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Verizon users line up to get hands on iPhones
Customers wait at Yuba City store during wee hours
After 3 1⁄2 years waiting for the iPhone, a few hours in line were a small price to pay for Morgan Baker.
Arriving at 4:45 a.m. Thursday at the Verizon Wireless dealership in Yuba City, the 19-year-old joined her friend, Dietrich Scotten, and 25 others waiting in line for the carrier's long-anticipated release of Apple's iPhone 4. Swathed in coats and two blankets against the 40-degree daybreak chill, the two bantered with almost constant smiles on their faces as the final hour ticked away toward gaining their prizes — and on the network of their choice.
"I've wanted it since it first came out (in June 2007), but I can't stand AT&T," Baker said as she and Scotten rose from their camp chairs outside the Yuba Sutter Mall. "Everyone I know who has AT&T, they have no reception at my house, and it's not like we're out in the country. Now that it's on Verizon, we knew it was time."
More than just the chance to own Apple's do-everything phone stoked the anticipation among those keeping vigil outside the mall. For some of the first-day buyers, the months or years holding out for a phone made this morning sweeter.
"I had no idea there'd be a Verizon iPhone — it was just a rumor to me," said Hara Pauly, an 18-year-old Yuba City woman who took the second place in line at 3:30 a.m. with her mother Ton-ié.
"Every time I wanted to upgrade, I was thinking, 'OK, it's only one more year before the iPhone comes over,' but then it was like, 'Oh, maybe it'll be two years,'" said Brieanne Richins, 20, of Yuba City, who was sixth in line — and also eight months pregnant.
"I had a doctor's appointment yesterday, but I'm healthy and the baby's healthy, so I took a risk," she said, laughing.
Apple Inc. has sold some 90 million iPhones worldwide through December, inspiring a host of competitors — including the smart phones powered by Google's competing Android operating system that for two years have fattened Verizon's profits.
Despite the expanding menu of smart phones, the iPhone has remained forbidden fruit to millions of Americans lured by the phone but scared off by AT&T — until now the device's only American carrier and plagued by a reputation for dropped calls and spotty coverage.
Current Verizon customers began preordering the iPhone Feb. 3, and the carrier said presales alone broke its first-day sales record for any phone — in just the first two hours.
The carrier's speed at handling the early orders — along with chronic cold snaps in the East and Midwest — may have kept lines unexpectedly short in many areas Thursday. Even in New York, media reports noted only a dozen people outside at the opening of Apple's flagship Fifth Avenue store.
But within a minute of the Yuba City mall doors opening at 7 a.m., a busy, if quiet, hum prevailed in the Verizon shop as employees activated phones for the first dozen people in line. Twenty minutes later, after a machine ported Baker's phone number from her 2-year-old Motorola Droid to her iPhone, Scotten opened the box for his own iPhone, then took a sniff of the lid as if stepping into a new car.
Apple is expected to release its fifth-generation iPhone this summer, which many analysts believe will support both Verizon and AT&T service while adding new features. But that probability did not dissuade Steve White, a Marysville High School teacher preparing to buy handsets for him and his wife.
"I've waited long enough," he said. "I don't want to wait until July."