- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2008

Washingtonians gathered outside the AT&T retail store in Chinatown as early as 4:30 a.m. Friday to purchase the new phone. People brought Starbucks coffee, laptops and friends to help keep them awake, waiting for the doors to open at 8 a.m.

D.C. resident Andrew Roszak, 28, was the first one to arrive. Mr. Roszak said he didn’t know what to expect, so he showed up at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursday night, eventually returning at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning.

“No other phone gives you this many features,” Roszak said. “It’s just a great phone.”

One hour later, Sarah Hale showed up with friends at 5:30 a.m.

“I liked the old one, and I didn’t like the idea of not having the newest, so I had to come get it,” said Miss Hale, 25, who took several pictures of herself with her friends to stay entertained.

Sixteen-year-old Leon Young arrived at 6 a.m. with a laptop in hand, hoping to sell his spot in line for $50.

In preparartion for the launch — and in an effort to avoid the pandamonium experienced during last summer’s debut of the original iPhone — AT&T representatives at the Chinatown were trained on managing crowds in addition to learning the features of the new phone, said Colin Martin, AT&T’s executive director of sales for D.C. and Northern Virginia. The store had about 25 to 30 people staffed on Friday, Mr. Martin said.

AT&T, the nation’s largest wireless carrier and exclusive carrier of the iPhone for the U.S., also set up a special Web site prior to the launch advising consumers to prepare in advance by checking data plans, coming into the store for a credit check or, if they’re a current AT&T customer, verifying whether they’re eligible for an upgrade.

But not everything went as planned on Friday as a worldwide problem with Apple’s iTunes servers hampered in-store activation of the phones.

AT&T spokeswoman Alexa Kaufman said some of the phones were activated at the Chinatown store, while the others were not. Employees told buyers to go home and connect the phone to their personal computer, where they would access iTunes. The phone would go live from there and activation would be complete. Apple is working on the product problem, she said.

The store sold out of the iPhone 3G mid-day. Some customers decided to place orders in advance for pick at a later date, while others are returning Saturday, when the store expects more to arrive.

Unlike the first model, the iPhone 3G runs on the company’s faster network and has a host of new applications that users can download, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the Yellow Pages. It’s also compatible with Microsoft Exchange, making it more friendly to corporate e-mail accounts. Some applications customers have to pay to download and access.

The iPhone 3G is priced at $199 for the 8 gigabyte model and $299 for the 16 GB model for those who are new iPhone customers, eligible for an upgrade or an existing iPhone customer who bought the phone before Friday. Otherwise, it is $399 for 8GB and $499 for 16 GB. Prices include a two-year service contract.

AT&T has said it will offer a non-commitment price in the future for those customers who don’t wish to sign a contract, beginning at $599. The phone would still be tethered to the AT&T network.

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