Apple fans are eager to get their hands on the iPhone 5, released Friday, adding to the lines that are snaking around the block at Apple stores around the world.
The lines have become a familiar sight at nearly every iPhone and iPad launch — it’s not uncommon now for line-sitters to be raising money for charity, or to be hired by another person who wants the latest gadget but doesn’t want to stand in line for it. For others, standing in line has become about camaraderie, or just about saying that they were there when the doors opened.
Apple employees do their best to make standing in line feel like a party, often chanting to stir up the people in line or offering them coffee. And when the doors open, there’s always a lot of clapping.
The phone itself has undergone several changes that are supposed to make it a new and compelling gadget. The screen now measures 4 inches instead of 3.5-inches, which brings it more in line with premium smartphone offerings from its competitors. Apple says that it’s also 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S.
Apple’s iPhone 5 is also supposed to be much faster than earlier phones, and comes with a material makeover in aluminum and steel. It is also the first Apple phone with the capability to run on high-speed 4G LTE networks.
The iPhone 5 starts at $199, which gets users 16 GB of memory. The 32 GB and 64GB versions are $299 and $399, respectively. The phone is available on Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, which launched its LTE network in ten more cities in the week ahead of the launch.
In the District, an AT&T spokesperson said, they’re also seeing lines at their stores, although they’re much more muted. Ahead of store openings, AT&T stores across the region had lines of about 15 to 30 people. In Columbia, about a dozen people camped out overnight for the phone’s launch.
The moment of celebration has already long-passed for customers in Australia, Asia and Europe, where lines were just as long and the mood was just as excited.
According to a report from News.com in Australia, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was on hand in Brisbane to sign autographs for fans. In Japan, the Associated Press reported, police in Osaka were looking into the theft of nearly 200 iPhones — many from the same shop — ahead of the launch. A London man, according to The Register, told waiting customers at the company’s Regent Street store that they were all “mad” while running up and down the line.
CNET, which has reporters on the ground in Paris, New York, San Francisco and Palo Alto , Calif., noted that there were protesters on hand in Paris.
Earlier in the week a handful of protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement were in the crowd in New York, the site reported, to protest Apple’s labor practices in China. But they were not there at the launch, according to Fortune. Apple has been under scrutiny for the its suppliers there treat factory workers, particularly at Foxconn.
In March, the company announced that it had joined the Fair Labor Association and submitted to independent audits of factories in its supplier chain. The group has visited three Foxconn plans and reported that conditions there are poor, but improving.