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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

iPhone 4S launch is smooth with short lines, Siri is the star



siri_understands.jpgI've covered a bunch of big Apple product launches and have always marveled at how long people would camp out and stand in line to get the latest and greatest from the fruit company. So I was up early this morning, expecting the same mayhem as usual but not expecting the advance sales of the iPhone 4S to have a big impact on the launch-day crowds. I was wrong.

The lines were short and disappeared quickly. All the stores had their acts together and were helping happy customers with no product shortages and quick turnarounds. I visited AT&T, Sprint and Verizon stores in Tampa plus the Apple Store at the International Plaza Mall. Employees at the Apple Store said they had a sizable line outside the mall when they opened for iPhone 4S sales only at 8 AM. By the time I arrived around 9 AM the line was gone. For the iPhone 4 launch last year that line lasted and continued growing well into the afternoon.

That's not to say the reason for the short lines was lackluster sales of the latest Apple wonderbrick. AT&T reported activation of a record number of iPhones on their network as of 4:30 PM ET Friday and said they were on-track to double their previous single-day activation on a single day. Sprint, joining the party for the first time, reported it's own record. Product chief Fared Adib issued a statement saying: ”Sprint today reported its best ever day of sales in retail, web and telesales for a device family in Sprint history with the launch of iPhone 4S and iPhone 4.” Verizon said they were happy with their sales too.

What was everyone talking about? Siri, the cool voice technology that lets you ask the iPhone 4S questions in plain English and gives you intelligent answers. They should have called it Alfred because that's how it feels. Always there, always ready to help when you call and it understands you. Holy smartphone, Batman! Watch the video (shot with my iPhone 4) to see how it works. Even in a noisy AT&T store it was very accurate in my tests. Since the iPad 2 has the same processor as the iPhone 4S, I'm hoping we'll see a Siri update for the iPad 2 after the luster of exclusivity wears off.

Oh, and the speed of the camera is incredible now that it's driven by the new A5 chip. Watch this test I did where I rapid-fired the camera using the volume/shutter button. It's like a real camera now.

Do I have an iPhone 4S? No, I don't. I picked up my iPhone 4 on launch day last year, so AT&T was telling me I had to wait until Nov. 25 to upgrade at the discounted rate. I asked the folks at the AT&T store if I could accelerate that plan a bit and found out that you actually can upgrade on the first day of the month of your actual upgrade date. So on Nov. 1, where do you think I'll be?

[Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2011 12:55pm]


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