BlackBerry Storm buyers brave the cold in Boston to be first with the new smart phone

Users making the switch say they are eager to try the Storm's touch screen

A crowd of about 50 people waited in 22-degree weather early today in downtown Boston to be among the first to buy the new BlackBerry Storm smart phone at a Verizon Wireless store.

It might have been a problem anywhere else, but Bostonians were thrilled that the sun was out and the wind was not blowing. What was most on their minds was getting the Storm for $200 after rebate, with its touch screen plus the BlackBerry functions they all seemed familiar with.

Most of the early arrivals were professionals who wanted to upgrade an older version of the BlackBerry, from Research In Motion Ltd., with the newest device, which is being sold with Verizon Wireless service.

Many of those who were in line at 7 a.m. at the store in the city's Downtown Crossing shopping district waited nearly two hours to buy the phone. Store representatives told them they had 100 Storms in stock, and after allowing the lucky crowd to go inside to warm up, they began taking names and offering to activate a phone when available and ship it out by overnight delivery.

Early in the day, it was difficult to gauge how big the first-day crowds were nationwide, but more than 30 people lined up before a store opening in Connecticut, a Verizon Wireless spokesman said. Lines were also reported at Verizon store openings in New York; Tampa, Fla.; Toledo, Ohio; Washington; and across New England, the spokesman said. As of 10 a.m., activations and network activity were going smoothly, the spokesman added.

Early risers in Beantown

All 2,200 Verizon Wireless stores nationwide, including those in Circuit City stores, began selling the Storm today, but the Downtown Crossing store opened an hour earlier, at 7 a.m., to accommodate early customers. The first customer arrived at 4:30 a.m., well before sunrise when the temperature was probably in the teens, store officials said.

While the crowds waiting to buy the Storm were a fraction of the hundreds lined up to buy Apple's iPhone 3G in June in downtown Boston, they were somewhat similar to the crowds arriving on a rainy morning in October to buy the first Android phone, the G1, from T-Mobile USA at a store in Cambridge, Mass.

One Storm customer, upset that the Verizon Web site had mistakenly said the Downtown Crossing store would open at 8 a.m., missed his chance to get one of the 100 phones in stock and rushed to a nearby store in hopes of getting one. "I can't talk, since I'm rushing off to another store," the man told a reporter as he scurried away.

Of several Storm buyers interviewed, all said they were familiar with the iPhone and its touch screen, but they were impressed with the Storm's SurePress touch screen, which moves under pressure, unlike the iPhone.

"I'm afraid it might take some getting used to the touch screen, since you don't automatically know what happens when you push, or if you push too hard," said Jonathan Braverman, who plans to use the Storm for his job as an entertainment agent for a company in Newton, Mass. "But any new phone takes some getting used to."

BlackBerry Storm customers arrived at a downtown Boston Verizon Wireless store to wait up to two hours to purchase the new touch-screen device.

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