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Want one Friday? It calls for a plan

June 26, 2007|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

Let's say there's a product so new, you've never had a chance to try it.

Its features haven't been fully disclosed. And the full cost of ownership hasn't been revealed.

Would anyone buy such a thing on the very first day it went on sale?

You bet, if it's the iPhone -- the hottest product almost no one has ever actually seen (outside the 24/7 hype fest).

Across America, people are planning to line up for hours and even camp out overnight to be among the first to lay down $500 or $600 for the long-awaited cellphone-on-steroids from Apple Inc. That price doesn't include the commitment for a monthly usage plan that has to be bought -- otherwise the iPhone is just an expensive drink coaster.

The target day and time: Friday, 6 p.m.

The place: any of the 162 Apple stores or the approximately 1,800 company-owned-and-operated AT&T stores.

Want to join the expected crowds? Or maybe avoid the crowds and still get an iPhone that day?

Some of the early adopters planning to be out there Friday were willing to share their strategies for iDay.

"I am a little fanatical about phones," said Josh Cain, co-owner of a Web development company.

Cain, who lives in Eagle Rock, estimated that he had owned 25 cellphones in his lifetime. And he's only 19 years old.

For much of that young life, he's been waiting for something like the iPhone, which has been hyped as a multipurpose communications and media device, designed by engineers who held ease of use as sacred.

"I've never had a phone I've been all that satisfied with," said Cain, who sometimes tries a phone for a few days and then sells it on EBay. "In some cases the interface has been terrible -- it takes much too long to get to the features.

"Some don't even make calls all that well."

He plans to line up to get an iPhone the first day because he fears there will be a shortage after an initial rush.

"Remember what happened to the Wii?" he said, referring to Nintendo Co.'s game machine that made a splashy debut in December. "They're still not all that easy to get."

Where will he go to buy an iPhone?

"I think the best way to do it is to go to an Apple store inside an enclosed mall," Cain said. "People are not going to be able to wait overnight in those places."

He paused.

"Now, people will read this and have the same idea."

Buying online Friday may be an option -- or maybe not. AT&T said it would not offer the device online on iDay, but Apple, which sometimes operates with an air of secrecy the CIA would envy, would not say.

Strategies have been continuously discussed over the last few weeks on Web forums. Travel site Gridskipper.com has put together guides to motels, restaurants and free restrooms near popular Apple and AT&T shops.

For example, the Century City guide is at gridskipper.com/travel/los-angeles/ultimate-iphone-campout-guide-la-c entury-city-270207.php.

One way to avoid the lines is to pay someone to do it for you. Ads have been cropping up on Craigslist looking for stand-ins, including one in Los Angeles that said, "You need to be reliable and focused on the success bonus."

You also have to be an early riser. "The gig starts at 5 a.m."

Robert Rinaldi, 15, of Shamong, N.J., will be on a long-ago planned trip to Europe when the iPhone comes out. He persuaded his mom to stand in line for him.

That's OK: She'll have her iPod for entertainment "and a cooler with drinks to keep her cool," Rinaldi wrote in an e-mail.

There has been a particularly active group of iPhone hopefuls from New Jersey on the Web.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Peter Seybold, stationed in Atlantic City, plans to take a military mission approach.

"There are five of us, each will be in a different area on Friday morning," he said. "We will keep communicating, comparing the lines."

Seybold, who bought every version of the standard iPod as it came out, has been assigned to check out the Apple store in the Caesars Atlantic City Hotel.

Seybold, 25, sees it as his duty to buy the latest from the company he loves.

"They put out the most amazing products you've ever seen," he said. "You can get into the fanboy-esque mentality with them."

Matthew Klein, a film editor living in Beverly Hills, has wanted an iPhone since the product was announced in January.

"I immediately offered up the idea and my wife paused just long enough," Klein, 36, said. "I considered that a green light."

He believes that future developments in the iPhone will be, to a large extent, applicable to the first model.

"It's just a device with a screen," he said. "The big improvements will be in software.

"I'd rather get it now and grow with it."

On Friday, Klein plans to scope out AT&T stores in West L.A. If the lines are too long, he will head to less-moneyed areas.

"I'll call South L.A.," he said.

Chris Moore of Glassell Park also isn't afraid of being an iPhone pioneer.

"Whatever you buy in technology, there's always something better coming around the corner," Moore, 32, said. "I don't think you can ever win that game."

Moore, who works as a video editor for Pie Town Productions, which specializes in home and garden TV shows, plans to go to an AT&T store Friday.

"I think the lines will be longer at the Apple stores," Moore said.

But that's one of the reasons Richard Green, 27, plans to hit an Apple store near his home in Iselin, N.J.

"It will be fun to be around all those people," said Green, who is a graphics designer, an Apple computer fan and single.

"You don't know who you will meet."

Is Green hoping that in addition to an iPhone, he might find a significant other?

"Well," he said, "it has crossed my mind."

david.colker@latimes.com

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