Technology

Apple fans in Miami line up to wait for a new iPhone 6

People ask for information about the release of the iPhone 6 at the Lincoln Road Apple store, Thursday, September 18, 2014.
People ask for information about the release of the iPhone 6 at the Lincoln Road Apple store, Thursday, September 18, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Paul Menendez and Manuel Llanos brought junk food. Lots of it. Combos, SunChips, an emergency Pixy Stix straw in case they needed a sugar rush.

Camping out for the iPhone 6 is not for the weak-stomached. Or the weak anything, really. But the wait for the bigger screen and sleeker body is worth it to the childhood friends, especially Menendez, 19, who’s been living a tortured existence since he switched cellphone plans and gave up his iPhone 5 for a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

“There’s nothing classy about an Android,” said Llanos, 19, eyeing his friend’s phone with a look of what could only be described as distaste.

The pair were toward the front of a line of about 20 other iPhone fanatics waiting outside the Apple store on Lincoln Road Thursday afternoon for new phone’s Friday release. Most sat in folding chairs, shaded from the brutal sun by trees or umbrellas and surrounded by empty Starbucks cups and water bottles.

It’s tempting to suggest that lining up a day in advance for a new telephone is something weirdly unique to Miami, like Metrorail-riding sharks or face-eating zombies. In fact, we look stodgy when it comes to the iPhone 6. In many cities around the world, the lines began forming last month.

Customers began camping outside Apple’s flagship store in New York City on Aug. 31. A man and woman from Jackson, Mississippi, who arrived on Sept. 1 were so disappointed they weren’t first that they paid $2,500 to a pair of New Yorkers to give up the first two spots.

The city wouldn’t let them pitch their tent, so they’ve been sleeping on the sidewalk and using urban-pioneer skills to take care of everything else.

“We have a month-long membership to the YMCA down the road so we can take showers,” Jason Ray, one of the Mississippians, told CBS News. “And the Apple store is open 24 hours a day, so we can use the restroom.”

Less extreme but similar tales emerged from Tokyo, Sydney and London — where entrepreneurial line-sitters put up their spots up for sale on eBay. It’s the devotion of iPhone fanatics like these that makes Apple expect to sell something approaching 8 million of the new phones this weekend.

They’ll be purchased by people like Tracey Ermani, 22, and her fiancé Alexander Melendez, also 22, who got in line at the Lincoln Road store about 2 p.m. Wednesday. More than a dozen people were lined up before 6 a.m.

Ermani sold her iPhone 5s for $300 a few days ago to prepare for the 6.

But she said she’s been OK with the brief phone-free period of life, partly because her fiancé has been letting her use his iPhone and partly because she’s just that loyal to the brand.

“I’ve had an iPhone for years,” she said, fanning herself with an envelope. “It’s just something that people feel comfortable with.”

As she spoke, workers started setting up barriers and red velvet ropes. More would be coming. And in the crunch time before the first phone is sold, nothing is sacred.

Or at least according to A.C. Kelly, a three-year veteran of iPhone camp-outs. He’s seen people cut in line at the last minute, sell their spots in line for hundreds of dollars and get all-around rowdy in the over-caffeinated minutes before the release.

Kelly sat near an outdoor power outlet, charging his iPhone 5 and cleaning out his nail beds with a safety pin. The wait is monotonous, he said, but the excitement keeps him at bay, especially for the coveted champagne-colored design.

“I’m going for the gold, baby!” he said.

Back in the line, Menendez and Llanos felt the same buzz of excitement (and they hadn’t even eaten the Pixy Stix yet).

Even so, the friends, like many, said they would consider selling their spots or new phones if the right price came along. They told tales of a fanatic who paid $10,000 on eBay for a gold iPhone 5s and another in New York who paid everyone in line $1,250 to get a spot at the front.

“When you’re waiting in a long line for days,” Menendez said, “anything can happen.”

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