Rain doesn't thwart Boston iPhone 3G S fans

Despite showers, customers line up for Apple's latest smartphone

BOSTON -- Despite on and off rain, more than 120 people hoping to buy the new iPhone 3G S lined up outside the downtown Apple Store here before its 7 a.m. opening.

That number was well below the more than 1,000 who waited in hot, humid conditions at the same store last July when the second-generation iPhone 3G debuted.

It wasn't clear whether the rain kept bigger crowds away, but after the store opened, dozens of additional shoppers continued to arrive, with many standing in heavy rain on the sidewalk an hour after the opening, protecting themselves from the elements with black umbrellas adorned with the iconic white Apple Inc. logo that were handed out by the store staff.

Shoppers at the downtown Boston Apple Store.
Alex Newbury, left, and Patrick Morton, both of Boston, show off the iPhone 3G S devices they bought at the downtown Boston Apple Store. The two were first in line for the devices, having spent a rainy night waiting for the Boylston Street store to open at 7 a.m.

"I'm in line because it's an Apple phone and it looks good," said Andrea Soares of Boston. She said she wanted the new model because of its video capture feature. She said that she's eager to have AT&T Inc., the exclusive iPhone carrier in the U.S., turn on MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) later this summer so she can send and receive video clips.

Soares, who was born in Brazil and has worked in Germany, said she plans to review the video capture function for German readers of Camcorderinfo.com, where she is a managing editor. But mainly the device will be for her personal use, she said.

Two men in their early 20s, Patrick Morton and Alex Newbury, both of Boston, were the first in line at the Boylston Street store after waiting since 9:30 p.m. Thursday and enduring a cold, rainy night to get their new iPhone 3G Ss. By 8 a.m., an hour after opening, they had ported nearly all of their wireless phone numbers from Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel to AT&T with help from the store staff.

"The wait's been OK, and everybody has been nice, even though it was cold last night," said Newbury, who admitted that Apple customers are "a little intense as a group." He said he expects to use his iPhone for a range of functions, including medical applications, since he is a graduate student at Harvard University studying neuroscience.

Morton and Newbury, who were roommates as undergraduates at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., each bought a 32GB device for $299, plus a two-year service plan with voice, data and texting service at a cost of $90 a month. That adds up to a two-year commitment of $2,160 each, not including taxes and fees. Morton said he was willing to shell out the monthly cost even though his company is planning to give him a BlackBerry smartphone at no charge. "It's worth it," he said.

Morton will start his first job, at an accounting firm, in July, and he plans to use his iPhone for both personal and work needs; he will provide his own support.

Morton said he was "really disappointed with AT&T" because it does not currently support wireless tethering between iPhones and other devices, and he plans to pay up to $30 a month when that option becomes available. AT&T has not put a price tag on tethering, which it does plan to eventually provide. The carrier today charges $30 a month for that feature with BlackBerry smartphones.

Jason Shroyer of Boston, a dental resident at Boston University, said he would use his new iPhone 3G S for browsing the Web for medical information, but he was chiefly interested in MobileMe capabilities, especially for maintaining his busy calendar.

Shroyer said the iPhone 3G S "does everything, it seems" and he noted that he was eager to start using it instead of a Samsung phone from Verizon Wireless.

While the customers at the Boylston Street store said they didn't mind waiting in the rain because they were happy to get the new iPhone 3G S, the main concerns they expressed involved using AT&T's wireless network, which some of them had never used before.

Pat Donaher, a teacher in Boston, said he has never used the AT&T wireless network, but he checked online in advance to make sure he had wireless coverage in his neighborhood. Lack of coverage and reports of AT&T's failure to activate MMS and tethering in a timely manner didn't give him much confidence.

"My single biggest concern with [the iPhone 3G S] is AT&T," Donaher said. He said a friend of his returned an iPhone because wireless coverage was poor where the friend lived. "I'd like to see iPhone on more carrier plans," he said.

Apple officials would not comment on how many iPhones they had in stock at the Boston store or nationwide.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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