Friday - Buying the Phone!
At just after 6 p.m. they opened the doors and started letting in 20 persons at a time. There was a huge crowd immediately in front of the door spilling intot the traffic lane, and groups of people across both University and Kiplings Streets.
Somehow the order of the line became somewhat jumbled, especially when we noticed that some persons did not have Zooomr.com-assigned numbers, or were standing in a different order. Thanks to #27, shame was brought to bear against those out of order, and the line was correctly sorted by the time the opening arrived.
Most couldn't see it from around the corner, but the front window displays had been changed slightly--the white background was swappd to remove the "Coming…" logo, and to be just plain white. Also, more dramatically, the iPhone displays switched to the clock application, and began counting down the minutes and seconds until 6 p.m.
There were lots of Apple employees on hand, and then directed everyone left as we entered the store, and then snaked along the outside aisle, and then to a point where an employee asked us "Cash or credit card?" and then directed us to either the Genius Bar (cash) [#2 / #3] or the Studio (credit card). Behind each of these counters was a long stacked row of iBags, each containing the iPhone. [bagstuffing]
The process was simply--just belly up to the bar, provide your credit card and ID, and the staffer would process the transaction with a handheld computer. You then were free to leave, or move over to the front-most wooden shelving for some headset accessories.
There was no table display of iPhones, although there was one empty table (left side, third back) where staffers were directing people to come after the sale to make "help" appointments on Saturday. I understand that the San Francisco store and others actually had a table of display iPhones set up so people could try them. Perhaps that was after the initial sales.
I took some video and photos of the set-up, and then heard someone say, "It's Steve!" I turned to find Steve Jobs wearing a tan ball cap talking to legendary programmers Andy Hertzfeld (center) and Bill Atkinson (right). As it turns out, Hertzfeld was behind me in line within the store, and Atkinson was ahead of me. I had noticed that Hertzfeld actually had an iPhone when he first came into the store, which obviously caught my attention.
There was a crush of photographers, so much so that some staffers asked everyone to step back from the trio, which they did. Oh, and then Steve went outside, met his wife on the corner, and escorted her inside.
Outside, the huge crowd was still in front. On the side street, the line stretched only abou 3/4 of the way down the block, or about 100 people at 6:35 p.m.
Read Valleywag for how the Zooomr.com founder had his credit card declined when purchasing two iPhones, and had to use his back-up.
Fifth Avenue's first-in-line (a serial publicity hound) is shown in video coming out of the store holding up two iPhones. Well, at least now he's an Apple customer, unless he sells the phones.
Other attendees noted a long list of geeks in line: Jeremiah Owyang, Lunch 2.0’s Terry Chang, Kurt Collins, Nick Gonzales of TechCrunch, Loren Heiny, Don MacAskill of Smugmug, Leah Culver, Johnny Ham of Ustream.tv, Par Ghandi of Veodia, Gabe Rivera of TechMeme, Thomas Hawk and Kris Tate of Zooomr, tech correspondent Scott Budman, all in addition to Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Ward Cunningham.
If you want some early impressions of the iPhone, check my blog.
Friday - The Home Stretch
At 5 p.m. CNBC finished up their coverage, and the local TV cranked up their cameras to gather interviews and begin to cover the store re-opening live.
The sun is still shining steadily along the Kipling St. side of the store, so it's hot there. But in front the temperature and breeze is perfect. The line extends up the block, and down about 3/4 of the next block. I counted about 215 persons in line at 5:05 p.m.
I hear that there is a huge line at the Corte Madera Village (N. Calif.) store.
Two youn men in front of us have quit the line, having failed to sell the spaces they were saving for someone else. So much for entrepreneurship.
I'm stowing the laptop, so I'll try to post additional reports after the event and when I return home. Hope you had a great overnight stay for the iPhone debut!
Friday - The Store Closes
Apple staffers continued to make bottled water runs down the entire length of the waiting line, which by 1:30 p.m. was about 120 persons, still short of Lytton Street, just north of the Apple store. An armored company guard made a pick-up/delivery, and had to walk the gauntlet of people who jammed the front of the store.
At 1:40 p.m. those at the head of the line returned to the front of the store, but this time on the left side of the store. The remainder of the line followed them around the corner onto Kipling St., where the temperatures were at least 80 degrees and sunny.
