Boston is not known as a late-night town.  I met up with fashion blogger and journalista A for some bag shopping (more on my utter failure therat later) and sushi.  She wanted to get an iPhone, too.  Knowing that the Apple store was open later than the others – till 10 – we saved that errand for last.  We walked in at 9:30 and asked to buy a phone.

I’m sorry, we stop selling phones at 9:30.

You have iPhones, right?

Of course!  But we activate them in the store and AT&T shuts down their servers at 9:30.

Clearly there was little point in arguing, but this seems silly, suspicious or both.  Maybe they just wanted to go home early and were shooing us out of the store?  Seems unlikely.  Maybe it takes more than half an hour to sell an iPhone? I hope not.  I thought Apple was all about stuff being really really easy.

So if the Apple people were not messing with us, it must be AT&T.  (In an aside, let me say that right after preferring a keyboard, it’s this kind of Apple paternalism and AT&T ineptitude that’s kept me from getting an iPhone myself.)  So AT&T shuts down some critical part of the iPhone operation at 9:30pm?  That’s 6:30 on the West coast – do they have an even earlier iCurfew or their own servers?  Is the iPhone activation process so complex that it can’t be automated?  Isn’t a cellphone network sort of a 24-7 kind of thing?

A semi-random survey of Apple Stores listed on the Apple website came up with a variety of closing times, mostly 9, 9:30 or 10.  (Many stores are in malls that enforce their own closing times.)  So a 9:30 iPhone cutoff makes sense for many, but it’s also so close to the actual closing time of so many stores, it seems a small thing to give an extra 30 minutes to ensure a consistent experience.  But here’s what fully grinds my gears: the 24/7 Apple store in NYC has this note on its hours: “iPhone purchases can be activated with AT&T daily from 7:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.”  I guess they have a special server.