It's one of those regrettable incidents that make Apple CEO Steve Jobs tear up business contracts and someone else's head off. The UK launch of the iPhone was marred when its main retail partner failed to sell any iPhones in its outlets.

The big event had been planned with military precision, Apple bigwigs Greg Joswiak and Phil Schiller were in town, it was all over the TV and newspapers. Nothing could go wrong...

But main retail partner Carphone Warehouse initially failed to sell any iPhones when its system failed as soon as it opened its doors. A Carphone representative said that the problem was occurring at all stores.

Carphone Warehouse, which runs the free TalkTalk broadband service, had - like the Apple Stores - closed shop at around 2pm to get ready for the official UK launch at 6.02. (Apple's mobile service provider for the iPhone is O2, hence the weird opening time...)

But at Carphone Warehouse shops across the country those souls who braved the cold weather and rain to queue for hours outside were left iPhone-less when the complex purchase process was brought to a halt by the system failure.

When trying to authorise the purchase details of the eager customers, who had wisely guessed the queues would be shorter than at the Apple Stores, all systems in shops failed to recognise a single person's card PIN number.

An hour later Carphone Warehouse's IT staff sent round a message: it was Ok to take cash rather than the compulsory card payments. And sales began at last, although many customers has wandered off into the dark drizzly night trying to find alternative outlets (02's own shops or Apple Stores).

(Update: Readers have confirmed the problems were widespread but that some stores recovered from the system crash sooner than others.)

Apple and Carphone Warehouse were unavailable for comment, although the nice man at Carphone Warehouse did apologise profusely, and say that the problem was across all stores.

Steve Jobs will not be happy.

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