Crowds Queue Up Across U.S. For iPhone 4

After a global launch that saw the iPhone 4 land in Japan, Germany, France, and the U.K., U.S. customers had their chance to get their hands on Apple's newest smartphone Thursday morning. And, despite early shipment to some customers and limited iPhone supplies, the crowds still turned up at Apple Stores across the country for the iPhone 4's official release.

In New York, hundred lined up outside of the flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, with the line stretching for blocks amid a festive atmosphere. But that same scene played out at other Apple Stores as well. In Farmington, Conn., the lines outside the Westfarms Apple Store stretched halfway down the mall where the store is located. According to General Manager Kevin Keenan, as of 7 a.m. local time "over 500 people" had lined up to purchase Apple's newest iPhone. Surprisingly, both reserved and standby lines were equally long, curving and twisting around the mall's second floor.

Hundreds of customers line up for the iPhone 4 at the Westfarms Apple Store in Farmington, Connecticut.
Jerod Dikeman and Bill Brookshire, a pair of friends from Torrington, Conn., were the first in the reservation line-where they had been standing since 7 p.m. the night before. "Gotta be part of the party, right?" said Dikeman, gesturing to a series of Red Bull soda cans on the floor.

The pair didn't bring sleeping bags, "just soda," and slept for a combined total of 45 minutes while protecting their coveted position. "Not too bad, we made some friends," Brookshire said, glancing back at the rest of the line with a smile.

On the other side of the walkway, Sandy Pilares sat comfortably in a lawn chair playing with her iPhone 3G, forming the head of Apple's standby line. She and her son had arrived outside the store at 3 p.m. Wednesday to get the perfect spot. "I was only here for a couple of hours," Pilares admitted. "My son-as a birthday present-waited in line over night for me."

Though she and her son had apparently been told they were to wait until 10 a.m. to get their hands on a new iPhone, employees came to get her shortly after 7 a.m. However, since her son hadn't yet returned from a coffee run-"it's a family upgrade," said Pilares-she happily let the couple behind her take the first walk-in iPhone 4s.

Most of the customers in Farmington seemed to be upgrading from the iPhone 3G. "The 3GS wasn't a big enough jump," said Joe Trelli, sitting about 150 people back in the Standby line over at Westfarms. "This is the big jump."

Apple Store employees welcome Jerod Dikeman and Bill Brookshire, who were first in line for the iPhone 4 at the Westfarms store.
The queue outside the Apple Store in Westfarms wasn't the only iPhone 4 line in the Connecticut mall, though. At the Radio Shack, located directly across the hall, Neil Sachdev sat cross-legged in front of the darkened store, which still had signage up for Apple's iPhone 3GS. Sachdev had avoided pre-ordering the new phone-"it was just terrible," he said of the problems that dogged the pre-ordering process-and had called Radio Shack the previous evening. According to an employee he spoke on the phone, not a single person had called or come into the store asking about the iPhone 4. "He did tell me... how many phones they had, and what time [his manager] was coming in [Thursday morning]," said Sachdev. "I wrote him a letter: ‘Dear Al, you don't know me, but I don't want to wait in line with all the other yuppies, please save me a phone.'"

Sachdev showed up slightly after 6:30 a.m.-"I got a nice night's sleep"-and proudly took the first spot in line at Radio Shack, across the aisle from the 300-plus who had lined up in the Apple Store's standby queue. When asked if he planned on cluing in the standby line next to him in regards to Radio Shack's phone availability, Sachdev shook his head, grinning. "Absolutely not," he said.

The iPhone 4 is available in 16GB and 32GB capacities for $199 and $299, respectively. The phone is initially available in black, with a white model of the phone delayed until July. The new phone boasts a redesigned form factor with an improved display, an enhanced camera on the phone's back, and a front-facing camera designed to work with the new FaceTime video-conference feature. That will allow iPhone 4 users to talk face-to-face over a Wi-Fi connection.

"Everything has been upgraded, literally. It has a better look too," said Joe Duffy, the owner of Fusion Health Services in New York City. Duffy had been standing in line outside the Fifth Avenue Store in New York since 4.30 a.m. the previous day to get his hands on an iPhone.

Neil Sachdev avoids the crowds at the Apple Store in the Westfarms Mall by waiting at RadioShack for his iPhone 4.
The videoconferencing addition is the "wild factor" that differentiates the iPhone 4 from its predecessors, said Duffy, a New Yorker who was in line in New York to purchase the iPhone. He isn't bothered by some perceived shortcomings, like a lack of Flash support.

"My business Web site is in Flash, and I can't see my own Web site, but it never really bothered me. I could see it on a laptop or ... my desktop," Duffy said.

Agam Shah of IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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