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IPhone fever drops a notch as 3G S debuts

To true believers, the iPhone is not just another phone.

“It’s a device that does everything in my life,” said Vartan Nadjaryan, who already has an iPhone but still showed up at an AT&T; store in Glendale at 3:30 a.m. Friday to be among the first to get his hands on the latest incarnation of Apple Inc.'s popular touch-screen device, the iPhone 3G S.

Nadjaryan, 20, was among thousands of people who queued up to buy the device, which costs $199 to $299 for new AT&T; subscribers and current subscribers who are eligible for an upgraded phone.

Since introducing the original iPhone in 2007, Apple has snagged a significant chunk of the market for smartphones, a category of high-end cellphones that also lets users take pictures, play videos, access the Internet or play games. Last year, the Cupertino, Calif., company sold 13.7 million iPhones worldwide, capturing 8.4% of the smartphone market, said Tina Teng, an analyst with research firm iSuppli Corp. in El Segundo.

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But while throngs of people lined up for hours for the first- and second-generation iPhones, Friday’s launch of the iPhone 3G S was relatively subdued. At the AT&T; store where Nadjaryan went, about 15 customers were waiting when the store opened at 7 a.m. But a mile away at the Apple store in the Glendale Galleria, about 200 had shown up by the same time.

This roll-out day was quieter in part, perhaps, because for the first time, buyers could pre-order the phone online the day before its store release, Teng said.

Another factor may be the cost of the service, she said. The least expensive AT&T; plan that includes text messaging and data service would run in excess of $100, including tax.

“That can put a cap on their growth,” said Teng, who estimates that Apple will sell 18.7 million iPhones this year for a 10% share of the market.

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For some, the problem wasn’t in getting the phone; it was getting it to work. Thanks to the crush of new phones coming on line within a short period of time, some customers waited hours for their phones to be activated. Customers who called Apple’s customer service line were informed of a possible two- to three-hour delay in getting phone service for their new devices. Nadjaryan said he had to reboot his iPhone 3G S three times before it connected.

But, he said, “it’s well worth it.”

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michelle.maltais@latimes.com

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alex.pham@latimes.com

Times staff writer David Sarno contributed to this report.


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