For the Apple faithful in the East Coast, the iPad Mini couldn't have come at a worse time.
Apple's newest tablet, the smaller 7.9-inch sibling to the larger 9.7-inch iPad, launched today, just days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast and left millions without power and many others without water or access to public transportation.
Sandy's damage forced the closure of most shops in Lower Manhattan, including Apple's SoHo and West 14th Street stores. Both cited the extreme weather and posted signs that they were closed until "conditions improve."
CNET's crew of reporters and photographers were on hand in New York, San Francisco, and beyond to cover the launch.
8:25 a.m. PT, San Francisco store: Well that was quick. Apple got through the whole line in about 15 minutes, and there's not a single person queued up outside now. Shortly after the first shoppers went in, the store got rid of all the line gates and coffee. From my trip inside the store, the fourth-generation, full-sized iPads were practically untouched by curious shoppers, however there was a healthy crowd around the table full of Minis. That should do it from us here in San Francisco, where the "Mini" in the name seems to have matched the scale of its launch compared to Apple's other big product launches in recent years.
Jose Narin from New York is actually stuck here because of Hurricane Sandy. His flight was supposed to go out earlier, but got delayed. He decided to make the best of it by waiting here in line instead of at the airport.
Once again, there are far few companies here hawking goods and services than in previous launches. Though DoDo Case is here. It's an accessory maker that is handing out 15 percent off coupons to people who want to buy one of their cases. One of its employees came here after visiting Apple's two other San Francisco stores -- on Chestnut Street and in Stonestown Mall -- and finding that nobody was in line short of the company's co-founders at the Chestnut location.
7:30 a.m. PT, San Francisco store: Apple store employees have adjourned to the store's second level, and a loud cheer went up. There is a noticeable lack of other media around. The launches for the iPad and iPhone earlier this year garnered scores of cameras and other reporters. The line hasn't grown much in the time I've been here. It's around 60 people now.
7:27 a.m. PT, Palo Alto store: The first person in line here is Brad Peterson, who's been here since 2 a.m. He says he is buying two Minis, a black one and a white one. He has all other versions of iPads.
7:10 a.m. PT, San Francisco store: Greetings from Apple's flagship store in San Francisco. There are just over 50 people in line here this morning. The first two are a couple from Budapest who got here around 5 a.m. and are buying one Mini and one fourth-generation, full-sized iPad. They've been talking with Apple Store employees using Google's translate software on the iPhone.
The line is almost entirely men.
10:10 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Gabe Friedman, who says he was eighth in line, was victorious in buying the 64GB model of the iPad Mini. A Queens resident, Friedman got in line at 10 p.m. yesterday, despite all of his friends and family thinking he was crazy. "I didn't want to wait two weeks" to buy it online, he says. "My relatives and friends thought I was stupid because of the hurricane, but I wanted the thrill and excitement." He adds that he owns all the previous iPads and many other Apple products, but this is the first time he has waited in line to buy an iDevice. "I can't wait to load this bad boy with music, video, and apps."
10 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: The store finally opens following a countdown from five and steady applause and cheers from Apple employees. The first bunch of people from the iPad Mini line are escorted in, as are the first ten or so people from the Genius/iPhone purchase line. The temp outside is still pretty brisk, and it's likely a big relief for people to get inside. The first iPad customers exit the store five minutes after going in. Andrew Li, the first person in line, says he was able to buy exactly what he wanted -- the 16 GB iPad Mini.
9:50 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Apple has a second line for people needing help from the Genius Bar. Employees are walking around the line, helping "triage" the problems. The store will open at noon for Genius Bar appointments. Some in the line, like Nick Searle from the U.K., are waiting to buy iPhones. He's waiting for the 4S and was told he'd be let in the store at 10 a.m.
9:45 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: The store is about to open and not soon enough for many people. The store, busy on a normal day, has seen its fair share of New Yorkers displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Many have come to charge their gadgets and check the Internet while their homes are without power. Apple shut the store ahead of the launch, though. Anyone wanting to get back in or buy another product has to wait in the long iPad Mini line that stretches around the block, though Apple had told some people wanting to buy phones to wait in a tech support line. They say there will soon be a separate line for people wanting to buy other products or just go in the store. Cheers are starting from inside the store, opening at 10 a.m.
