FAIRFAX, Va.-Verizon Wireless and Apple Computer opened some of their stores in the Washington, D.C., area early today to satisfy public demand for an iPhone from a carrier that isn't AT&T. Despite the fact that there was some snow during the night, there were substantial lines of customers waiting outside area stores well before the 7 a.m. opening time. One Fairfax, Va., shopping mall opened its doors at 5:00 a.m. to accommodate the anticipated shoppers.
Even though the mere mention in weather reports of snow in Washington is usually enough to cancel schools (which happened this time) and close the U.S. government, the determined iPhone buyers lined up at stores throughout the region. There were about 25 prospective buyers lined up at around 6:30 a.m. outside the Verizon Wireless store at the Fair Oaks Mall here. Other people waited in their cars until shortly before 7 a.m., when there was a rush of about 25 more people to join the line of people waiting to get their hands on an iPhone.
The first customers in line at the store visited by eWEEK reported that their new iPhones were being purchased as gifts for loved ones to be presented on Valentine Day. Others were escaping AT&T or other carriers. One prospective buyer (she was No. 4 in line) offered a litany of bad experiences with AT&T customer service along with a lengthy series of dropped or poor quality calls.
The mood was quite different from the crowds at AT&T and Apple stores when the iPhone 4 was released last year. The then mood was a determination to get the latest, coolest thing from Apple. At the Verizon store, the customers appeared to approach their decision with purpose-they needed the capabilities of the iPhone, but they just couldn't see using AT&T.
Several of the people standing in line waiting to buy iPhones told eWEEK that they'd been waiting for a very long time to buy an iPhone, but weren't willing to use AT&T as a carrier. Some of those mentioned the carrier's poor reputation for customer service, while others mentioned the history of poor wireless communications. Either way, the buyers seemed to show a sense of relief along with delight as they made their purchases after waiting more than six months since the word first leaked that Verizon would start selling the iPhone in early 2011.