Teen Saves up to Buy First iPhone at Durham Mall

Posted June 29, 2007
Updated June 30, 2007

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— At exactly 6 p.m. Friday night, employees at the Apple Store at The Streets at Southpoint in Durham tore the paper off the windows and unveiled the long-awaited and much anticipated iPhone.

About 100 people waited to get their hands on the $600 phone, but the first one went to a 16-year-old who had been in line since 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

“I’ve been really excited about this for months, ever since January when [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs announced it,” Michael Nelson said.

The long-awaited iPhone costs $600. Nelson said he saved the money for the phone by working after school. He and so many others kept the staff hopping as the registers kept ringing up phones.

People all over the country lined up Friday to be among the first to get their hands on the latest must-have, cutting-edge piece of techno-wizardry.

Techies, exhibitionists and luminaries - even the co-founder of Apple and the mayor of Philadelphia - were among the inaugural group of iPhone customers.

Will it have been worth the wait? For many, it didn't seem to matter.

"I just love getting new stuff," said retiree Len Edgerly, who arrived at 3 a.m. Friday to be first in line outside an Apple store in Cambridge, Massachusetts "It's the best new thing that's come along in a long time. It's beautiful."

Even 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 at Santa Clara's Valley Fair Mall.

The other customers awarded the honorary first spot in line to Wozniak, who planned to buy two iPhones Friday 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 indeed 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. The gadget goes on sale in the United States at 6 p.m. Friday in each time zone.

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, 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.

In Philadelphia, Mayor John F. Street was among those waiting in line at an AT&T store when he was asked by a 22-year-old passer-by, "How can you sit here with 200 murders in the city already?"

Street told the man: "I'm doing my job."

The mayor then left, telling an aide to hold his spot until he returns later in the day. Earlier, Street said he liked trying new technology and the iPhone would allow him to work outside the office.

"We don't have to be sitting in City Hall to be conducting city business," he said.

At Apple's flagship store in New York, the line snaked around the block as would-be customers brought a dog, an inflatable couch and good spirits, despite little sleep.

"I was too amped up to sleep," said Pablo Defendini, 28, a graphic designer. "Apple has a knack for creating very easy-to-use products. Their touch in the cell phone market is long overdue, I believe."

The gadget, which Apple CEO Steve 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 has 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. It's expected to go on sale in Europe later this year and in Asia in 2008.

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. Edgerly, the Massachusetts retiree, planned to spend $75 to break his existing cell phone contract with Verizon Wireless.

The steep price tag didn't stop Tom Watson, who held No. 55 in the line outside an Apple store at Seattle's University Village mall.

"It's definitely more money than I've ever spent for a telephone," he said.

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."

More likely, Enderle and other analysts said, Apple will grow iPhone sales by refining its models and improving the software features - much as it did with the iPod, which has fueled record profits for the company.

But unlike its foray into digital music players, Apple faces competition in cell phones from deep-pocketed, well-established giants, such as Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc.

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 San Francisco, the queue outside the Apple store swelled to about 125 people Friday, with people sleeping on mattresses and cardboard and reclining in folding lawn chairs.

Lavon Smiley, a 36-year-old city bus driver, was one of several lingerers who said they avoided telling friends about waiting in line for fear of being ridiculed.

"I know my friends are going to be on me if they see me," he said. "They'd think I'm crazy for waiting for an iPhone. ... But when I show them the iPhone, they'll have a whole different attitude."


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  • Lookelou Jun 30, 2007

    Ladyblue - Thank you. Some people just don't understand the HD situation. Harvey you better do some more research and reframe from being so sarcastic. I have done my homework and you will need a converter when they switch over. You won't need to buy a whole new T.V.. That is ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • hollywood Jun 30, 2007

    Instead of wasting his money on a phone that cost over $600, he should be saving for college or are we tax payers covering that?

  • Jun 30, 2007

    All I can say is I wish I had some apple stock!!!

  • BP Jun 30, 2007

    My Samsung I-730 came out at $600 but I bought mine when the price dropped to $99. It does the same things as the I-Phone except no camera. The Samsung even has MS Word and Excel. People should wait for the price to go down and the bugs to be fixed before buying this phone. It is sleek looking though. Wait a minute, so is my phone.

  • ladyblue Jun 30, 2007

    Harvey- How could you call all these people stupid when I think it's you who doesn't understand analog. If you don't hav eHDTV you will need a converter box. The article you pointed me to tells you that. Just because you have cable doesn't man you don't have analog. Time warner has been updating cable lines for this very reason, But you will still need a converter box to get a clear picture. Another form of technology like this IPHONE

  • Harvey Jun 30, 2007

    >>refiman2 - All T.Vs shows will be switched to HD in 2008 that's why you'll need a new T.V. or the converter or you won't get a very clear picture

    Lookelou- THIS IS A FALSE STATEMENT!!! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT! Not like it has anything to do with anything here, but please get you fact straight. Only if you use rabbit ears or only get analog TV over the air via an antenna will you need a converter. Read WRAL's own right up about it.

  • ladyblue Jun 30, 2007

    I'm not bashing kids, kids will be kids. I think the only good lesson here is that the kid bought it with his own money. I hope he does also complete the 2 year contract at $60.00 a month. It's none of my business if he gets bored with this thing later on, and the parents have to pick up the tab. He may very well be all that is said if he fulfills this obligation and learns what it's like, or if he tires of this and learns mommy will pick up the bill he just may learn to lead a different life. I was replying to someones remark about having a life when I brought up the other stuff. I'm not concerned about the kid's sweating because that's what you do when you stand in hot, humid weather. Wral can do a lead follow up story in one year about how he's still working to make the contract payments. I'm glad he's happy now, I hope he won't be disappointed later by getting into this advertisement frenzy that got so many people to stand for hours in the heat for it.

  • meh_whatever Jun 30, 2007

    Something here just caught me as ironic. How can a person claim to be enlightened and filled with empathy, yet not care that a kid was hot and sweaty while standing outside (obviously excited) to try out something he's interested in? For all we know, he might grow up to make all kinds of history... solve some world problem... make technology better (and more affordable!). We just don't know, and I think making pronouncements, and questioning his physical fitness without realizing that he was INDEED outdoors is really disappointing, as I assume most here are adults. *sigh*

  • Lookelou Jun 30, 2007

    Kids will be Kids and they like new toys.

  • ladyblue Jun 30, 2007

    meh-whatsoever--You have every right to buy whatever you desire in what fashion you choose. After all you are an adult.