Stephen Hackett, on the original iPhone’s activation issues:
Customers were required to activate their iPhones in-store, which went fairly smoothly until 8 p.m., when stores in the Pacific Time Zone came online, bringing both iTunes and AT&T servers to their knees. Thankfully, Apple allowed us to send customers home to wait for their activations to complete.
This piece was from 2013, but, on the tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s launch, is worth revisiting.
I purchased my iPhone from an AT&T store and was told to activate it through iTunes when I got home. I vaguely remember reports of activation issues, but I never experienced them myself. Sounds like most of us on the east coast got in before the problems started, though.