9:40 a.m. ET, Washington, D.C., Georgetown store: Two years almost to the day, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made news by commenting that the iPad was not a true portable device and a lot of people buying the iPad Mini seemed to agree with him.
Tiffany Norwood, who operates Next Generation Broadband (which produces a collection of broadband apps) walked out of the Apple store and told reporters that she has owned an iPad 1 and iPad 3 and what attracted her most to the Mini was its smaller size. That's exactly why Gabriel Perez, 16, and his father Nelson Perez, 50, took time out of their vacation to the U.S. capitol to buy a Mini. But what about that price point? The Wi-Fi only version of the device starts at $329 and for the 32 GB model will set you back $529 and that's been one of the big knocks of the smaller iPad.
"That's not a problem," Perez said. "The quality of Apple's products make it worth more than devices from Android or Samsung."
9:15 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Irina Svetlichnaya is the last person in line right at this time, with the people waiting now looping around the corner of 58th Street and going up Madison Avenue. She has only been in line a few minutes but says she probably should have camped out, based on the line's length. Already a Nook owner, Svetlichnaya says the iPad Mini is the first Apple tablet she can afford. She lives on the Upper East Side but works as an attorney in Lower Manhattan. Since the bottom part of the island -- including her office -- is still without power, she's using this unexpected day (actually week) off work to wait for the iPad Mini. "I would not have been able to take the day off and would have had to come tomorrow or Sunday," she says.
8:15 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: People standing in line are starting to wonder why the people in front of them aren't moving. Apple didn't make a big announcement to the broader line about the delayed opening, and many weren't aware of the change. Kate and Susan Edwards, visiting from the U.K., say they decided on a whim to wait in line. Both have been stuck in the city because of Sandy, and they decided to buy iPad Minis because they're cheaper here than in the U.K. Neither knew about the new 10 a.m. opening time, saying they stopped by yesterday and were told the store would open at 8. Both arrived at 7:30 a.m. and are toward the middle of the line that stretches along 58th Street.
8:05 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Store employees say sales of the iPad Mini and fourth-generation iPad have been pushed back to 10 a.m. ET at this particular store. The devices were supposed to start selling at 8 a.m.
7:50 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Many people passing by the line stop to ask what's going on. One man, when told its the iPad Mini launch, shakes his head and says people could get it $100 cheaper if they just wait a couple days. But Apple products tend to maintain high resale values, especially when they're in short supply. The iPad Mini already has long shipment waits online.
7:45 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Mike Beauchamp traveled to New York from Wichita, Kan., for an event that was ultimately canceled because of Sandy. But since he's not flying out until later today, he decided to get in line at 2:30 a.m. ET to buy the 16GB iPad Mini model. He has already preordered the 64GB LTE model from Verizon but decided to buy another model to try out while he waits for it to arrive. The models with wireless connectivity come out later than those with Wi-Fi only. Beauchamp, meanwhile, says he's been wanting a smaller iPad since the larger version first appeared.
7:30 a.m. ET, NY Fifth Avenue store: Welcome to iPad Mini launch day. This is CNET's Shara Tibken. Apparently, even a superstorm wasn't enough to stop people from waiting in line in NYC for the iPad Mini. Apple's giant store across from Central Park has long lines common for new product launches, with people stretched down 58th Street. The night and early morning have been chilly, and most people waiting are bundled up in their winter garb.
Twenty-one-year-old Andrew Li is one of the first in line. He arrived at 10 p.m. Thursday from his home in Queens, which currently has no power or other utilities because of Sandy. He plans to buy the 16GB white iPad Mini and charge it well before heading home.
Jason Reyes and Jeffery Carvajal, both 21, trekked to the store from their homes in Harlem. They're a couple of the lucky New Yorkers who currently have power. But they almost didn't come to the store because of the storm. Carvajal notes he was worried about driving down in the current heavy traffic, and he also was concerned about the forecast and possibility of rain. Still, the temptation to be among the first to nab the new iPad Mini was too strong. Both already own older models of the larger iPad, and they plan to each purchase the 16GB model.
One interesting aside for what it's worth: Many people in line are not fluent in English and are either Asian immigrants or visitors.