Apple rings up iPhone sales
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Dan Lin, in sunglasses and a faux-hawk hairstyle, emerged from the Shadyside Apple store grinning, holding a bag that contained the prized possessions he braved rain, hecklers, and a day's worth of sleep deprivation for:
Two 8-gigabyte iPhones -- one for himself and another to sell "for about $1,000" on eBay.
Mr. Lin, and his friend and fellow Carnegie Mellon University student Jason Ma, were first to set up camp in front of Apple's Shadyside store Thursday evening at 6, a full 24 hours before the first iPhone was to be sold.
Rebecca Droke, Post-GazetteTom Nuckels, left, shows off Apple's new iPhone to Bob and Teresa Sherry of Point Breeze as they wait in line to purchase their new iPhones at the Shadyside store yesterday.
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"It's not like I had anything better to do before starting classes next week," the sophomore engineering student said.
If the premieres of Apple's iPhone in cities like New York and San Francisco were hipster-chic bashes, the iPhone's Pittsburgh debut was more subdued.
About 100 Apple devotees stood in a semi-orderly line that stretched down Walnut Street an hour before the store reopened yesterday at 6 p.m. to begin selling the phones.
Most had arrived just two hours before. The crowd, of varied generations and races -- most wearing shorts or jeans, simmered, chatting calmly.
Many said the cult of Mac lured them to hold vigil outside the Apple store instead of purchasing the phone at one of AT&T's 13 area locations where the gadgets are being sold.
"This was just like, let's go out and have fun," Mr. Lin said of his daylong wait to hold Apple's latest invention, a cell phone that also serves as a mobile music player and Web browser.
The handset's price tag is $499 for a 4-gigabyte model and $599 for an 8-gigabyte version, on top of a minimum $59.99-a-month two-year service plan with AT&T Inc., the phone's exclusive carrier.
For those currently using another cellular provider, there's also the cost of switching carriers.
Throughout the nation, the doors of Apple and AT&T stores opened promptly at 6 p.m. Pittsburgh time with cheers from employees and eager customers.
"I'm glad it's over," said Carlos Sanchez, 19, at the Apple Fifth Avenue store in New York City, clutching shopping bags containing two iPhones -- the maximum allowed per person. "I don't have to sleep outside anymore."
Techies, exhibitionists and luminaries -- even the co-founder of Apple and the mayor of Philadelphia -- were among the inaugural group of iPhone customers.
Because Apple designed a new way for customers to activate the cell phone service from AT&T, by logging onto Apple's iTunes software from their computers, many buyers headed straight home to christen the devices.
In Newton, Mass., Khu Duong, 30, said he was excited but "I'm afraid to open it. You want to sit down and relax."
Will all the waiting have been worth it? For many, it didn't seem to matter.
"I just love getting new stuff," said retiree Len Edgerly, who arrived at 3 a.m. yesterday to be first in line outside an Apple store in Cambridge, Mass. "It's the best new thing that's come along in a long time. It's beautiful."
Steve Wozniak, the ex-partner of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, showed up at a Silicon Valley mall at 4 a.m. aboard his Segway scooter. He helped keep order in the line outside the Apple store.
The other customers awarded the honorary first spot in line to Mr. Wozniak, who planned to buy two iPhones even though he remains an Apple employee and will get a free one from the company next month. He said the device would redefine cell phone design and use.
"Look how great the iPod turned out," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "So who wants to miss that revolution? That's why there's all this big hype for the iPhone."
Apple is banking that its new, do-everything phone with a touch-sensitive screen will become its third core business, next to its moneymaking iPod music players and Macintosh computers.
Apple's media blitz wasn't without its glitches.
On NBC's "Today" show, co-host Meredith Vieira ran into problems trying to get the iPhone to work, laughing that "this is why gadgets drive me crazy."
With a team of Apple representatives hovering off-screen, Ms. Vieira was supposed to receive a call from co-host Matt Lauer in London. The iPhone -- billed by Apple as the most user-friendly smart phone ever -- displayed the incoming call, but she couldn't answer it.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris declined to comment.
The gadget, which Apple's Mr. Jobs has touted as "revolutionary," has been the focus of endless anticipatory chatter and has been parodied on late-night TV. Since its unveiling in January, expectations that it will become yet another blockbuster product for Apple have pushed the company's stock up more than 40 percent.
Apple itself has set a target of selling 10 million units worldwide by 2008, gaining roughly a 1 percent share of the cell phone market. Some bullish Wall Street analysts have predicted sales could hit as high as 45 million units in two years.
"That's nuts," said Rob Enderle, an industry analyst with The Enderle Group. "Over-hyping this thing just puts it at risk of being seen as a failure.
"Apple will break [sales] records for a phone of this class," he said, "but selling tens of millions of units so quickly is going to be tough. First-generation products always have problems that you don't know about until the product ships."
Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones were available at launch. But analysts expect it will sell out by early next week -- between sales rung up at retail stores and online through Apple's Web site, which has been a major distribution outlet for other Apple products.
In Shadyside, at two minutes before 6 last night, customers were ushered into the store 10 at a time, greeted with yelps and cheers by Apple staffers clad in black T-shirts that read "Welcome to the iPhone."
Red-eyed Pamela Ciardi, a so-called "line-sitter," was paid an extra $100 by her boss to arrive in Shadyside by 7 a.m. yesterday in advance of the phone's release. Sustained with soda and chips, she and her sister expected to earn a bonus for her labor.
"We went to bed early," she said. "We did it right."
First Published June 29, 2007 11:18 pm