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IPhone 3G S launch: A tale of two lines in Glendale

In the predawn hours this morning, two lines formed in Glendale for the iPhone 3G S.

ATT-line
A view from the door of the line at the AT&T Store on Brand Boulevard at its height. Credit: Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles Times

One was outside the Apple Store that stretched along the edge of the second level of the Glendale Galleria parking structure with tape-marked rows. The other, not even a mile away, had only two guys in green portable chairs and a laptop outside an AT&T store.

About 5:45 a.m., having scoped out both lines, I became the fourth person in the line at the AT&T Store on Brand Boulevard. 

Two hours and 45 minutes earlier, Milton Davila, 19, took his post as the first in line with only a cup of coffee and couple of doughnuts to keep him company. About a half hour later, he was joined by Vartan Nadjaryan, 20, who brought his laptop -- to surf the free Wi-Fi outside the store -- and a fold-up chair. "I basically get a rush out of signing a new contract," Nadjaryan said. "It feels good to get [the new iPhone] on the first day."

Both Davila and the third person in line, Dennis Martin of North Hills, just bought the iPhone 3G for less than a month ago and hurried earlier this week to return them before 30 days passed so they could get its faster successor, with double the memory for the same price.

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The customers who pre-ordered get their new phones. Credit: Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles Times

"It was awesome, very addictive! I almost can't live without it," Martin said, who had traded in a Motorola Razr. In the month that he had the iPhone, he has integrated the social networking applications into his daily routine. And texting is something he does regularly. From his Razr, he sent about five text messages a month. But from the iPhone, that number jumped to 1,300."Having the phone allows me to leave my laptop. It's so nice to walk out of the house with nothing else."

By 6:45 a.m., a small line had collected outside the store, but the majority of them had pre-ordered the phone and were there just to pick them up. They were in and out in a flash starting just a few minutes before 7. For the most part, the process moved smoothly -- no real need for the muscled man who stood eyeing the mellow crowd. Despite the relatively anemic turnout at this store, excitement was still coursing, mostly about the new device's speed, video camera and voice control. 

Claim-check
An AT&T employee sifts through the large stack of claim checks for 32 GB iPhone 3G S devices. Credit: Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles Times 
There had been some concerns that stores might not have enough phones in stock to meet demand. At this AT&T Store, an employee sifted through a fat stack of claim tickets for walk-in purchases of black 32-gigabyte 3G S phones. Only about 10 walk-in customers were in line at the time -- and some were buying white 16-gigabyte phones.

By the time Nadjaryan, Martin and I shot our first videos and determined whether we were facing north or northwest, the entire line fit inside the doors of the dimly lit store. We were all done before the sun had broken through the marine layer.

Meanwhile, back at the mall, groups of about 30 at a time were moved forward to the next of the three waiting locations. Inside the store, amid the bright fluorescent lighting and music, was a flurry of activity -- employees activated phones, pointed out accessories and some customers gave fist bumps, took pictures of each other holding their new phones and tested out the voice controls.  

By about 9 a.m., customers were still gathered outside the Galleria in the parking structure, but nowhere near the lines of tape that extended about 100 yards into the lonely reaches of the garage. Apple employees had wheeled out a cart with bottles of water for those waiting. I chatted with a few folks who were looking forward to trading in their manhandled Razrs for the new hotness. Even Mais Matevaosyan, who spent the majority of his time in line complaining about AT&T service and reception, was excited. Matevaosyan said he contends with about 20 dropped calls a day.

Meanwhile, back at the AT&T Store, it was business as usual -- no lines, no crowds, no hoopla.

-- Michelle Maltais

 
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