The S in the iPhone 3G S stand for speed because Apple (AAPL) claims the phone is twice as fast as last year's 3G model. The lines to get a 3G S phone are faster than last year's too.
Standing on line outside of the flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue and 58th Street at 3 pm on Friday was different than standing in line for the new iPhones in 2007 and 2008. The lines are shorter and the crowd was smaller, but there was still a crowd of about 100 waiting on line or loitering outside of the store.
"Why are all of these people standing outside of the Apple store?" asked Dirk Eachus, 45, a choir director who lives in Ohio.'I can't believe it, it's like a circus attraction."
When told about the iPhone 3G S going on sale and causing the jam of folks on the sidewalks around the store and along the street, Eachus said, "Apple stuff is cool. If it's cool I want to have it, but I don't have any money."
The price of an iPhone 3G S ranges from $199 for the 16 gigabytes of memory model or $299 for the 32 gigabyte model for new iPhone customers or customers who have used the majority of their 2-year contracts with AT&T. Add $200 if you have used somewhere between one- and two-years of your contract and add $400 if you've purchased or replaced an iPhone in the past 6 months to a year. To find out which category you fall in, don't wait on line at the store, go to Apple's Web site. It takes about five minutes to determine how much you'd pay.
I knew I wasn't buying a phone, but decided to stand on line to see how long it would take. It took 23 minutes from the moment I got on line to the moment I was standing in front of someone ready to sell me a phone. Add an additional 10 to 15 minutes to activate the phone. Of course, this is the first day of sale, the lines are bound to get shorter.
If you'd rather not wait on line, you can pre-order the phones online from the online Apple Store. Some at the store had no desire to buy an iPhone. "You don't have a choice outside of AT&T's network, which would stop me from buying it," said Nathaly Campos, 26, a student at New York University.
Others would buy the 3G S iPhone at any price. "I need to test the features on the new phone to test my software applications," said Ninasyan Armen, 34, who wouldn't identify the apps. "Plus, it has more features and better speed."
"I want the latest phone because everything is better," said Pavlo Kapynos, 25, who lives in Brooklyn. He bought a 3G phone on May 18 and said he was getting a free upgrade to the 3G S.
Jack Singh, 27, who works in marketing, said price isn't an issue for him. This year's phone is cheaper than last year's phone and you're getting more memory and features like a built-in video camera, he said.
He's replacing three devices with the 3G S: his Research in Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry, iPod and current cell phone. "I've heard a lot of good things about the phone. I'm not going to complain about the price."
"The prices could always be better," said Singh, who made an appointment a week ago to get his phone Friday. "I love everything about the phone." Singh said he understands why some people have waited, as he did, to buy any iPhone. Now that he's ready, he didn't mind waiting on line for his new phone.
Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. You may follow him on Twitter at hianthony
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