Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Opening Day: The iPhone 4S

8:46 a.m. | Updated Adding observation from San Francisco.

12:43 p.m. | Updated Added observations from the New York flagship store and reactions from analysts.

Despite an initial lackluster response, excitement has been building for the release of Apple’s newest iPhone, the 4S.

On Friday, it officially goes on sale to the public.

Despite disappointment that the form of the iPhone 4S is identical to the previous iteration, each of the wireless carriers, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, have sold out of online orders for the phone, indicating higher than expected demand. Apple said that those orders topped 1 million during the first 24 hours the phone was available â€" beating the previous single-day online order record held by the iPhone 4.

Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, said in a research note that he estimates as many as 2.5 million iPhones will be sold this weekend.

At 7:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the doors of the downtown San Francisco Apple store opened, the line of buyers snaked around the corner and halfway up the block. That is considerably shorter than in years past when the line circled the block and then some.

On reason might be that strategic shoppers stood in line outside nearby Verizon, Sprint and AT&T stores. At the AT&T and Verizon stores on Market Street, within a block or two of the Apple store, about 35 were standing outside each store. An AT&T store further down the street also had about that many people queued.

By noon, there were still close to a hundred eager shoppers braving the rain and dismal weather in Manhattan to stand in line for their chance to purchase a new iPhone. The lined curled around the front of the flagship Fifth Avenue store, weaving around the front of the iconic glass cube, where a dozen bouquets of flowers, candles, apples, handwritten notes and even an old keyboard, are piled technology/jobss-death-prompts-grief-and-tributes.html">as a tribute to Steven P. Jobs.

Used-tech dealers Gazelle were urging people to trade in their old phones and passing out information about their services to those waiting in line. A vendor sold cups of hot coffee to those shivering in the rain.

Many buyers who were at the store said they were excited to upgrade their phones to the iPhone 4S.

“The 3GS feels so outdated by now,” said Greg Burrow, 24, a graduate student at Columbia University. “I’m looking forward to the new camera, a new design and Siri.”

Mr. Burrow, who said he’d been waiting in line for an hour and a half, considered ordering the phone online but didn’t want to have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

“Even though there’s a line, it still feels faster than waiting one to two weeks on the mail,” he said.

Stay tuned as we update with reports from Apple stores, Twitter and around the Web on the first day of sales, and feel free to share your reactions and experiences in the comments below.

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