Common question (too common): How do I buy an iPhone in the US?
Figured that the following requires restating since it seems to be asked each day at least 5 times.
So, how do I buy an iPhone in the US? It's simple, you either 1) go into the Apple Store and ask "can I have an iPhone, please?" or 2) you send someone else to do it for you.
The response will be: "of course, how will you be paying -- cash or credit -- and is an electronic bill ok?"
In an AT&T store it's exactly the same.
That's it! The iPhone is activated via YOUR iTunes and no one elses.
Re: the questions regarding Firmware versions. Apple has got some bugs to fix in their new release and they also have to produce int'l support for the iPhone and get the iTunes store option via wifi in there at the same time. This is a lot to do in one release. As such, I'm not really sure that they're even thinking about fixing the "crack" as it would be. I could always be wrong, but trying to do too many things in one release is never a good thing and I think that Apple knows this.
PS. Regarding the upgrade, if history repeats itself, Tuesday is always the day that Apple releases their iPhone firmware upgrades and tomorrow is Tuesday.