- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2008

The line began with one. Then grew to two. In a matter of hours, it had multiplied to 100. The first man to arrive gradually blended into a sea of flip-flops, T-shirts and business suits, all there for one thing — the iPhone 3G.

Buyers gathered outside the AT&T retail store in the District’s Chinatown as early as 4:30 a.m. Friday. People brought coffee, laptops and friends to help keep them awake while 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 again at 9 p.m. Thursday, eventually returning at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning.

“No other phone gives you this many features,” Mr. 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 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 preparation for the launch - and in an effort to avoid the pandemonium of last summer’s debut of the original iPhone - AT&T representatives at the Chinatown store received training on how to manage 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 more than 25 employees on hand for Friday’s launch, 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 before the launch advising consumers to prepare by checking data plans, coming into the store for a credit check or, if they were already AT&T customers, verifying whether they were eligible for an upgrade.

But not everything went as planned on Friday as a worldwide problem with Apple’s iTunes servers made it difficult to activate the phones in stores.

AT&T spokeswoman Alexa Kaufman said employees were able to activate most of the iPhones sold at the Chinatown store Friday. For iPhones they could not activate, store employees instructed buyers to go home and connect the phones to their personal computers, where they would be able to access iTunes and complete the activation process.

Representatives for Apple did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

AT&T’s Chinatown store had sold out of the iPhone 3G by midday. Some customers arriving afterward placed orders to pick up their phones on a later date, while others said they planned to return Saturday when the store expects more iPhones to arrive, Ms. Kaufman said.

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 charge customers a fee to download, however.

The iPhone 3G is priced at $199 for the 8-gigabyte model and $299 for the 16GB model for those who are new AT&T customers, or current customers eligible for an upgrade discount. Customers who purchased an iPhone before Friday are also eligible. Otherwise, it costs $399 for 8GB and $499 for 16GB model for existing customers not eligible for an upgrade discount. Prices include a two-year service contract.

AT&T has said it will offer a non-commitment price in the future for 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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