The first customer at the Tyler AT&T store arrived 14 hours early to get his hands on an iPhone 5, which launched Friday.
Keith Ables, area manager for AT&T, said it is fairly normal to have customers camping out to get in line for the launch of a new smartphone. When Ables arrived at work at the South Broadway Avenue store at 6:30 a.m. Friday, he said there were quite a few camped out in sleeping bags and a line wrapped around the building. The store opened an hour early, at 8 a.m.
Ables said employees prepared for the launch for about two weeks, since Apple announced it. He wouldn't divulge the number of phones the store got in Thursday but said they had enough to take care of everybody waiting in line Friday morning.
Ables, who has worked for AT&T for seven years, said he uses his iPhone for “pretty much everything it does” — but mostly for music, pictures, maps and emailing.
“What do you not use it for?” he said. “It's my grocery list … it's everything.”
Ables said it was taking customers about 15 to 20 minutes to buy the new phone.
“It's been a very smooth process this morning,” he said. If previous iPhone releases are any indication, Ables said he expects the store to be busy all weekend.
WAITING FOR 5
“I've waited a long time for this,” she said.
Ms. Gardner, 29, of Tyler, has had an iPhone for three years and uses her phone to do a lot of texting, reading books and playing games.
“I've been eligible for an upgrade since December. I didn't really want the 4S,” she said. “I wanted the 5. I was going to wait for the 5.”
Ms. Gardner, a respiratory therapist at Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals & Clinics, said she told her coworkers she was going Friday morning to buy the new phone, and they laughed at her.
“But I got it, so that's all that matters,” she said. “I'm probably going to be playing with it all day.”
Ms. Gardner said she knew the phone was going to be bigger, thinner and lighter than her old one, and with a better camera and 4G ready. She was downloading apps onto her new phone before she left the store.
She said although there was a line out of the store, there were employees helping them fill out paperwork outside so by the time she got to the counter, she only had to decide if she wanted a black or a white phone.
“It was very easy,” she said. “It was very laid back.”
Josh Jolly, 18, a music student at The University of Texas at Tyler, had the distinction of being the first of the first at the AT&T store, having been the line's vanguard starting 14 hours earlier. “I usually get the iPhone when it comes out, but I've never done the whole store-launch thing,” Jolly said.
“I need to get this upgrade,” Osborne said.
Seventeen spots back in the line was Jodie Bower, 38, who works in marketing and sales for Tyler Junior College. Ms. Bower, clutching a cup of coffee, said she arrived in line at 5 a.m. Friday. “I'd rather get it today than wait three or four weeks,” she explained. “I might as well have the latest and greatest.”
FIRST IN LINE
“I had been wanting to buy one for a while,” he said.
Brantley, who is unemployed, uses his cellphone mostly for “family, Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “I think that's everybody's main use.”
Verizon Wireless Assistant Store Manager Haley Ferguson said there were 13 people waiting in line for the new iPhone 5 at the store when she got to work at 6:40 a.m. Friday. The store also opened early, at 8 a.m.
The Verizon store received 36 of the new phones on Thursday, and she said she expected to be busy throughout the day.
“There's definitely a lot of excitement around this,” she said.
Ms. Ferguson, 28, has worked for Verizon for four years and she personally has an iPhone 4S, which she uses mainly to browse the Web and for social media.
“I love Siri,” she said, adding that she uses the voice-activated tool for everything — scheduling appointments, searching the Internet and using voice-to-text so she doesn't text while driving.
Most of the customers were upgrading from another iPhone, she said.
“Especially the people who get real excited about the new iPhone, they already have one,” Ms. Ferguson said. “They want the latest and greatest.”
She said a lot of information about the new smartphones was kept secret until the store received them Thursday. Verizon had quite a few preorders, she said. After the first three hours of preorder sales on Sept. 14, they were sold out of the iPhone 5 that would be delivered Friday. Othe customers who preordered the phones will get them later this month or in October, she added.
Those in line outside the Tyler stores were but a microcosm of similar scenes that played out around the world, according to The Associated Press.
In London, some shoppers camped out for a week in a queue that snaked around the block. In Hong Kong, the first customers were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting “iPhone 5! iPhone 5!” and high-fiving them as they were escorted one-by-one through the front door.
The handset has become a hot seller despite initial lukewarm reviews and new map software that is glitch prone, the AP reported.
Apple received 2 million orders in the first 24 hours of announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when that phone launched a year ago. Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.