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).

How to cut your own micro SIM card for free, in time for iPhone 4 launch day

I braved the queues (actually, the barrage of error messages) on Tuesday, 15 July, to pre-order my iPhone 4 direct from Apple. Hopefully I’ll save in the long run as I’m planning to go for a £10-15 pay-as-you-go or SIM-only contract deal rather than being tied in to a £30+ contract for 18 to 24 months.

Until I’ve figured out which operator to go with, I plan to stick with my current O2 contract. I’ve crossed my fingers that O2 will ship me a microSIM before I get the phone, otherwise I will be going down the DIY route, trimming my existing SIM down using this PDF template. In case you don’t read German, here’s a quick translation of the instructions:

Micro-SIM template for iPad/iPhone 4 SIM cards

The Apple iPad (and upcoming iPhone 4) uses not a standard 25x15mm SIM card, but a micro-SIM. The micro-SIM format is 15x12mm, but the contact layout is identical to a standard SIM.

Therefore, it is possible to convert a standard SIM into a micro-SIM which can be installed in the iPad or fourth-generation iPhone.

How does it work?

  1. Print the stencil at 100% – don’t shrink to fit the page. The outer black portion should match the size of your existing SIM.
  2. Cut and paste the stencil on the back of the SIM (not on the contacts!). The white area must be exactly on the reverse side of the chip.
  3. With sharp scissors, cut cleanly along the outline of the inner white area.
  4. Remove the stencil. If necessary,  diagonally trim the corners and/or grind down the edges with a nail file.

I accept no responsibility if you damage your SIM by following these instructions… in fact I’m too busy worrying about whether I’ll break mine!

There are commercial card cutters that can do the job, but I can’t justify spending upwards of £20 for something I’ll only use once or twice at most, and again there’s no guarantee that the item would be delivered by launch day.