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Latest iPhone attracts new takers

Sat., June 20, 2009, midnight

Fans line up before AT&T store opening

Happy gadget geeks around the country gathered at AT&T stores Friday to get their hands on the latest, coolest version of the Apple iPhone.

At Spokane’s NorthTown mall, the crowd started gathering before 7 a.m., when the AT&T store opens. An early group who’d preordered the iPhone 3G S marched in first, followed by the rest of the 30 or so waiters.

The crowd included first-timers – those finally succumbing to the cult of the iPhone – as well as some who wanted to trade in recently purchased iPhones for the newest version. Its added features include a digital compass on the touch screen, the ability to record and send video, and the ability to call numbers or play tunes with voice commands.

Rich Knudsen, a resident of Vancouver, B.C., bought his first iPhone three weeks ago. Two days later, he learned about the the iPhone 3G S.

“I brought back my first one, canceled the deal, then waited for today,” said Knudsen, who works for a Washington-based company.

Despite fans’ enthusiasm, industry analysts have said the new iPhone does not amount to a vast improvement over last year’s model. One Piper Jaffray investment firm analyst guessed Apple might sell as many as 500,000 iPhone 3G S units this weekend. That’s about half what the iPhone 3G sold a year ago.

Dave Rex, who teaches emergency medical services at Spokane Community College, spent about 40 minutes buying a new phone and getting it activated. “I’ve had the first two iPhones and when the new one was announced, I had to have it,” Rex said.

“Plus, the new one is just plain faster when connected” to the network, he said.

Kevin Kuttner, AT&T’s Eastern Washington manager, said Friday’s customer turnout was as strong as expected.

While most buyers were looking for the new model, others in the store were shopping for the last model, the older iPhone 3G, which has been marked down to $99 for the 8-gigabyte model and $149 for 16 gigabytes.

No one knows why the newer units have the “S” designation, Kuttner said. “Some people think it means ‘speed,’ but that’s not right.

“Apple has just not said what the letter S means. It’s just a letter.”

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