Erin Mathews didn’t want to miss out on the chance to jump to the iPhone.
The 25-year-old has been a Sprint customer, spending the last three years using a BlackBerry Pearl. “It’s not a very smart phone,” she said of the BlackBerry. But with the iPhone 4S now available to Sprint customers as well as to AT&T and Verizon subscribers, “There is incentive (to upgrade) now.”
Mathews was in the crowd queued up outside the Apple Store on Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Friday morning, waiting for a chance to buy the iPhone 4S. Apple’s latest smartphone went on sale across the U.S. on Friday; it’s also available in Canada, Australia, U.K., France, German, and Japan, with plans to sell the phone in 70 countries by year’s end.
In the United States, the iPhone 4S is available in either black or white in three capacities: a 16GB model ($199), a 32GB version ($299) and a 64GB offering ($399).
At the Walnut Street store in Philadelphia, around 100 people were in line an hour before the store opened its doors. Katlynn Gaynor, a 21-year-old digital film and video production student, was the first person in line after arriving at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Fewer than a dozen people camped outside the store overnight, with the line picking up mass around 4 a.m.
“There were only five or six of us out here,” Gaynor said. “There were like nine of us who made it through the rain. There was some lightning in the sky.”
More than foul weather may have kept people from joining the line. Apple made the iPhone 4S available for presale a week ago—it recorded 1 million preorders last Friday—so some shoppers had already bought their new phones and avoided the line.
In Philadelphia, those braving the line ranged from longtime iPhone addicts to first-time buyers. Campbell Montiello, a 31-year-old graphic designer, has owned every iteration of the Apple phone. Friday morning was his first time standing in the launch line, however.
He sold his iPhone 4 two hours before Tim Cook unveiled the latest model last week. Montiello said he was particularly intrigued by the new voice-activated Siri personal assistant app on the new phone.
“I tried to get the pre-order, but I couldn’t get online, so I had to come here,” Montiello said. “I’ve never done this before. But I’m a tech nerd, kind of a geeky guy, like bells and whistles.”
Mathews, the Sprint customer switching from a Pearl to the iPhone 4S, was also drawn to Siri: “It looks very easy to use, whereas [with] a lot of similar technology, you have to say the right thing,” she said. “This one seems more natural.”
A little further back in line, James Oe—a digital media student at nearby Drexel University—was waiting in line for his first iPhone. Until Friday, he had been the owner of a Droid 2.
“I made my first dip in the water with the iPad. I liked how clean the design was and how easy the apps were to use. And I just imagined it on my phone,” he said. Android “is more customizable, but you also have to spend more time with it. With an Android [device], you get as much as you put into it. Apple tells you what you want.”
Across the globe in Tokyo, hundreds lined the streets to be the first in the world to get their hands on the iPhone 4S. In fact, customer demand temporarily crashed the registration servers at mobile operator Softbank.
Softbank held a sidewalk countdown in front of its flagship store to mark the start of sales at 8 a.m. local time, blasting silver streamers into the air as the doors opened for business. Several hundred customers, many of whom had been waiting since early Thursday evening, lined up and patiently waited their turn inside.
As with previous iPhone launches, it was a celebratory event, but the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs cast a shadow. Fresh flowers were laid out in front of the Apple Store in Tokyo’s hip Shibuya district.
“This phone is more of a work of art by Steve Jobs than a product,” Softbank CEO and chairman Masayoshi Son told the dozens of reporters assembled outside the flagship store for the opening ceremony earlier in the day.
As the lines lengthened at that store, employees handed out water and black umbrellas with the company logo to customers.”There was some trouble at the store I went to, but they said they would iron it out today, and I’m still excited to get my phone,” said Yuichiro Takahashi, a Tokyo resident getting his first iPhone.
Jay Alabaster of IDG News Service contributed to this report with reporting from Tokyo.