After a longer than usual wait for Apple iPhone fans, the newest version--the iPhone 4S--finally hit store shelves today all across the U.S. and in six other countries.
At 8 a.m. local time, the iPhone 4S went on sale at Apple stores. And for the first time in the U.S., a new iPhone is on sale for not one but three wireless operators. In addition to AT&T, both Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel are also selling the new iPhone 4S. Retailers including Best Buy, Target, Sam's Club, and Radio Shack are also selling the newest iPhone.
Preorders for the device already hit records, and the iPhone 4S is expected to be a hot seller. But would it generate the long lines we've seen form outside of Apple stores for past iPhone launches? That was the big question. CNET's team has been keeping you posted on the latest news on iPhone launch day.
The CNET New York crew, which includes Maggie Reardon and photographer Sarah Tew, began reporting from the Apple store on Fifth Avenue at 7 a.m. ET. And on the West Coast, Josh Lowensohn offered updates from San Francisco, James Martin sent in pictures from Emeryville, Calif., and Roger Cheng blogged from the Los Angeles area.
Glendale 10:14 a.m. PT: The Glendale Americana store is reporting problems with activating AT&T and Verizon Wireless iPhones. Sprint Nextel apparently is holding up. (Meanwhile, here's a related news story.) And Americana mall employees are handing out umbrellas to customers looking to shield themselves from the sun.
San Francisco 9:38 a.m. PT: For the newer carriers joining AT&T in the iPhone market, what better place to find iPhone customers than the Apple line? "The Verizon guys are trying to poach customers from the Apple Store line," reports Harry McCracken, who was at an Apple store in San Francisco. "Now the Sprint guy is trying to poach," he tweeted.
Glendale, Calif., 9:38 a.m. PT: If you're seeking an iPhone in Los Angeles, a good bet is the Apple store in the Americana complex in Glendale (where Roger Cheng is now located). Even before the store opened, the line didn't stretch much further than the roped off area set up for customers.
Brian Duncan, who deals with Internet services at Walt Disney, said he dropped by this morning around 7 a.m. to see how bad the line was and realized the wait wasn't so bad. Even though he wasn't one of the first in line, he only waited an hour and a half.
San Francisco 9:35 a.m. PT: With the action quieting at Apple's downtown San Francisco store, we took a stroll down the street to visit Verizon and AT&T's retail stores to see how they were doing. Verizon's store had no line, but many customers inside. The reps we talked to said they still had plenty of units left and hadn't sold out of any particular model. A block away at AT&T's retail store a line of about 18 people stretched outside looking to get new iPhones.
An AT&T rep we talked to said that everyone there this morning was there for the 4S and not the 8GB model of the 4, despite its cheaper price. They also noted that 16GB was the most popular size, and that an unusually high number of people were buying the white, which was not available during last year's iPhone 4 launch, arriving only in April of this year.
San Francisco 9:15 a.m. PT: Duncan Fraser, the first fellow in line for an iPhone 4S here finally walked out, phone in hand. No, it wasn't activation problems, instead it was Fraser going through Apple's personal setup for about 45 minutes after buying and activating the device. Also, the line is now completely gone. People are just walking in to buy the device.
Despite the line, AT&T said it still had all the models available.
Pasadena 8:49 a.m. PT: The long line and buzz around the Apple store contrasts starkly with the surrounding stores in the Old Town area of Pasadena, which are all closed. Aside from Apple, the rest of Old Town is quiet.
Pasadena 8:45 a.m. PT: Kevin Yeager, who was the third person in line at the store, is a first-time iPhone buyer. Yeager said he was excited to be getting an iPhone 4S for Sprint Nextel, which will be keeping its unlimited plan. He's had nearly every other Apple product except the iPhone, so he considers this completing his collection.
San Francisco 8:45 a.m. PT: In case you were wondering how long the people at the front of the line have been here, the person I chatted with just a moment ago said they cruised in here around 7 a.m. "Yeah, it wasn't too bad," he said. The line definitely isn't as long as last year's, due in part to that there's only one line instead of two. Last year had people who had preordered the device being able to pick it up in person, alongside a completely separate line for walk-ins.
Pasadena 8:41 a.m. PT: Chong Man Lei, an accountant from West Hills, Calif., said he came straight from work yesterday to the Pasadena, Calif., Apple store, and plans to head straight back to work once he gets his iPhone 4S. His reason for urgency: he is flying to China for a month tonight, and wanted to get the iPhone before he left.
Pasadena 8:39 a.m. PT: Siri was a common feature that people in line talked about checking out, although some were skeptical about its practical use. "I can't see myself talking to my phone," Martin Gizemitjer said. "Standing in line is geek enough."
