Apple's most hard-core fans were out in force at stores around Los Angeles and the Bay Area on Thursday night, hours before the iPhone 5s and 5c were scheduled to go on sale at 8 a.m. Friday.
About 55 people were waiting outside the Apple store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica by 10:30 p.m., with the first arriving at 2:30 p.m.
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Friday marks the first day customers can buy the new high-end iPhone 5s, which features a new fingerprint scanner, an upgraded camera and a much faster processor. The iPhone 5c, which comes in five colors and has a plastic casing, had been available as a pre-order and was scheduled to be delivered starting Friday.
For folks in line Thursday, the new gold iPhone 5s seemed to be the main choice. That means there could be a lot of disappointed Apple fans on Friday, with rumblings that supplies of the gold iPhone 5s are in extremely short supply.
Indeed, the ship date for the gold iPhone was pushed back to October within minutes of the 5s going on sale shortly after midnight.
Things at the Santa Monica store were relatively calm until a store employee approached to survey which phones people wanted. By the time she got to the 14th person in line, she warned that the coveted gold iPhone 5s would likely be sold out by then.
That -- coupled with the news that many of the first people in line were planning on buying two gold iPhones -- angered those further back, including 20-year-old Kassandra Allen.
"Why do they need two? Why why why? That's so selfish, seriously," she said in disbelief.
Allen, a student at the Art Institute, was about the 20th person in line after arriving around 8 p.m.
"I should have come here earlier," she lamented. "I just wanted the gold. I'm Jamaican, I love gold."
Nwabudike Washington, a new friend she'd made in line, was also upset by the gold iPhone shortage.
"I've had the white, I've had the black, I haven't had the gold. It just looks very exclusive," the 23-year-old from Culver City said. "I'm gonna need every prayer, hope I can get. I need to call up on Jesus. He needs to answer this call."
Soon, though, Washington appeared in better spirits: He'd ordered a large pepperoni pizza, which he had delivered to the Apple store.
Others had been paid to wait.
One man, who declined to give his name, said he had been standing outside the nearby Barnes & Noble store when he had been approached by a man in a plaid shirt offering him cash and a McDonald's hamburger to wait in line for him.
"We haven't talked about how much he's going to pay me," he said. "I'm hoping good money though. ... Hopefully the guy will be generous."
Danny Lopez, 27, was first in line at the Promenade and said people had offered him dinner to give up his spot in line. He refused, but said he would do so for $1,000.
Over at the Grove in the Fairfax District, nearly 40 people were waiting on the sidewalk outside the mall at 11:15 p.m. (the Grove wasn't allowing customers onto the property until 4 a.m.).
Geno Watson, 30, arrived at 6 p.m. with a folding chair hoping to get a slate gray iPhone 5s. He said he never considered the 5c, which he called a "junior high, high schoolish" phone.
"It seems like 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, maybe 18. But 20 and up, I don't think you walk around with the 5c," the barber from Crenshaw said.
That sentiment was echoed by Jaime Mezquita, who was first in line at the Grove store. He said the 5c was essentially "an iPhone 5 with a plastic case."
"The 5c is just kind of like a downgrade model," the claims processor at a healthcare company said.
In Berkeley, about 24 people were waiting in line at the Apple store on 4th Street.
First in line was Aaron Wood, 22, of Roseville, who had arrived at 10 a.m. He was seated next to his sister, Melissa Petersen, 32, of South Sacramento.
Wood said he has camped out for every iPhone since the first one, but that this purchase would be especially meaningful.
Two weeks ago, he said, he decided to sell his iPhone 5 and use the money to buy his dad a new iPhone. He met a guy through Craigslist and they arranged an exchange in a parking lot.
But Wood said that when he arrived, the man took the iPhone at gunpoint. Aside from not having an iPhone for two weeks, Wood said, now he won't have the money to buy an extra phone for his father.
Despite the robbery, Wood said he remains as excited about the new iPhones as ever. He was hoping to get a gold iPhone 5s when they go on sale.
He also said he doesn't buy talk that Apple has lost its innovation mojo.
"I absolutely love my Apple products," he said. "You can always find naysayers about Apple. But I think they just keep getting better and they do everything so well."
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