New Yorkers camp out for iPhone despite summer heat

IPhone fever takes hold in the Big Apple

NEW YORK -- New Yorkers have a reputation for being a hearty lot, and those who want to be among the first to buy an iPhone on Friday seem to be made of a particularly tough constitution. Despite temperatures that soared above 90 degrees today, several were already lined up outside the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The leader of the pack was Greg Packer, 43, a retired highway maintenance worker from Huntington, N.Y., on Long Island. Packer lugged his supplies, which included water and clothes, and set up a camping chair on the street outside the store on Fifth Avenue at 5 a.m. Monday so he could be the first in line for Apple Inc.'s latest gadget.

Though he's committed himself to spending nearly five days living on the street for the iPhone, Packer said he's not "computer literate" and doesn't own an iPod. "I'm not really a technology person, but I'm doing the best I can to keep up with technology," he said.

However, two of his favorite things are music and the phone, so Packer, who said he has camped out early for concert tickets and sporting events in the past, wanted to be first in line to get the product that combines the two and provides Internet access at his fingertips. "I want to see what it's like," he said. "I want to give my review of it."

Packer isn't the only one consumed with iPhone fever. At 2 p.m. today three people with chairs were in line behind him, and a fifth person said he was joining the queue while Packer was being interviewed. (That move seemed unlikely, however, since the man was dressed in casual business attire and had no supplies or other equipment that one might have for a four-day camping excursion on a New York street.)

Jessica Rodriguez, a Bronx resident on summer break from New York's Boricua College, said when she stopped by the Apple Store yesterday, she had no intention of camping out. But after talking with Packer and the others lined up outside the store, "it motivated me to want to come."

The iPhone release is a "groundbreaking moment for cell phones," said Rodriguez, who wants to be a part of "something that's going to go down in history."

Rodriguez said she hopes she can buy at least one iPhone for her sister, who has a birthday coming up, but would like to buy two so she can have one. The staff of the Apple Store is being "secretive" about how many phones customers will be able to purchase when they go on sale, she said.

Apple store representatives who were asked how many iPhones consumers would be permitted to buy Friday had different answers. One said there will be a limit, but the store had not been informed of how many could be sold to each user, while another said she "hadn't heard anything" about a limit on the number of iPhones users could buy.

Rodriguez seemed unfazed by the 90-degree-plus temperature on Tuesday, though she had just arrived that morning and had not yet spent a full day and night on the street. "If you go to the beach, it's this hot," she said.

The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue is open 24 hours, and both Packer and Rodriguez said they are taking breaks and using the store's restroom when needed. They're also getting help on their mission from friendly New Yorkers, who are bringing them food, water and other items they might need for their long wait.

Mia Bleyman, who works in the same building as the Apple Store, stopped by and presented Packer with a mini electric fan to help keep him cool. She works for the Estee Lauder cosmetics company and said she can see the iPhone queue from her window.

"Everyone's so excited," said Bleyman, who had also brought Packer a bag of Doritos, chicken soup and other food and beverages since he'd set up camp.

Bleyman acknowledged that she thinks it's "a little bit" crazy to be lining up for days in the summer swelter just for a new gadget. But in defense of Packer and the others, she said, "I don't think he thought it would be this hot."

The iPhone goes on sale at 6 p.m. local time across the U.S. on Friday. Like other Apple stores, the New York stores on Fifth Avenue and on Prince Street in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood will close at 2 p.m. and reopen at 6 p.m. for iPhone sales.

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