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Verizon iPhone attracts some buyers, but not screaming hordes

Verizon put Apple Inc.'s iPhone on sale Thursday, and at least some people showed up to buy it.

The 20 people lined up at Verizon’s marquee Burbank store were a far cry, however, from the hundreds that often throng Apple’s retail stores in anticipation of new products. Reports from around the U.S. suggested that lines were substantially shorter for the Verizon iPhone than they had been when the latest version of the phone debuted for AT&T customers in July.

Still, Brett Rarick and Joey Jepson, both 20, arrived at the Burbank store at 3:30 a.m. to claim their spots at the head of the line. They agreed that they probably could have slept a few more hours and still been among the first to get the phone.

“That’s OK,” Rarick said. “We’re still excited about it. You don’t always get to be first like this.”

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The nation’s largest wireless network, with 94 million customers, began taking pre-orders for the iPhone last week. Customers who sign up for a two-year service plan can buy the phone for $200.

Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co., noted that even though lines were shorter than anticipated, the stock available to pre-order online had sold out in less than a day.

At 7 a.m., Verizon began letting customers into the Burbank store, and the short line quickly evaporated. Red-shirted store employees helped new Verizon customers switch over from other carriers.

For Rarick and Jepson, switching from T-Mobile took more than an hour of processing and paperwork, but when they got their new iPhones, they were all smiles.

One customer who had a rougher time was Chelsea Northrop, 22, a preschool teacher from Sunland who wanted to swap in a phone she’d gotten a month earlier. She was told she couldn’t switch because she was one day past the cutoff for free returns. She would have to pay the full $650 price for the iPhone.

But after a tearful Northrop and her husband, Daniel, 25, walked dejectedly into the parking lot to speak to a reporter, a Verizon store manager told the couple the company would make an exception.

“We’re human beings,” said Ken Muche, a Verizon representative. When asked whether Verizon would be granting more such exceptions to customers looking for an iPhone, Muche said those decisions were at the discretion of store managers.

david.sarno@latimes.com


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