At 2 p.m. sharp Apple put two staffers on the door to prevent new customers from entering. About 10 minutes later the last two customers left with their purchases, and other staffers broke out three huge sections of black tarp. With the assistance of two tall ladders, they lifted the tarp over the two front windows and the front door, completely covering them both. Before the tarp went up, I counted about 40 staffers inside.
By 2:30 p.m. waiting line finally broke the corner of the block, heading east on Lytton St., and numbering about 140 persons. According to Cnet, there were 260 persons in line at Fifth Avenue (NYC) just after the store there closed.
CNBC's Jim Goldman is still here doing reports, presumably until the store re-opens at 6 p.m.
Friday Morning - Something Arrives!
At 9:15 a.m. a full-size UPS truck pulled south on Kipling St. and parked in a street space. They rolled up the back door in preparation for unloading the iPhones. However, a store employee asked the driver to back into a very narrow alley leading to the back door of the Apple store. The driver backed the truck up the street, made a quick turn, and expertly put it in between the building and the neighbor's fence.
At that point, many of those in line crowded on both sides of the truck, but there was just a narrow space for video or photos. On the fence side an Apple employee waved papers in front of the Zooomr.com video camera trying to block their shot. But there were several glimpses of three carts full of boxes that were unloaded.
There were two sizes of boxes on three carts. Because of the later Fed-Ex delivery, it's likely these were accessories.
The temperature is beginning to rise as the sun hits the sidestreet. Traffic is heavy around the store and there are lots of pedestrians. Jim Goldman is doing additional reports for CNBC in the midst of the waiting line.
A UPS driver made a another delivery through the front door--but this was a large box with a "Mrs. Fields" logo on the side! it's part of a party that the stores are throwing for their employees.
Alert! At 11:45 a.m. a Fed-Ex tractor-trailer appeared and, not being able to negotiate a turn to back into the Apple store alley, pulled into an alley across the street. The smiling driver then unloaded four large, orange plastic-wrapped pallets, and pulled them across to the Apple store while everyone on the sidewalk took pictures and video and gawked. These were the phones. However, because of the opaque wrapping, it was impossible to tell if they were indeed iPhones, or how many there might be. From the volume of the pallets, there certainly could be 1,000 or more phones in the delivery.
Otherwise, it's very hot, with a nice little breeze, and lots of press roaming around, mixed in with some passersby. At about the same time the Fed-Ex truck arrived, a car pulled up from a caterer, who unloaded several boxes and some clear plastic containers of fruit, bite-sized vegetables and other snacks, apparently for the 2-4 p.m. party that Apple retail staffers will have while they redress the store interior.
I used the Apple store restrooms, which are upstairs. While getting there, I noticed that several walls had little notes, "Wet Paint."
While we were waiting, several entrepreneurs came by: several restaurants handing out copies of their menus, a couple of Web sites with flyers, and two persons handing out flyers promoting their books.
Friday Morning, June 29th
The lawn sprinklers started up at a office/house on Kipling, briefly dowsing some overnighters who had camped in the driveway of the property. They quickly jumped up and relocated. The sky is slightly overcast, but it's no colder than it was at 10 p.m.
Some continued to sleep, but others were up and headed to Peets Coffee across from the Apple store, which opened at 6 a.m. Others wandered up to Starbucks, further up the street.
As it has become brighter starting around 5 a.m., more people have arrived to join the line. However, it's still only about 90 people in line by 8 a.m.
CNBC did a live broadcast at about 8:15 a.m., spotlighting the waiting line, but also the financial aspects of the iPhone. Reporter Jim Goldman also mentioned today's news about RIM and Palm.
Despite the trash bags, the sidewalk is littered with debris from the night before, including a few beer bottles and beer cans. At some point we'll have to do a clean-up.
At 8:25 a.m. the bagels arrived from Noah's Bagels up the street. Not sure if they're from SmugMug or Zooomr.com.
AppleInsider reports that Philadelphia's mayor was in the waiting line at an unnamed store.
Alert: I've heard that Andy Hertzfeld will be coming to this store. He's another pioneer Apple programmer. Ward Cunningham, who developed the first wiki, and Dave Winer, a pioneer in scripting, RSS and blogging, are also floating around the area talking to those in the waiting line.
