|A line of about 30 people - as of 5 p.m. Pacific Coast time - in front of an Apple Store in Santa Monica, Calif., waiting for the introduction of the Apple iPhone Thursday, June 28, 2007.|
On the eve of the day of reckoning for the most-hyped gadget in recent memory, eager customers lined up Thursday, a few even braving torrential rain, to be among the first to get their hands on the coveted new cell phone from Apple Inc.
The gadget, which combines the functions of a cell phone, iPod and wireless Web browser, will go on sale in the United States at Apple and AT&T stores at 6 p.m. Friday in each time zone.
It's been the focus of endless anticipatory chatter and even parodied on late-night TV. It's hogged so much of the media spotlight, a St. Paul, Minn., minor league baseball team planned to spoof its porcine mascot by selling a real 'iPig.'
"This phone is going to blow everything out of the water," Tony Cecchini, 40, a San Antonio, Texas, air conditioner salesman said while braving a downpour to wait outside an AT&T store Thursday morning.
Apple and AT&T Inc. — the phone's exclusive cellular carrier — have not disclosed how many units will be available at launch, adding to the frenzy that more typically accompanies the releases of video game consoles.
Featuring a 3.5-inch touch-screen display, the iPhone will cost $499 for a 4-gigabyte model and $599 for an 8-gigabyte edition.
People armed with sleeping bags and folding chairs started lining up on Monday outside Apple's flagship store in New York City, but in the company's San Francisco Bay area backyard, residents apparently took a more laid-back approach and didn't start queuing up until Thursday.
"I got here at 8 a.m. and was shocked I was the first in line," said Jerry Taylor, 54, a San Francisco marketing consultant and longtime Macintosh computer user who set up a golf-putting green on the sidewalk to keep himself and a friend entertained.
Others were looking to turn a quick profit, expecting the product to sell out quickly and drive up online auction bids to triple the retail price. Apple said it was limiting purchases to two per person at its retail stores, while AT&T said it would impose a purchase limit of one per person at its stores.
Other companies, including Playboy, tried to catch a ride on the iPhone publicity wave.
Executives at rival smart phone makers nervously awaited initial iPhone sales figures from Apple.
"I've never seen the kind of feeding frenzy we've seen in the media," Palm CEO Ed Colligan said during a conference call with analysts Thursday. Palm reported a 43 percent plunge in its fourth-quarter profits amid rising costs and blistering competition that offset record Treo sales.
"We expect it to be a very successful product — but I don't know how it can possibly live up to the hype," Colligan said.