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Early bird iPhone 4 customers line up at a Tampa Verizon store

TAMPA — Caitlin Castro was in line at 5 a.m., missing her first classes so she could be among the first Thursday morning to buy the new iPhone 4.

She was among about 15 people in line when the Verizon store near S Dale Mabry Highway and W McKay Avenue opened at 7 a.m.

Online orders started Feb. 3 for Verizon customers and Feb. 9 for everyone, but this was the first time customers could pick up the phones.

Castro, 17, was near the front of the line with her mother, Becky, in tow. With Starbucks coffee, Becky Castro said she didn't mind waiting.

Caitlin has a Droid Galaxy that looks like an iPhone, but jumped at the chance to use her father's Verizon upgrade to get the real thing. She'll pay $100 for the $200 cell phone.

"I like Apple products better," said Castro, a Plant High School junior.

Customers arrived early at Verizon stores throughout Florida, said Chuck Hamby, a spokesman for Verizon in Florida. But no more than 50 people waited in any line for the 7 a.m. openings.

"There will always be someone who wants to be a part of the cultural experience of something new and wants to be the earliest out," Hamby said.

Thursday's short lines were the result of customers switching over to iPhones online after they were made available to Verizon and not just AT&T customers, said Bob Swanz, account manager in data sales for the Verizon store in Tampa. Employees handed out water to Verizon customers. Some showed up by 4:30 a.m.

Swanz said employees spent a lot of time preparing and helping customers buy their iPhones online. On the first day of preorder sales, Feb. 3, the store broke its record for single-day sales on any launch of a device.

Monthly plans for the phone range from $39.99 to $89.99, depending on how much a customer wants to text or call. The unlimited Internet and data plan is a monthly $29.99.

Early bird iPhone 4 customers line up at a Tampa Verizon store 02/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 11:02pm]
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