Trials And Tribulations Of Buying The iPhone 3G (Or Not)

Five AT&T stores, one Apple store and still no iPhone 3G. Once I pulled up to the closest AT&T store, I instantly knew I was in for an adventure. At least 75 people in line at 7:15 a.m. (PDT) and the second guy in line was trying to sell his spot for $250 minimum. People were camped out along 2nd Avenue in the Belmont Shores neighborhood of Long Beach, Calif. for up to 24 hours before the doors swung open. Camping chairs, pajamas, newspapers and coffee cups were in abundance as the crowd waited anxiously for the buying to begin. AT&T representatives wouldn’t confirm, but a few people in line heard there were only 40 units available, so I jetted off to another store across town in a less popular neighborhood.

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No luck there either, but I waited around until about 10:30 a.m. (PDT) before throwing in the towel. To say the line moved at a sluggish pace would be an understatement. Turtles crawl faster. After two-and-a-half hours inching along the line, and with about 40 people in front of me, an AT&T representative whispered that there were only 9 units left. None of the employees at the Long Beach stores would officially comment on how many iPhones were on hand or even if they expected to meet demand. “We’re trying to accommodate the public,” one manager said, declining to give more information. Along with unmet demand, early customers who were able to purchase an iPhone talked about activation snafus inside the store and were sent home to activate on iTunes.

It was past 11 a.m. by the time I reached the next AT&T store on my journey toward iPhone 3G-ness in Wilmington. That store and two subsequent stores in Harbor City and Carson were completely sold out. Each of the stores tried their best to sell late arrivals an iPhone that would be shipped to them within five days, but few were taking up the offer.

Finally, I reached the Apple store in Manhattan Beach, where we’d been told there were still plenty of units to sell. The line was hundreds long and winding through and outside the mall. Although my determination to get a new iPhone at this point was at near-crazy fanboy levels, the line was just too much to bear after five hours of trying unsuccessfully. I’ve waited in shorter lines for much cooler experiences. So, like thousands of others, I will sit it out and wait another day to try my luck. But you can be sure I’ll come equipped with water, a chair and other essentials to help pass the time. For now, I’ll bear and grin it through continued use of my Motorola (NYSE: MOT) Q9h, which crashed on me at least five times this morning.

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