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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Verizon iPhone launch not what I expected



After months and months of waiting, rumors and hype followed by the recent news of record pre-sales of the Verizon iPhone, I expected today to be crazy. I predicted long lines at the Apple Store and Verizon stores in Tampa and expected the response to be similar to the launch of the iPhone 4 last year. At the stores in Tampa at least, it just didn't happen.

Just after 9 AM I went to the Apple Store at the International Plaza Mall. Outside the mall entrance were some portable toilets, signs and ropes indicating Apple expected lines too. It was raining, so I thought they had moved the lines inside. What did I find inside? No lines. An Apple employee told me four people were waiting for iPhones when they opened at 7 AM.


I took a quick trip over to Best Buy on North Dale Mabry Hwy. They opened at 8 AM and had one person waiting for the Verizon iPhone. At 10 AM it was the only iPhone they had sold.

And then it was on to the South Tampa Verizon store, where store manager Rob Sharkey told me they had 30 people in line when they opened at 7 AM. The first customer to get an iPhone, an existing Verizon customer who traded in her old phone, had been in line since 1:10 AM. Sharkey didn't think the rain was a factor.

"The rain started around 7 AM, and that's just about when we got everyone in the door," Sharkey said. "So they stayed pretty dry, except for a couple of workers. We had ponchos on hand."


I was in the store from about 10:15 AM until almost noon and a fair amount of people were there to get iPhones but it seemed just as many were there for other phones too. And three out of the four iPhone customers I spoke to were Verizon customers who were switching to the iPhone. Here's what they had to say:

  • Jasmine Arenas, Tampa - A Verizon customer who traded-in her Blackberry Storm. "In the past I've had a Storm and I've had nothing but problems with it. I've been waiting for awhile, so I am excited."
  • Alex Lawlor, Wayne, PA - A Verizon customer who traded-in her Blackberry with a cracked screen. "My parents are on AT&T and they have an iPhone and they like it so I decided to get this (the iPhone) instead of the Droid." 
  • Rachel Harrison, Tampa - A Metro PCS customer switching to Verizon. "We've always wanted the iPhone and we've heard a lot of good stuff about it. I've previously had Verizon and I always liked 'em. They have good service, all the time. So we switched back over to Verizon for the iPhone."
  • Jim Erb, Tampa - A Verizon customer who traded-in his Blackberry. "My kids have been using the iPhone for some time and I've always been jealous of their utilization of the applications and the east of utilization. Unfortunately we weren't able to use it because of the fact that they (Verizon) didn't offer the iPhone. So I was very happy that they're now able to offer it." 

 arenas.png  lawlor.png  harrison.png  erb.png

I was surprised that no AT&T customers came in while I was there. So many people with iPhones on AT&T's network have complained for so long about the service that I really expected a lot of switchers. Although, as I've said before, AT&T has been great for me in Tampa Bay so maybe it was different today in markets where AT&T has been known to struggle with connectivity (New York, San Francisco).

I'm not saying the lack of lines today indicates Verizon didn't sell a lot of iPhones. I'm sure they did, and it could be that they did such a great job of making them available for pre-order that they averted the expected launch-day storm. South Tampa store manager Sharkey said today was one for the record books.

"It's been a record-setting morning for us, company-wide," Sharkey said, "and we're expecting some good results throughout the weekend."

I suspect he's right and eventually we'll get the numbers to prove it. And we may find out that the AT&T customers are waiting to see what happens before they jump. AT&T made some last-minute moves to sweeten the deal for their current customers and really, it makes more sense for those folks to wait until the next iPhone comes out anyway.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 3:03pm]


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