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Huge lines form early in Tampa as iPhone X goes on sale

By Sara DiNatale
The Apple Store at International Plaza in Tampa has a few lines organized for the release of the iPhone X on Nov. 3, 2017. [SARA DiNATALE | Times]

TAMPA — The iPhone X dropped in Apple Stores across the country on Friday, drawing dozens of people to pack into a maze of lines at the International Mall store starting at 6 a.m.

Some hoped to line up even earlier to get the new phone, which touts ground-breaking features like facial-recognition software.

Kara Marino, a graduate student at Saint Leo University, arrived at the Tampa mall at 12:30 a.m. Friday and was turned away. The parking lots were closed off. The mall wouldn’t allow people back in until around 6 a.m.

"It’s a lot of waiting," she said. "A line outside, inside and then in the store."

She moved her wait to line up to a nearby IHOP, where she worked on homework for her humane services administration program — on a MacBook, of course.

By 5:51 a.m. she was back at the mall. She was pushed farther back in line than she planned, but her iPhone fate was soon secured.

Employees went through the line of waiting Apple fanatics and put phones on reserve. Each person received a text message confirming that the up-to-two phones he or she could take home were saved.

"I think I’ll be out of here by 10:15," guessed Marino, 23, as she lounged in red folding chair around 8:50 a.m.

The line buzzed with chatter from excited customers. A man pushed a cart alongside as he sold coffee.

Marino admitted she’s a bit of a pro. She waited for the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 6.

"I haven’t gotten a new iPhone since the 6," she said, "and now it’s on the fritz."

Marino was looking forward to the iPhone X’s large screen, new shape and wireless charger. It also features a powerful, front-facing camera, emojis that replicate your facial expressions and a hefty $1,000 price tag.

Apple said Thursday that iPhone sales rose 3 percent in the July-September quarter, a period that saw the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus come out in the final weeks. They could have been even higher if fans of the brand weren’t holding out for the iPhone X launch set for a mere six weeks later.

"The Super Bowl for Apple is the iPhone X," GBH analyst Daniel Ives told the Associated Press. "That is the potential game changer."

Marino tried to pre-order one of the new phones, but it wouldn’t have been shipped to her until December.

"I guess you could call me an impatient millennial," she said, laughing.

But Friday’s in-person wait wasn’t just for her. She reserved a new phone for her dad, too.

Times wires were used in this report.