The iPad 2 saga (aka Best Buy fail)

Having resisted the original iPad, I succumbed to the temptation of the iPad 2 and placed an order via the online Apple Store at 9am on the UK launch day, March 25th. Unfortunately, due to demand, I was given an estimated shipping date of 15 April, with estimated delivery on 26 April, inexplicably eleven days after shipping – a far cry from the experience I had when I pre-ordered my iPhone 4 and it arrived on launch day.

I thought I’d be OK to wait, but having played with one in the Birmingham Bullring Apple Store last week (who didn’t have any stock available to take away on the day), I started getting twitchy fingers – as well as considering going for a 32GB model instead of the 16GB I’d ordered through Apple – so started watching the very useful iPad-Stock.co.uk website.

After a couple of false alarms – Tesco Direct occasionally showed stock but every time I got to the checkout, I was told it was out of stock, and a friend managed to order one from HMV only for his order status to change to “pre-order” within hours – I eventually managed to find some stock, this time at Best Buy, the US electronics giant who have recently opened up shop (physically and online) in the UK. All went well, until I put my credit card details in… declined!

I tried a couple of different cards – one credit, one debit – and strangely both of those failed as well. My phone then rang – it was Tesco Bank, the issuer of my main credit card, who wanted to go through a few transactions with me to make sure they weren’t fraudulent. Having verified that the declined Best Buy transaction (along with a few previous purchases elsewhere) were legit, the operator unblocked my card and said that I should be able to put the order through again.

Great, I thought, so I input my card details again – still no joy! So I phoned Best Buy, who helpfully told me that my account had been blocked for 24 hours due to the original declined transaction and I was welcome to try again tomorrow. When I asked if there was any way around this, I was told not – I couldn’t even order over the phone. A friend of mine had a similar experience, so I wonder how many potential orders Best Buy have lost out on due to this dubious “security” measure – I can imagine a lot of banks and card issuers have declined cards as people suddenly dropping some £500 on an electronics website could well appear fraudulent without speaking to the customer first.

Knowing that the Best Buy stock was likely to have run out by the following day, I decided to go elsewhere. At the time, Insight were showing stock of the black 32GB Wi-Fi model that I wanted, so I decided to place an order with them. The deal wasn’t as good as the Best Buy one, as I had to pay £12 delivery, but if it meant I could have the iPad in my hand sooner, I was happy to fork out.

I was pleased to see that the website accepted my credit card details… then dismayed when I got an email later saying that it had been declined. By the time I read the email on that same evening, Insight’s phone lines had closed, and as it was a Friday I wouldn’t be able to give them a different card to try until the following Monday. Another retail fail – why doesn’t the site have an option to update the payment method via the website when the phone lines are closed?

So, having exhausted my options, I gave up for the day. At around 10.30 this morning, I had a quick look at iPad-Stock, not expecting to see anything, but to my surprise there was stock showing at Comet. They were offering free delivery for Tuesday, or £6 for a Monday (7am-6pm) delivery. It’s not like me to pay extra to receive something a day early, but this is the iPad 2 we’re talking about… My order went through successfully and I got an email confirmation, so all good so far.

I haven’t cancelled my Apple order yet – I thought I’d wait until my Comet order is fulfilled, so I have something to fall back on in case of problems. However, a friend of mine also put an order through with Comet and tried to cancel his Apple order immediately, and was told that the order was already being shipped and couldn’t be cancelled – so he ended up cancelling his Comet order. I’ll wait and see what happens on Monday – worst case is I can’t cancel it and have to return it to Apple when it arrives, or sell it on to a friend or colleague (at cost price, naturally – I can’t be bothered eBaying it).

Guitar Hero comes to iPhone

The official Guitar Hero iPhone game was announced today at Apple’s 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference. While there have been many similar apps – such as the Tap Tap Revenge franchise and the Rock Band app – it’s nice to see an official GH game for the iPhone, and it certainly doesn’t fail to impress.

Expecting great things given its high-profile launch, I didn’t hesitate to purchase the app. I wasn’t sure that the concept would translate well to the small screen, but the developers (Vicarious Visions) have done a great job, squeezing in both tapping and strumming mechanics, unlike many competing games. Most of the notes are played simply by tapping, but some of the notes (signified by an arrow on the screen) need to be strummed by pressing the relevant colour then dragging your finger to the edge of the screen. It’s actually quite tricky, and I like to think of myself as a fairly adept Guitar Hero player.

When the game loads, you are first asked if you want to allow it to access your iPod music library, in order to notify you when your favourite artists have tracks available. You are then offered a brief introduction to the game before diving in to a selection of tracks from artists such as Vampire Weekend, The Rolling Stones, Rise Against, Weezer, The White Stripes and Queen. The app is stable and the graphics smooth, even on my aging iPhone 3G

There’s a music store which lets you download three-track song packs for £1.19 ($1.99), with 14 artists to choose from but presumably more to follow. There’s also Facebook integration, which allows you to brag about your progress to your friends, although I haven’t explored this functionality yet.

I’m not a big iPhone gamer, so this is the first game I’ve purchased in quite a while, and I’m glad I did. Attractively priced at £1.79 ($2.99), it’s well worth checking out, whether you’re a long-term Guitar Hero fan or not.