New York 11:20 a.m. ET: Verizon Wireless representatives aren't yet saying anything about which devices are selling out and where. But they are providing some color on this first morning that the iPhone 4S is on sale. One spokesman in New York City told me that the company has seen strong demand from customers across the Northeast. And at the Bryant Park store in Manhattan, there's a good mix of people buying both the white and black models of the iPhone 4S. And he also added that most of the customers who are switching providers to get the iPhone 4S are coming from one competitor. Gosh, who could that be? (AT&T is my guess.)
Another Verizon spokeswoman added that other parts of the country are also seeing strong demand as stores open this morning. And the company is seeing a nice mix of people who are first-time smartphone purchasers as well as those switching from competitors.
Pasadena 8:10 a.m. PT: Martin Gizemijter flew 11 hours from the Netherlands and headed straight for the Apple store in Pasadena, Calif., where he got into line behind Naranjo on Thursday. "I've been awake for a long time," he said.
"It's not a matter of being worth it," when asked about waiting in line. "It's not an intellectual decision. It's about the experience." He also flew to the U.S. and waited at this store for the iPad 2 launch.
New York 11:05 a.m. ET: I just talked to a Sprint representative, who told me that most stores in New York City are sold out of the 16GB iPhone 4S. The store on 23rd Street in the Flatiron building sold out of the 16GB model by 10 a.m. The store also sold out of the 32GB and 64GB models within the first 45 minutes the store was open.
There were about 20 to 40 people lined up outside the 23rd Street Sprint store when the doors opened at 8 a.m. People started lining up outside around 5:30 a.m. Once the doors opened, there was a steady stream of customers. Once the store ran out of phones, it started putting customers who left a $50 deposit on a waiting list. Sprint will then ship the iPhone 4S either to the store or the subscribers' homes.
The scene at Sprint stores was similar in other large cities, such as Atlanta, the spokesperson said. There were about 20 or 40 people lined up outside when the store opened, and many stores are running out of the 16GB version of the device.
He said that it's still too early to say how many of the Sprint iPhone 4S customers may be switching from other carriers. But anecdotally, the first four in the door at the 23rd Street store were switching to Sprint from another carrier, he said.
Customers hoping to get their hands 16GB iPhone 4S from Sprint should check back with their local stores daily. The stores will likely be getting more shipments, he said.
Pasadena 8 a.m. PT: Francisco Naranjo entered the Apple store amid cheers and high-fives after waiting 34 hours in line at the Pasadena, Calif., Apple store. When he got in line on Wednesday night, Apple employees told him the launch was on Friday, not Thursday. He responded, "I know, but I just wanted to make sure I get one." The next person didn't show up until the following afternoon.
New York 10:55 a.m. ET: An Apple salesperson at the Upper West Side store said the company has run out of the 16 GB Sprint iPhone 4S. It still has 32GB Sprint versions in white. And it has both black and white models in the 64GB configuration. It still has supply of all models, both white and black, of iPhone 4S's from Verizon Wireless and AT&T. I asked why they ran out of the Sprint version of the 16GB so quickly, and the salesman said that the store got fewer shipments of the Sprint devices than it did of phones from the other two carriers.
Pasadena 7:45 a.m. PT: Roger Cheng here. Good morning from the Apple store in Pasadena, Calif. The main store is closed for renovations, forcing Apple to relocate to a smaller location just two doors down. But that hasn't stopped the crowds from coming--people are lined up around the block.
San Francisco 7:37 a.m. PT: The sun's finally coming up here, as is the energy level. People have gotten up from sitting on the ground and are now milling around. Plenty in line already have a iPhone, many with an iPhone 4 model. We're also seeing many with the iPhone 3GS, the folks who are right on schedule to get an upgrade after fulfilling a two-year contract. As usual there are some deal makers including people selling spots near the front of the line, and others giving away free samples to line-goers. How much will the No. 5 spot in line cost you? $100.
San Francisco 7:20 a.m. PT: Josh Lowensohn here--good morning from the downtown San Francisco Apple Store, where the line is beginning to stretch around the block. We've definitely seen longer lines here, notably for the iPad 2 earlier this year, but it's a line nonetheless. At the very front of it is Duncan Fraser, an entrepreneur who makes wallets out of Dupont's Tyvek material. He got here yesterday at around 4:30 p.m. local time so as to replace his ever-so-old iPhone 4 with a 32GB AT&T model of the 4S.
The Apple employees just did an entire lap around the block giving those in line a high-five, while yelling "wooo!" The store's already gone through the line doling out tickets to people for the model they want. From the size of the stack I'd say they have plenty of these things on hand.
New York 9:25 a.m. ET: Photographer Sarah Tew and I have relocated to the Upper West Side Apple store. The line has almost been eliminated at this point. At 6 a.m. when I stopped by there on my way to the Fifth Avenue store, people were lined up along the side of the store on 67th Street. But now just a few people stand outside the store as they wait to go inside. Sarah took some pictures inside the store of people activating their new phones. I'll be posting shortly.
