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The iPhone goes on sale, finally

No sellouts were reported, but Philadelphia's mayor was blasted for waiting in line

June 29, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As hundreds lined up in front of the Apple Inc. store in midtown Manhattan cheered, the first buyers of the long-awaited, much-coveted iPhone emerged, holding small black bags over their heads.

In less than an hour, the line had nearly evaporated, with some successful shoppers claiming the store had "thousands" of iPhones waiting inside.

Media coverage -- CNBC set up stationary cameras in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and left them running to feed a live stream on its Web site was heavy -- but there were no immediate reports of major problems as the first iPhones went on sale shortly after 6 p.m. EDT. Two hours later, there had been no reports of sell-outs as sales of the phones began as each U.S. time zone hit 6 p.m.

Lines at AT&T stores were generally shorter than those at Apple's own stores, perhaps because the formers' policy was one iPhone per customer; Apple allowed buyers to purchase up to two each. Apple's online store, as expected, was shuttered and displayed the traditional "We'll be back soon" message, saying the store would reopen at 6 p.m. PDT.

It did, with the online store touting the device on its home page. Buyers also found that shipping times for both models, when bought from Apple online, were two to four weeks.

There were glitches, however. CNBC reported that computers in the AT&T retail network had slowed under the load, with outright failures at some stores. An AT&T spokesman told CNBC that the incidents had nothing to do with the company's cell phone network.

And in Philadelphia, where Mayor John Street had camped out in front of an AT&T store beginning at 3:30 a.m., passers-by asked him why he wasn't at his desk and pressed him about the city's crime rate. "I'll tell you one thing, Mayor," Barbara Jendrzejewska, a former city worker, told Street, according to WCAU, the city's NBC affiliate. "If you took a poll right now of about 50 or 100 people, I swear to God those people would not be happy with you sitting out here. This, to any taxpayer, would be considered personal."

Street left the line around 11:30 a.m. when another passer-by quizzed him about the city's homicide rate. "How can you sit here with 200 murders in the city already?" a young man asked the mayor, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. FBI statistics released earlier this month said Philadelphia had the highest murder rate among the nation's 10 largest cities in 2006.

Later, Street returned to the line and eventually was among the first to exit the store with an iPhone.

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