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New iPhone sells out within hours at Hagerstown stores

July 11, 2008|By JOSH SHAW

HAGERSTOWN -- By the time one of two AT&T stores in Hagerstown opened at 8 a.m. Friday, more than 40 people had lined up to buy Apple's latest gadget.

Half of them went home empty-handed.

The new Apple iPhone 3G was released Friday in 21 countries. Both AT&T stores in Hagerstown were sold out of the phones by 10 a.m.

The 8-gigabyte phone is selling for $199 and the 16-gigabyte phone cost $299, or less than half of what the original phones cost when they were released last year.

Those who purchased iPhones on Friday were limited to one phone per person, and it took an average of 10 minutes for each person to sign up.

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Brandon Rodriguez of Hagerstown was 20th in line and was the last person to get a phone at the store on Garland Groh Boulevard. He waited in line since 6 a.m. and said the first people said they showed up about 4:30.

"I had the old iPhone and I got rid of it, and everything else is horrible now," said Rodriguez, who said he has tried about 60 phones over the past five years and who waited overnight at a store in Los Angeles for the release of the original iPhone last year. "All of the applications and the integration make this phone the best available."

The store opened at 8 a.m., and the employees -- including a security guard -- allowed the first five customers into the store. Then, as one customer left, another one was let into the store.

"We did our best to have the proper resources, and we wanted to make sure it was a positive customer experience," AT&T spokeswoman Beth Gautier said. "The security guards at the stores were put in place for safety reasons because it was early in the morning and there was a lot of excitement."

Julie Ferguson, a Martinsburg, W.Va., resident, had the day off from work and decided to wait in line because she needed a new phone.

"It was dying, so I might as well get a better one," said Ferguson, who waited in line for 3 1/2 hours before finally entering the store. "People wait in line at amusement parks for two hours and don't get anything after."

Some people were not as lucky.

Once the manager addressed those in line and said there were only 20 iPhones in stock, many of the people who waited in line left immediately, witnesses said. Others remained in line to preorder the device and ensure they would get a phone within seven to 10 days.

One man waited in line for more than three hours, only to leave without a phone or preorder.

"I've got the youth wisdom and you've got the conventional wisdom," Jay Eagle, who lives in Hagerstown, said to another person in line. "I don't have any patience anymore ... I've gotten three different answers about the phone and eligibility. I don't know what is taking so long. A monkey could do this job."

At about 9:45 a.m., the assistant manager came out and addressed the dozen or so people still waiting.

He told the eager customers that the store was not expecting another shipment Friday but that a shipment of 10 white iPhones was expected either today or early next week.

Some people showed up and waited in line to pay their phone bills only to find out that today was reserved for iPhone sales only, according to Ferguson and others waiting in line.

"She was mad and left the store cussing and swearing," Ferguson said of one woman.

The iPhone 3G features faster Internet connections, GPS and numerous applications available through Apple's new App Store.

The App Store, which Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicts could bring in more than $1 billion, allows users to download and purchase third-party applications like games, maps, AOL Instant Messenger, and various other news and sports-related applications.

As of midday Friday, many iPhone users had experienced problems, according to the Associated Press.

Due to a problem with Apple's iTunes servers across the world, many phones could not be fully activated at AT&T stores, the AP said.

Employees told customers to go home and connect their phones to their own computers to complete the final step of activation, but iTunes servers were equally as difficult to reach from home computers, according to the AP.

Despite problems, customers remained outside of the store later than 11 a.m. to preorder their phones and stay ahead of the technology game.

"It could not have been a more exciting morning," Hagerstown resident Casey Woodward said.

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