Apple devotees cheerfully sweat in line for iPhone 4

[25 June 2010]

By Sandra Baker

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

FORT WORTH, Texas —After spending nearly 17 hours in line at the Apple store in University Park Village, 18-year-old Austin McLaurin of Aledo, Texas, saw his dreams come true.

McLaurin began as No. 43 in a line of more than 1,000 that wrapped around the east side of the shopping center along University Drive and into the Staples store parking lot behind. His line was for those who did not reserve Apple’s newest iPhone in advance of Thursday’s release.

“I’m next, right?” McLaurin asked the store clerk monitoring the line, just before he got the nod to go in.

He said he spent the night watching movies and playing Playstation 3 — run by generators — with his newfound friends in line. For dinner, they ate pizza provided by the Apple store.

By mid-morning, the line for folks who had reserved an iPhone stretched a few hundred yards past several store fronts, down the west side of the building and into the parking lot behind. Employees distributed ice cold water, popsicles and a variety of snacks.

They also handed out large black umbrellas to be shared by people standing in line. Even in the reserved line, shoppers stood for several hours before getting close to the store entrance.

One woman asked how long it would take. The answer: 35 employees are working as quickly as they can inside.

The fourth generation of the phone is easily the most evolved for Apple. The handset, which was announced in early June, features a high-resolution display, a much-improved camera and a video chat application. AT&T remains the carrier.

The phones were also on sale at select RadioShack and Best Buy stores.

“This is my third iPhone, but this is the first time on opening day,” said Wayne Keeton of Burleson, Texas. He and his son, Michael, got in line about 10 a.m. “I’ve been an Apple guy forever.”

iPhone fans also lined up at the Apple Store in Southlake, Texas, where a rain shower popped during the lunch hour, prompting Apple employees to hand out umbrellas. One person reported a wait of more than three hours. Store employees also handed out pizza at that location.

Elizabeth Lane, an art teacher, was holding a place in the Fort Worth line for her husband, waving a fan to her face to keep cool. For her, payback, after “sweating like a dog” for hours, will be to see James Taylor and Carole King in concert in New York, she said.

Claire Stewart, a Texas Christian University graduate, was hoping to replace her older iPhone, which was a graduation gift from a friend, she said.

When Laura and Bruce Terry of Fort Worth showed up and saw the line, she hopped out and grabbed a spot, and he returned home to get some chairs and food.

“He’s going to be so jealous this afternoon,” said Laura Terry, who was buying her first iPhone.

Melissa Borges, a first grade teacher in Fort Worth, and Cory Martin, an analyst from Arlington, said they’ve stood in line for the three previous releases of iPhones.

Susan Holland, property manager with UCR Asset Services, was loving the large number of people the iPhone release attracted to the shopping center. She also witnessed Apple’s three other iPhone releases. And despite Thursday’s 90-plus-degree heat, she said people were cordial.

“This brings people here that might not have been to the center,” Holland said. “This has brought out more people than any of the other times.”

Mark Sutton of Dalworthington Gardens joined the unreserved line about 3:30 a.m. He’s enlisted in the Air Force and reports for duty in August, and his two sisters and his mother all planned to get the new iPhone as well so they can use the “Facetime” video chat function.

Sutton was going to stick it out no matter how long it took. When asked how he might feel if he didn’t get a phone after waiting for several hours, he said, “I think I might cry.”

James Otis, 69, of Benbrook, echoed Sutton, saying, “I’ve been here too long to quit now.”

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