I was trying to buy new phones for everyone on our family plan — we had 2-year-old iPhone 4Ses on Sprint, and were planning on getting new iPhone 5Ses on Verizon.
My first stop was store.apple.com, because Apple’s website (compared to cell carrier websites) is simple1 and easy to use and doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out and doesn’t try to upsell you multiple useless accessories during the checkout process.
Then I hit this roadblock:
This was annoying because at the time (October) there was a 2 to 3 week waiting list for iPhone 5Ses. Presumably this 1-phone-per-order thing isn’t a problem in physical stores, but due to the backlog they weren’t actually stocking the phones in physical stores; you had to pre-order via the website. And the website’s solution was to order one phone, wait for it to arrive and activate it, then there’s enough of an account set up to add more phones to a family plan. But that would involve doubling the wait time, plus initially ordering a different plan than I want to end up on, and switching midmonth, which would probably involve who-knows-what kind of prorating madness. And then the phones wouldn’t all have the same contract date, which would haunt us 2 years from now. No thanks.
I don’t actually know what the reason is for this, that renders Apple unable to sell multiple phones to new customers. It doesn’t really make sense to me; that doesn’t seem like a strange thing to want.
Anyway, the solution was to head off to Verizon’s website, and just hold my tongue and avoid gouging my eyeballs out when confronted with their idea of website design and the multiple clicks per line to skip buying a bunch of accessories I didn’t need. But they were happy to let me sign up as a new customer and ship me 4 phones at once.
This is admittedly less true when buying a carrier-subsidized iPhone than anything else in the entire Apple Store. Everything else, you say you want to buy it and then you pay for it. A subsidized iPhone involves entering all sorts of billing information for your current contract plan or all sorts of loan-application-style information to set up a new contract plan. I can only imagine what kind of backend integration was necessary to get Apple’s store talking to all the cell networks’ billing systems.↩