Friday Morning, early
Just after midnight, there seems to be a stable number of hard-core overnighters in line--about 75 persons. The line extends north on Kipling St. about half-way up the block.
Inside the Apple store, the staff is working on some displays, although it's impossible tell exactly what work they're doing, since it's all at the back and on lower shelving.
The street traffic is zero, although a few cars have come by to gawk at the crowd. Most in the waiting line are still awake and sitting in their camping chairs quietly talking or working on their laptops, although a few are naping in their chairs, playing cards or even asleep on the sidewalk. The Palo Alto police are making frequent rounds, but have been completely friendly. At one point a sergeant passed along the location of public restrooms to Apple's security guard, who passed the information along the crowd.
The front of the line still has power from the shoe store next to Apple--management allowed the group to keep the orange extension cord plugged in even after the store closed. The zooomr.com gang is using this source of power. At the tail end of the line, someone's pick-up truck has an inverter, and is plugged into an extension cord that runs across the street to the waiting line.
The weather hasn't turned any cooler, and there's absolutely no wind. In fact, the usual fog that rolls in from the ocean is absent here in Palo Alto, so we have a great view of the 3/4 moon and the stars. We expect that it will start getting brighter around 4:45 a.m., and the sun will be beating down on us most of the day.
Around 4:30 a.m. a local TV station showed up to do a live shot for their morning news. The videographer is now pulling power and video cables from his van to a spot in front of the store. They'll be doing a live report every half-hour for the next two hours, they told us. The reporter said there were 50 persons at the San Francisco store and about 40 at the Burlingame store just before they arrived here.
I experienced Palo Alto's fabulous 50-cent public restroom, which is a stainless steel and concrete, self-cleaning model. I also visited the local 7-Eleven, barely a block away. The air conditioning was set to "stun" mode--it was much warmer outside, even at 5 a.m.! The local Starbucks opens at 7 a.m., so it'll be crowded over there soon. Right next to them is Noah's Bagels, another popular morning spot.
Robert Scobel is still awake and talking tech to people, but his son has collapsed on the bean bag chair next to half-full pizza boxes. The local garbage collection truck roared down Kipling St., which has to be the narrowest street in town. The local beat officer stopped by and was talking tech with some of the group.
At 5 a.m. it's still windless and around 65 degrees, but a little bit of overcast is obscuring the clouds. The waiting line is still mostly sleeping or resting in chairs.
Some of the Apple store employees are leaving at 5:15 a.m., but will return. They've been cleaning every inch of the store during the night.
Be sure to check the links at the bottom of the page for other Web sites that are reporting on the overnighter.
I arrived at the Palo Alto (N. Calif.) store at 6:05 p.m. to find 40 persons in line, with Robert and son Patrick Scobel arriving first at about 9 a.m. Robert is a blogger, tech evangelist and writer. The Footwear Etc. store next door allowed the group to snake a power cord out the door, so everyone has a laptop running. CNBC has been broadcasting live from the store during the day, and a satellite up-link truck has taken over the yellow zone on the sidestreet. [photo]
The Zooomr.com Web site is broadcasting live from the front of the store--sometimes the camera is pointed at something interesting, other times there are interviews, and other times it's well, of nothing. They're using EVDO cellular to link back to their server.
The #5 and #6 person in line say they're going to buy an iPhone, and then sell it on eBay. They arrived at about 1 p.m., and figure they might make $200 or $300 for each phone they buy.
Pizzas arrived about 7:15 p.m., paid and delivered by SmugMug, along with a 24-pack of Cokes. The sun is setting directly up the street from us, creating glare for the laptops on the sidestreet. I'm told it was pretty hot during the afternoon unless you were in front of the store. Two young women are from Verona (Italy), and intend to take their iPhones back home to be among the first in the country to own the devices.
Alert: There's a rumor that both the San Francisco and New York City police have told everyone waiting on the sidewalk that they have to move on, and will not be allowed on the sidewalk. I haven't heard anything from anyone at the scene--email me!
Craigslist has iPhone sellers claiming they have them in-hand for $1,200. There are others who are selling at 6 p.m. Friday night for $800.
