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Apple’s faithful show up in droves

Overnight stays, long lines for iPhone 4 launch

By Bonnie Kavoussi
Globe Correspondent / June 25, 2010

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Just another cellphone? Not to Korland Simmons, 35, who emerged from the Apple Store near the Prudential Center yesterday morning, lightly stroking the smooth glass of his brand new iPhone 4.

“I love this phone. I really do,’’ he said.

Simmons, 35, a staffer at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, was one of the first customers in Boston to score the latest version of Apple Inc.’s hit smartphone.

He was among about 200 fans who were lined up outside the Apple Store at 7 a.m. yesterday, when the newest version of the popular iPhone went on sale.

“I just wanted to make sure I had one in my hands,’’ he said.

Following company tradition, refreshments were offered to the waiting crowd. Apple Store employees gave water, coffee, doughnuts, and freezer pops to customers who were lined up for blocks along Boylston Street in muggy weather. They even loaned out umbrellas as shields from the summer sun.

Christine Kassis, 28, an incoming radiology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital who lost her older iPhone weeks ago, arrived at 8 p.m. the previous night.

“Having [the iPhone] out of my life, I realize how dependent I am on it, and that’s why I’m willing to sleep on the street for a night to get another one immediately,’’ she said.

The new iPhone 4 is slimmer than previous models and features a high-definition video camera, videoconferencing, and the ability to run multiple third-party applications at once, among other enhancements.

More than 600,000 people had rushed to preorder iPhone 4s on the first day they were available, prompting Apple and its exclusive wireless partner in the United States, AT&T Inc., to stop taking orders for pickup or shipment by yesterday’s launch.

Apple may have sold 1 million iPhones yesterday, and the company called the demand for the phone “off the charts.’’

The device was offered at Apple Stores, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other retailers in five countries. It sold out in hours in some locations yesterday, including the Apple Stores in Tokyo, Miami, and San Francisco.

“It’s like an addiction,’’ said Richard Penwell, 22, a software architect who arrived at the Boston store at 5 p.m. the day before, complete with an orange tent for his overnight stay.

Some of the waiting customers were not pleased with Apple’s management of the crowd, which was split into two lines: one for customers with reservations to purchase a phone, and one for those who had not made prior arrangements.

Those customers with reservations were given priority to enter the store and make their purchases.

“This is the weakest example of customer service I’ve ever seen,’’ said Ryan Soulsby, 22, who had spent the night in the walk-in customer line.

When the Apple Store’s glass doors opened at 7 a.m., employees inside cheered and clapped. Customers joined in when the first lucky fans emerged with their new phones.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report. Bonnie Kavoussi can be reached at bkavoussi@globe.com.