Tributes to Apple's visionary carry more cachet to consumers than the device itself
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 15, 2011
NEW YORK » It wasn't just the latest iPhone that drew people to Apple stores Friday.
Many consumers waited in lines for hours -- sometimes enduring chilly temperatures and overnight thunderstorms -- to remember Steve Jobs, Apple's visionary who died last week.
The company's first iPhone release since Jobs' death turned into another tribute. Some customers even joked that the new model 4S stood "for Steve."
Tony Medina, a student from Manhattan, stood outside Apple's flagship store on New York's Fifth Avenue for nine hours, waiting through rain. He had originally planned to order the phone online but decided to join a crowd of about 200 people to honor Jobs.
"For loyalty, I felt I had to do the line," he said. "I had to say thank you."
The new phone, which went on sale Friday in seven countries, is faster than the previous model and comes with better software and an improved camera. Yet the unveiling comes at a time when Apple is finding it difficult to maintain the excitement of previous iPhone introductions.
For starters, the phone is more widely available than in the past. In addition to Apple stores, it's also sold by three wireless carriers: AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless. Some Best Buy, Target and Walmart stores also carry the phones, as do authorized resellers.
Buyers were also able to preorder the phone on Apple's website and have it shipped to their homes or offices.
Many diehard Apple fans and investors were disappointed that Apple did not launch a more radically redesigned new model -- an iPhone 5. It's been more than a year since Apple's previous model was released.
That also may have contributed to smaller gatherings at some Apple locations.
"People are not as excited about this version as they might have been" if an iPhone 5 came out, said Charles Prosser, a retired teacher and computer technician from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Apple and phone companies started taking orders for the iPhone 4S last Friday. Apple said Monday that more than 1 million orders came in, breaking the record set by last year's model, which was available in fewer countries and on fewer carriers.