New York 8:25 a.m. ET: Tony Medina of New York City emerged from the Apple store with his new iPhone 4S. He said he plans to give his old iPhone 4, bought last year, to his mom, who is currently using the iPhone 3GS. Medina decided to upgrade from his 32GB iPhone 4 to the 64GB iPhone 4S because he said he needed more memory for his music and videos. When I asked him why he didn't just buy the phone online, Medina said he wanted to be here for the experience.
"The clapping and cheering are really great," he said. "You feel like you're a part of something. You can't get that from the UPS guy delivering a box."
I also asked him if people talked about the late Steve Jobs, Apple's former CEO and co-founder, who died last week. He said that people were talking about Jobs and reminiscing about all his fantastic products. He even added that some of them joked he was in the "cloud" and that Hurricane Steve (Jobs) was blowing through when a thunderstorm swept into the area at around 2 a.m. bringing with it torrential rains, thunder, and lightning.
New York 8:05 a.m. ET: One reporter just said he is leaving the Apple store on Fifth Avenue to head down to the "Occupy Wall Street" protest. He said it's a better story than the "Occupy Apple" story. He may be right.
New York 8:00 a.m. ET The first people have started to go into the store. I'll stick around outside the store until people start to come out with their new devices to get their first impressions of the device. The Apple store on Fifth Avenue supposedly gets more iPhones to sell on launch day than any other store. So hopefully, everyone in line is getting an iPhone 4S. Even if they run out of phones here, they will likely get a fresh stock later today and even more probably over the weekend.
New York 7:55 a.m. ET The Apple employees are all out of the store. It's five minutes until the store opens. And they are getting ready to start cheering on customers who will enter the store to buy the new iPhone 4S.
New York 7:48 a.m. ET It's almost 10 minutes before they start letting people into the store. Many of the Apple employees have gone downstairs into the cube for a "huddle." I am guessing they will be out soon to begin the cheering. The anticipation is killing me. Well, actually not. Honestly, this launch just doesn't have the same energy and spark as other Apple product launches. But I'm sure they will sell the heck out of these things. My guess is most people who really wanted the iPhone 4S preordered it online. Smart move, if you ask me.
New York 7:40 a.m. ET: Apple employees are starting to gather. They haven't started cheering yet. I overhead one worker tell a passerby that the crowd is not as big as the iPad 2 launch. It definitely seems like things are a bit more subdued here.
New York 7:30 a.m. ET: David, who didn't want his last name used, arrived at the iPhone store on Fifth Avenue at 11 last night. He said he felt like a schmuck when I told him that there was barely any line at the Upper West Side store. "Shoulda woulda coulda," he said. "But at least I had the experience. I've only lived in New York City for three weeks." David and others also got some free stuff from Otterbox, which makes waterproof iPhone cases, and Gazelle, which buys used gadgets such as the iPhone. Unfortunately, they were giving away rain ponchos and a big yellow Otterbox case, but sadly it was not an actual Otterbox for the iPhone 4S.
New York 7:25 a.m. ET: Before heading to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, I stopped by the Apple store on the Upper West Side. The first person in line there got there at 10 last night. At 6 a.m. the line was halfway down 67th Street. And people really started showing up around 5 a.m. Laurel Moll, who is buying her first iPhone, said she would have bought the phone online, but she waited too long. She wanted to get the phone from AT&T. And even though AT&T isn't sold out of the device, she wouldn't have been able to get it for Friday. So she and her friend decided to wait in line.
New York 7:15 a.m. ET: The first people in line, Jessica Mellow, 26, and Keenen Thompson, 21, got here on September 26. But most people standing in line got here late last night. Tony Medina, who is one of the first 50 or so people in line, got to the store at 11 p.m. He braved the violent thunderstorm in the middle of the night to make sure he got his iPhone 4S today. He already has an iPhone 4, but wanted to get the iPhone 4S for the improved camera and the Siri personal assistant app. The first thing he will ask Siri: "Wake me up at 3 p.m." It's been a long, wet night in the Big Apple.
New York 7:00 a.m. ET: While the line is long here at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the plaza next to the big cube is not filled as much as usual. This may be due to the renovation of the glass cube. People are lined up down 58th Street along FAO Schwartz and around the block.
Paris 4:08 a.m. PT/1:08 p.m. local time Friday CNET's Stephen Shankland covers the iPhone launch in Paris. Read his story here.
Los Gatos, Calif., around 2 p.m. PT Thursday Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak tweets that he's the first in line at the Apple Store there.
Sydney, Australia, 2 p.m. PT Thursday/8 a.m. Friday local time ZDNet Australia reports that the iPhone 4S launch has less fanfare than past launches.