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For iPhone Obsessives, Frenzy Over Early Delivery

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 11:49 AM

If you care enough about gadgets to pre-order the new iPhone, then perhaps it stands to reason that you would surf the Web obsessively to see when the coveted device will show up at your door.

And so it was for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of techno-nerds across the country, whose online conversations over the past day or so centered on whether they might be lucky enough to receive their new iPhone 3G S two days before everyone else.

Their virtual odyssey began in Shenzen, China, yesterday at 1:05 p.m. (China time) and ended in Louisville at 2:04 a.m (EDT). It was launched by a routine message from Apple that began appearing in e-mail inboxes:

"We wanted to let you know that your order has shipped," the e-mail read. "Shipment Date: Jun 16, 2009. Delivers by: Jun 17, 2009."

June 17?

The official release date for the iPhone, which is the day it will go on sale in stores across the country, is Friday -- two days after the e-mail message said the phones would arrive.

"MINE SHIPPED!!!!!! MINE SHIPPED!!!!!!!!!!!! doing the happy dance! WOO HOO," wrote someone named caligurl in a popular Mac forum called Macrumors. "I got up this morning and immediately checked email . . . and there were two emails from apple. . . . Our iphones had tracking numbers! . . . Looks like our phones are sharing a plane with several of you!"

That was message number 1,316 in the forum's online discussion, appearing to break all records for the geek-populated site. Before long, the UPS site was reporting that iPhones had departed Shenzen and arrived in Hong Kong.

"OURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! actually left hong kong! WOO HOO!!!!!!!!" caligurl wrote at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday. "Come to mama, my little iphone!!!!!!!!!"

For the next 14 and a half hours, the world of iPhone fanatics was consumed by the possibility that their gadgets would arrive early -- seemingly confirmed by official milestones from the UPS Web site.

"AHHHH, I want mine to leave China," wrote fireshot91, whose shipping information was lagging behind.

It was then that an enterprising person took the excitement to another level. Using flight tracking Web sites, he discovered what he believed was the only flight from Hong Kong to the United States.

"Found our UPS Plane," wrote dflynn4. "I found a UPS plane heading from Hong Kong to Anchorage. The flight takes 9 hours and 28 minutes."

Using the flight tracking sites, the community quickly seized on the news. Soon, pictures of the globe appeared, showing a tiny airplane as it sped at over 500 mph from Hong Kong to Anchorage, headed to Louisville, where UPS has a major distribution facility.

Then, some troubling news emerged. As iPhone fans confirmed the plane carrying the precious cargo landed in Alaska, the June 17 expected delivery date mysteriously disappeared from the UPS Web site.

And a few patient souls counseled patience.

For five hours, as Flight 63 flew across the country toward Kentucky, the anticipation and worry built.

The June 17 date popped back onto the UPS site briefly, sending iPhone hopefuls back to the flight tracking databases, this time for UPS flights from Louisville to the airports nearest their home towns.

"This thread is unreal," wrote simplemind at 3:14 a.m. "We have been tracking 747's from China, to severe weather reports in the heartland. ... I would not be surprised if we get tanker updates from the fuel company that provides petrol to both UPS and FedEx for use in the delivery trucks!"

But perhaps Tubink said it best in answer to simplemind: "When you get people crazed about technology that want a gadget; they will use said technology to FIND said gadget."

The latest message from UPS hints that iPhones won't be delivered until Friday, the same date that Apple is scheduled to begin selling them to everyone else.

"Here we go again . . . " wrote monksealpup.

Shear is anxiously awaiting his new iPhone 3G S.

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