With the usual anticipation, a long line of early adopters came to buy the new Apple iPhone 3G at University Village this morning. But there were early snags in trying to get the phone activated.

Share story

Taylor Jacobs provided the spot. Travis Lummus provided the lawn chairs.

The pair of 17-year-olds were first in line for a new iPhone 3G at the Apple Store in University Village, camping out since 5:30 Thursday evening. Behind them were at least 250 people, snaked around the parking lot and past the Office Depot, waiting for the second edition of Apple’s blockbuster mobile phone, media player and Internet device.

The much-hyped launch hit snags Friday morning when servers overloaded, crimping the phone activation process. Despite promotions boasting that customers would walk out of the store with a fully operational iPhone in hand, many had to wait to activate their devices, and the process was unexpectedly sluggish.

At Bellevue Square around midday, hundreds were in line at the Apple Store, some some relocated from AT&T stores that had run out of stock (AT&T is the phones’ wireless carrier).

The server problem remained, so phones couldn’t be activated. In the meantime, the process deactivated some customers’ old phones, leaving them temporarily without phone access.

The new model, which went on sale starting at $199 at 8 a.m. today in 23 countries, supports a faster cellular data network and features a GPS chip, on top of other minor hardware tweaks. It comes with a major software update, also available to original iPhone owners.

But the new handset was enough to lure hundreds of buyers to University Village’s Apple and AT&T stores — most of them to upgrade their first iPhone, and some of them veterans of last year’s opening-day line.

Jacobs sold his first iPhone as soon as he heard rumors of the new one. Lummus is on his fifth — his previous phones were casualties of misfired software hacks or water damage.

They passed the night playing “Rock Band” on their Xbox 360, until sprinklers almost drenched their TV. By morning, they were locked in staring contests with the Apple employees guarding the door.

The Apple staff provided water, coffee and orange juice to the campers. Wally Hasslinger, 22, third in line, brought his own refreshments, too. He arrived at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, called his friends Hope Reed, 23, and Brent Rochon, 21, and asked them to bring pizza.

The trio of University of Washington students and Nordstrom employees were there to upgrade to the new version. They said the phone’s added compatibility with Microsoft Exchange servers (for e-mail and other contact functions) is important for their work.

Next in line, David Sundquist, there since 9:30 p.m., said the new flush headphone jack, no longer limited to Apple’s headphones, persuaded him to replace his old iPhone. He’s not happy about the raised AT&T service charges, which actually outweighs the lower price from the original model, but he said the faster data speed provided by AT&T’s so-called 3G network is worth it.

As the magic hour arrived, the Apple staff lined up outside the store, clapping and starting a wave. At exactly 8 a.m., they parted a black curtain, revealing a store packed with staff in matching special iPhone shirts, ready to process customers.

But it didn’t proceed according to plan. As was the case with last year’s initial iPhone launch, server problems hit the activation process. According to an AT&T spokeswoman, the problem was traced to issues with Apple’s iTunes software, which is part of the activation process.

After 40 minutes, the very first buyer to leave was Jared Job, disappointed that his iPhone was not yet ready for action.

At the AT&T store in University Village, the staff stopped trying to activate the phones and just sold them in the box; customers were being advised to sync the phone later.

By 9 a.m., the store had already run out of black 16 gigabyte models and were almost out of the white version as well. Staff said they expected to sell out within two hours.

TThe line at AT&T had about 100 people, the earliest there since 12:30 a.m. Thursday night. They were mostly first-time iPhone buyers, like Megan and Joey Reibel, who said they waited for Apple and AT&T to work out the kinks with the first generation.

First-time iPhone buyer Chris Berthiaume said he came to the AT&T store avoid the longer line and the “Apple zealots” around the corner.

Isaac Arnsdorf: 206-464-2397 or iarnsdorf@seattletimes.com