By Richard Menta 6/29/07
Adi, Deepa and Deven were at the front of the iPhone line at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, New Jersey. I arrived at the mall 45 minutes prior to the 6pm re-opening of the Apple store, which closed at 2:00pm to prepare for the official release of Apple's latest big demand item. I walked up to the trio and asked them how long they had been waiting. 11 hours replied Adi, who told me they were there since 6:30 that morning.
There were actually two iPhone lines at Menlo Park this evening. One for Apple, which at quick count had over 250 people on it, and the second for the AT&T store, which by coincidence was located directly across from the Apple store. There were only 68 customers on the AT&T line and I asked the three, who had their choice of lines, why Apple's? The answer was simple and expected. "AT&T can only sell one iPhone while I can buy two at Apple", said Deepa a College of New Jersey student.
"Buying an iPhone for a friend", I inquired? "No we're selling them" replied Adi enthusiastically.
I queried Adi a little more about his plans to sell the phones and he told me he is going to move them as quick as he can on eBay. "We have a three hour head start over those on the west coast so we get first crack. An eBay seller with an iPhone in hand does have an advantage as they can shoot their own photos of the device and include a serial number to somewhat prove they indeed have an iPhone in their possession. That's important as no doubt this event will bring out the con artists looking to separate an unwary online buyer from their cash, money probably well in excess of the $500-$600 list price of the iPhone.
Everyone in the front part of the line I asked were buying two phones, both the higher priced 8GB version if available. No one else was said they planned to quickly turn over their iPhone's, though I'm sure Adi, Deppa, and Deven were not alone.
I then made my way to the very back of the Apple line and spoke with a young teen named Martina. Martina was just there for one iPhone, but you can tell she was concerned she would not get one. I told her that if everyone online bought two iPhones that would equal about 500 units. My guess is that the Apple store had more than 500 iPhones in stock for the event. She was still uneasy, though. I then suggested the much shorter AT&T line. "Oh, my dad's on that line", she told me.
Martina's last comment made me take a look at the crowd and the makeup of both the Apple and AT&T lines. I saw both had people of all ages. Though the front of the line tended to be younger, i.e. no full time day job yet and the patience to sit in a queue for several hours, there were plenty representing the over 30 crowd, i.e. those who can afford a $600 mobile phone. Sorting out the opportunists like Adi and Deepa from those aching for an iPhone for themselves was another matter altogether.
Overall, both Apple, AT&T and mall security organized the event very well. At the front of the closed Apple store was a large iPhone mockup that counted down the minutes to when the doors would re-open and the sale would begin. 15 minutes before the gates opened Apple staff ushered the first 20 customers to another roped off area directly in front of the store.
The staff was having a fun time of it. They were taking pictures, clapping in enthusiasm as the clock ticked off the final minutes, and served coffee to all those remaining in line. Even they couldn't wait to get started. Despite the fact that the countdown clock still showed 1 minute and 17 seconds left, they opened the gates early and greeted the first iPhone lucky.
Well, it wasn't luck. Just 12 hours of waiting on a mall floor. I wonder how many brought their iPods to kill time watching video and playing tunes.
Video shows the gates opening at the Apple store a little early to an exhuberant crowd.
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