AT&T Resumes Online Sales of iPhone in NYC

A post-Christmas depletion of online stock? A way to combat fraud? An odd attempt to decrease data traffic on a congested network? Whatever the reason (and AT&T Inc. isn’t really saying), online sales of the iPhone were suspended in New York City over the weekend, then were officially resumed on Monday.

Any order attempt made online with an NYC ZIP code was greeted with “there are no phones and devices that match your search criteria,” and, “please choose another phone.”

The blogosphere went rife with speculation that this is an underhanded way to limit iPhone sales in the city, where reports of dropped calls, slow data loading and general network “issues” have made national headlines. However, the phone was still available in Apple and AT&T stores, and AT&T did not halting sales of its other devices that use its 3G services.

The Consumerist blog recounted one attempted purchaser’s interaction with a customer service representative, who allegedly said: “New York is not ready for the iPhone … You don’t have enough towers to handle the phone.” The statements however are uncorroborated.

The more likely explanation is that this was a fraud-prevention move while it reviewed its detection policies; the carrier has had concerns about people that pose as someone (or someones, rather) that they’re not, buy the phone, bow out of the service contract, unlock the device, pay the early-termination fee and then sell it overseas for much more than what they’ve shelled out. The scam apparently emanates from New York.

As for official explanations, the carrier said only: “We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels.”

Whatever the reason, the carrier started selling the phone online again on Monday, leaving millions to wonder about the Great Online Outage of 2009.

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