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Apple's iPhone 5 launch draws crowds

Lines snake around Southland Apple stores as the iPhone 5 goes on sale, despite grumbles about a Maps app and smaller dock connector.

September 21, 2012|By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times
  • Tom Duffy and Jessica Kropf sleep in line at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. They were among the crowds waiting for Apple stores to open and release the new iPhone 5.
Tom Duffy and Jessica Kropf sleep in line at the Third Street Promenade in… (Dan Krauss, For the Times )

Despite complaints over a new Maps app and a smaller dock connector, hundreds of Apple fans spent the night outside Apple stores across Southern California hoping to be among the first to grab the iPhone 5.

One of the first to emerge from the Apple store at the Grove shopping center Friday was 25-year-old Tyler Allen, who triumphantly raised his new phone in the air to loud cheers. The manager of a pizza shop said he waited nearly 12 hours in line and played video games to stay awake.

"This phone is so sexy. It's so sexy," the Koreatown resident said afterward, in near disbelief. "I feel like I have a Bentley in my hand."

More than 250 customers lined up at the Grove in the Fairfax district in L.A. About 50 people were lined up on Beverly Boulevard outside the Beverly Center by 6 a.m. At the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, the line snaked down to Wilshire Boulevard, half a block away, where it wrapped around a Banana Republic store.

Shoppers set up folding chairs and coolers, bought takeout from nearby restaurants and befriended others waiting in line. As self-professed die-hard Apple fans, many passed the time on their iPads, MacBook Pros and older-generation iPhones.

It was a scene repeated across the country as Apple opened its stores at 8 a.m. Friday.

Although most of those in line were there to buy the phone for themselves, some showed up early hoping to make some easy money.

They included George Adams, 19, and about 10 of his friends. He arrived at the Grove at 6 p.m. Thursday to be the first in line, hoping to sell about half of the group's spots for $300 each.

He ended up selling five spots, but only for $100 each.

"It was less than what I wanted, but it was a good profit," Adams said.

With limited inventory in stores, some shoppers showed up only to find Apple didn't have exactly what they wanted.

Steve Merlow, 21, arrived at the Grove on Thursday night with his girlfriend. He had been hoping to buy a 16GB black iPhone 5 on the Sprint network, but found out Friday morning that the store didn't have any in stock. He settled for a white model instead.

Merlow, a nightclub cashier from Hollywood, said he was a little disappointed.

"I still got my iPhone," he said. "I didn't wait 10 hours for nothing."

Many Apple fans noted they could have pre-ordered the phone online or waited a few days for the crowds to abate, but admitted they wanted to be part of the in-store excitement.

"I have to have it, Day One," Danny Lopez, 26, said Thursday night at the Third Street Promenade. He was one of the first in line after arriving around 2 p.m.

"It's always really festive; that's why you come," said Paul Hall, a movie producer from Santa Barbara who has gone to an Apple store on the first day of every iPhone release. He arrived at the Beverly Center at 6 a.m. Friday and waited outside on the sidewalk with several dozen people until the mall opened its doors.

Apple is expected to release initial sales numbers next week. Last year, the company announced that it had sold more than 4 million iPhone 4S units in the three days after that phone's launch.

Earlier this week, Apple reported that more than 2 million iPhone 5s had been ordered on the first day of pre-sales, on Sept. 14, a company record.

Several analysts have predicted that Apple could sell as many as 10 million iPhone 5s through the weekend, though there could be inventory problems.

"Given indications for demand, iPhone sales this weekend should far surpass prior sales records, although we acknowledge the risk that supply constraints and stock-outs could cause the record figure to actually be lower than it really should be," Barclays analyst Ben A. Reitzes wrote in a note to investors.

Although the phone is expected to be a bestseller, there have already been some complaints. Users are upset over the iPhone 5's smaller dock connector; although Apple is selling adapters, it has warned that they won't work with all iPhone accessories.

And there are also big gripes with the new Maps app on the iOS 6 operating system that comes on the iPhone 5. The app, Apple users say, is inferior to the previous Google Maps apps, with misplaced locations and visually confusing images (such as an apocalyptic depiction of the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge).

Apple shares rose $1.39, or less than 1%, to close at $700.09 Friday.

Among those getting an iPhone 5 on its first day was Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who lined up outside an Apple store in Queensland, Australia, where he was traveling.

Reached on his cellphone, Wozniak said he bought two 64GB versions, one in white and one in black, because he couldn't decide from photos which he liked better.

"I want to use it for a while — not half an hour, not a day. I want to use it for at least a week to see if it seems quicker and more responsive," he said. "It's hard to imagine because my current phone works so well already."

andrea.chang@latimes.com

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