up to iTunes to sync my data and apps because, of course, I can’t wait to play around. That, and I had just passed the AT&T store on the way home to see it packed anyway, so I’d wait for the craze to die down a bit and go see about starting the service. This thing is fast in every way. Faster syncing, faster charging, faster booting, faster installing, faster tapping, scrolling and zooming, and faster cheesy euphoric grin on my face as I sit back and realize just how awesome it is to have something in my hand that approaches my desktop in responsiveness. And this is the first time I’ve ever been able to sync all of my media, not having to worry about creating a “trimmed” podcast playlist or picking and choosing whether I wanted my favorite songs, top played songs, or unrated songs

The time came for me to head to the AT&T store and get my service started, so I made my way there, about a half hour before closing, and there were still customers there getting their new iPhones and filling AT&T’s wallet buying the overpriced accessories. I was greeted, and directed over to a desk at which the AT&T guy took down my info to scan for the iPhone I purchased and look up my reservation. After some time passed, he cringed and mumbled “oh, there’s gonna be a $750 deposit in order to start your account…” – that’s EXACTLY what I spoke to the Apple employee AND AT&T employee prior in order to confirm or deny, and they said I would not have to pay it! My understanding after speaking to the previous two representatives was that the $750 deposit was required ONLY to start a 2-year contract, which I can understand, because they’ll have to get their money back from the phone subsidy and the termination fee if I cut it off early. But this guy told me the $750 is to start service AT ALL, regardless of whether I’m in a contract or not. I told him the story up to that point, and he apologized profusely, but insisted he did not have the authority, and gave me the AT&T corporate phone number with instructions to call there about my issue. I called, and I was directed back to the Apple store to take up my case with a manager there. The manager there confidently assured me this was AT&T’s doing and not Apple’s, which I can believe to a point. I asked him what my options were as far as Apple could provide, and he told me they could basically “return” my phone and turn it into a subsidized phone, paying the $1,087.93 to do what I originally reserved, or I could call AT&T to escalate the issue about the deposit, since I had already paid so much for the phone and thus would not require a 2-year contract.

The whole ordeal has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, which sucks, because Apple has had a great streak lately and I don’t want to give up the phone, but AT&T is dropping the ball on a lot of things and they don’t seem to want my money too badly. The way it’s looking now, I might be looking into unlocking the iPhone I’ve got, walking into a T-mobile store, and going “sup?”