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Buyers grab iPhone 5 at Apple stores

9:57 AM, Sep 23, 2012   |    comments
Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY Charlie Hufnagel shows off his two iPhone 5s outside Apple's flagship store in San Francisco. He says he was paid $1,500 to hold the first place position for buyer Keith Lui.
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by Gary Strauss, Laura Petrecca and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Early iPhone 5 retail sales appear to be living up to the hype as Apple stores were inundated with Friday customers snapping up the company's latest model.

From New York to San Francisco and Des Moines to Louisville, scores of consumers lined up for the much in demand iPhone 5, the latest generation device that's bigger, faster, lighter and more feature laden than older generation iPhones. Some outlets reported selling out by midmorning.

Early orders and Friday's sales surge provided already red-hot Apple shares. Apple climbed as high as $6.10 to $704.80 in early trading, flirting with its all-time record before fading. In after hours trading, Apple shares were up $1.39 to $700.10.

At Apple's flagship San Francisco store, Charlie Hufnagel spent 94 hours at the head of the line - he was paid $1,500 for the job on Task Rabbit, an Internet site where consumers bid on small jobs. Within an hour, Hufnagel, 24, had scored two iPhones for Keith Lui, a pharmaceutical marketing rep who declined to be interviewed.

Outside the Upper West Side Apple store in New York City store early Friday, hundreds are lined up around the block as blue-shirted Apple employees walk around the line, answering questions and handing out coffee and water.

David Lopez and his son David arrived on Wednesday about 1:30 p.m. Their early arrival paid off: they held the first two places in line.

"I'm excited," said the younger Lopez, who turns 18 Saturday. "I'm tired," said his father, who had suggested they wait in line together and get the phone to mark his son' s birthday. They brought a cooler of food to sustain them during the wait. It included Doritos and Coke. The Lopezes, who live in Manhattan, also sustained themselves on burgers and fries from a local diner.

Hundreds lined up outside Apple's Georgetown store in Washington, D.C., many cradling coffee cups, quilts and muffins.

Promptly at 8 a.m. the first person in line, Eric Breese,19, a sophomore at George Washington University, entered the store with dozens of cheering Apple employees lined up on either side of him. The soul train line continued cheering as several other customers entered.

"I think everyone has something that they love, and for me and everyone else in line, it's technology and being part of this groundbreaking period where we're seeing technology change the way we live," Breese said. "It's really exciting."

About 10 minutes later, Breese emerged with a grin and a black iPhone 5. Using iCloud technology, he's already loaded lhis personal information on the phone. "Getting my hands on a phone -- it's so light, so well constructed," he said. "It just feels good when I hold it. That says a lot about the build quality of the phone.

"Being the first guy in the store is pretty exciting," said Breese, who had been in line 18 hours. "You have everyone looking at you, cheering you on. You feel like you're really part of something that's special."

Lining up for first day purchase appeared to be a global phenomenon, with long lines formed at Apple stores in Australia and Japan. In Hong Kong, buyers had to sign up online for the chance to pick up the device at a preset time. According to the Associated Press, the first customers were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting "iPhone 5! iPhone 5!" and high-fiving them as they were escorted through the front door.

In a sign of the intense demand, police in Osaka, Japan, were investigating the theft of nearly 200 iPhones 5s, including 116 from one shop alone. And in London, police sought help finding a man for the theft of 252 iPhone 5s from a shop in Wimbledon early Friday morning.

Zak Kidd, 35, of Washington D.C., skipped standing in line. Instead, he paid a panhandler $100 and bought him dinner to stake out a choice spot. "He camped out with all the other Apple fanatics," said Kidd, who owns a company that profiles Washington area businesses. "I wanted to get a good night sleep."

At the flagship New York City Apple store, there was a line about 200 deep at midnight. Early Friday morning, Israeli Aviram Levy was outside buying used phones. He says that he'll resell them on his website. Representatives from buybackworld.com are also soliciting for that firm by handing out pamphlets that say "we pay cash" for iPhones and smartphones.

At the Upper West Side store, there were about 60 people in line at midnight, where they watched videos on iPads, relaxed under blankets and chatted with each other. One entrepreneur was selling $15 folding chairs to those sitting on the sidewalk.

In West Des Moines, Iowa, the iPhone 5 was a bit of a family event. John Clifton, 20, flew from Boston to Iowa to stand in line at the Apple store with his 76-year-old grandfather, Jack Mathews, of Windsor Heights.

"It's a family event. It's a happening. It's all about being together," said Mathews, who stood in line with Clifton to buy the first generation iPhone in 2007.

In Melbourne, Fla., small lines of about 25 people formed at the Sprint and Verizon stores.
Lars Bragdon of Rockledge, Fla., went to the Sprint store at 2 a.m. Friday. "First one here, first one in the store and first one with the iPhone," the 18-year-old Bragdon said, holding his new device with the care that one cradles a newborn.

"Take a look," he said, "it's beautiful man."

At the Verizon store on Merritt Island, Rob Szabo of Port St. John was in line before 7 a.m. " I'm kind of an Apple geek," said Szabo, who spent four years working as a trainer for Apple in California. "I'm really into Apple stuff. I have an iPhone 4, not the latest one, and it's time to upgrade."

In Greenville, S.C., more than 150 people lined up outside the Apple store in Haywood Mall. Ward Tishler, a Furman University student from Nashville, was the first to emerge from the store with his new phone.

"I'm so excited I don't even know how to explain it," he said as people waiting in line ogled the device. "I sent a text to my girlfriend. I promised her I'd send her one first."
The 20-year-old physics and chemistry major held up his current iPhone 4, which he said had been run over by a car. The screen was cracked, but the phone still works, he said. "It doesn't look very good anymore," he said.

In Prattville, Ala., 40 customers lined up outside a Verizon store for an 8 a.m. opening -- two hours earlier than normal. "It's like a college football game, all we need is a grill and we can tailgate," said Chance Ellis, who arrived at 4 a.m.

And at a Verizon store in Louisville, Cathy Ekman arrived at 6:30 a.m. to score an iPhone 5 for her 20-year-old son, Anton, who is attending the U.S. Naval Academy. She planned to make the 600-mile drive to Annapolis, Md., in time to see him perform with the marching band at Saturday's football game.

"I just try to be a good mom," she said. "I don't mind doing unusual things."

Contributing: Scott Martin in San Francisco; Yamiche Alcindor in Washington, D.C., Patrick Peterson and Wayne T. Price, Florida Today; Chad Roberts, the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle; Marty Roney, The Montgomery Advertiser; Ron Barnett, The Greenville (S.C.) News; Jens Manuel Krogstad, The Des Moines Register; and Jessie Halladay at The Courier-Journal in Louisville.

USA TODAY

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