At 8:30 p.m. there were 72 persons in line, with lots of people in camping chairs at the front, and others along the Kipling St. sidestreet. The line is barely north past the back of the Apple store. At about 9 p.m. a Palo Alto police sergeant arrived to say that the group in front of the store must move to the sidestreet. So the sidestreet line shift back north, and the 30 or-so from the front of the store moved around to the side. An Apple employee handed out plastic garbage bags, and there was a clean-up of the front sidewalk area.
The weather has been great so far, but by 9:45 p.m. is turning a little chilly. Some people simply have sweatshirts, while others have blankets and sleeping bags. Two young women have a portable scrabble set. One person at the head of the line has a beanbag chair, although it's more for comfort and not warmth.
At about 10 p.m. legendary Apple programmer Bill Atkinson joined the line, and was immediately recognized and surrounded by an inquisitive group. He gladly accepted the attention and began telling early stories of programming.
Palo Alto's downtown is heavy on restaurants and shops, and even now the sidewalk and street traffic is still heavy. People are stopping to look in the store window, while others are stopping to talk with the waiting line group.
There is one security guard and 5-6 Apple employees inside the store re-stocking. Apple employees earlier handled out bottled water, and now inside the closed store there are boxes of water stacked in front of the front POS counter.
Thursday, June 28th
One day before the iPhone debut, the men in front of the Walnut Creek store have received at least one offer of $600 for reserving a space in line. They've set up a tent-like structure to protect themselves from the morning sun, which hits them directly, but also reflects off the east-facing stainless-steel façade to broil them on both sides.
Apple announced that 164 of its 185 stores will stay open until midnight to handle the customer crowds. That some of the stores must close at their regular hour reflects malls which don't allow stores to say open later, or even local zoning laws which limit how late retail stores can stay open.
As for iPhone allocations, you can bet that some Apple stores will receive larger numbers than others. Flagship stores will obviously receive a huge number of iPhones, while mini-stores and those in smaller cities will receive less. Apple will post an on-line "availability" report at 9 p.m. each night.
Wednesday, June 27th
The iPhone retail box appeared in a video review by USA Today's Ed Baig. The black box has a photo of the iPhone on one side, and the very important serial numbers and barcodes on the back. It's the barcodes in particular that will enable the Apple store employees to scan the box, and thereby registering the phone as "purchased," and the later activation of the iPhone via iTunes by the customer. This process will insure that phones that by-pass the cash register (stolen?) don't find their way onto AT&T's network.
Waiting lines haven't materialized at other Apple stores, but additional people have joined the early line at the Fifth Avenue store. In particular, additional philanthropists have arrived at the SoHo store with plans to buy an iPhone, sell it on eBay, and donate the funds to a charity.
Greg Packer has doffed his T-shirt in front of the Fifth Avenue store, no doubt because the weather is still hot despite rain showers passing through the city.
AppleInsider reported that at least two employees will be sleeping over at retail stores Thursday night, but the company didn't explain to employees why. In fact, it's to provide an additional level of internal security for the iPhones, which have been arriving at some stores during the week. The employees might be joining customers, who will be sleeping out overnight at some stores.
An AT&T Web page states that customers at their stores will be be limited to one iPhone purchase per person. It's unknown if this policy will apply to Apple's stores. Also, there's been no mention of AppleCare for the iPhone by either company.
Three young men created a line at the Walnut Creek (N. Calif.) store at 5 a.m. this morning, intending to sell their spots in line for $250. The trio made up both black and white T-shirts with an "iWait" logo advertising their service.
Tuesday, June 26th
Two persons have mysteriously appeared behind one section of bicycle fencing on the sidewalk in front of the Fifth Avenue retail store. Photos show Greg Packer as #1 in line, although he admits to not owning a Mac or iPod, and he's also a first-in-line hobbyist who also likes to be quoted in the media (check Wikipedia or this article). He's doing an on-line blog…well, actually, someone else created the Web site for him, since he has admitted being computer "illiterate," and doesn't know how to obtain a domain name, code a Web page, upload, page, etc.
Apple's gallery of photos from various stores.
A Google map to display stores where iPhones are available.
Gridskipper.com prepared special camp-out information pages for those heading to various stores.
Other blogs, live video streams and stories: