iPhone 6 fans get rewarded with coveted technology

Apple fans line up in front of the Apple Store in Dadeland Mall waiting to purchase the iPhone 6.
Apple fans line up in front of the Apple Store in Dadeland Mall waiting to purchase the iPhone 6. Jacqueline Salo

Zero Hour for the long-awaited iPhone 6 finally arrived Friday morning as stores opened their doors to thousands of Apple fans who camped out for days and even weeks to get the first shot at buying the Holy Grail of telecommunications gadget.

“Bigger is better!” exclaimed Kevin Michaluk, 34, exulting over his new golden-hued iPhone 6+ and its screen, a bounteous inch-and-a-half larger than the previous iPhone model.

Michaluk, visiting from Canada, was among the first customers to emerge from the Apple store on Lincoln Road with a telephone. So anxious to get a first-day phone that he paid somebody $500 to stand in line for him, Michaluk pronounced the iPhone 6 well worth it.

“It’s lighter than I expected for the size,” he proclaimed, ceremonially opening the phone with a key as a crowd of reporters gathered around him for the epochal moment.

Similar scenes were repeated in eight countries around the world as stores opened in expectations of selling 10 million or so of the phones in their first weekend. More than a dozen South Florida stores stocked with the iPhone 6 had lines outside as dawn broke Friday.

Not every wait ended as triumphantly as Michaluk’s. The teenager who bought the first phone in Perth, Australia, was so excited to show a reporter that he dropped it as he opened the box, live and on-camera. The phone flew into pieces as it hit the ground, and the encounter promptly became an Internet sensation.

And the crush of customers activating all those new phones caused Apple’s system to slow down and sometimes crash across the globe. It took Danielle Pala, the first one in line at the Apple store in Dadeland Mall, a full hour to emerge with her two new phones.

“It was worth it,” said Pala, a visitor from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who also camped for the launches of two previous iPhone models.

The woman who waited the longest in line, 22-year-old Tracey Ermani, got into the Lincoln Road store 42 hours after she showed up and came out with the phone she wanted, gold with a pink case. She was, however, missing something: Her fiance Alexander Melendez, 22, who got into line with her Wednesday afternoon but bailed out when somebody offered him $500 for his spot.

Ermani loved her new phone, but didn’t expect to be using it very soon. Her agenda for the rest of the day: “Sleep.”

That was doubtless a common plan. Many of the fans were looking haggard as the light of the rising sun broke over the lines Friday morning. Others were trying to take last-minute power naps before the 8 a.m. opening.

One man in line at the Apple Store on Lincoln Road, Yunior Rojas, 27, estimates he spent more than $80 at the nearby 24-hour Starbucks.

Apple employees gave those in line a QR code that reserves their phone (while supplies last). Rojas got his code early Friday morning, a moment that made the wait worth it.

“I was worried they would be out of the 6+," he said, referring to the new iPhone with the coveted bigger screen. “But it seems they've managed.”

For Silvio Siciliano, the already taxing wait outside Dadeland Mall in the heat was made more difficult by what he says was poor organization by Apple and mall staff.

Siciliano, 24, had been waiting outside in the mall parking garage since he first arrived 10:30 a.m. Thursday, along with hundreds of others.

“We have been in harsh conditions in an uncontrolled environment,” Siciliano said. "They basically put us on a side of the mall where they wouldn't be liable."

Siciliano, who is from Doral, says mall security also had him leave the line to move his car Thursday night because they said vehicles could not be parked in the mall parking garage overnight.

“How could you not tell us earlier?” he asked.

Some of the first customers in line, including Siciliano, were finally relocated indoors around 6:15 a.m. They erupted in cheers when Starbucks employees came around with a cart of complimentary coffee around 7 a.m. Their tales of travail were not greeted enthusiastically by Dadeland Mall managers, who soon forbade reporters to speak with them or even stay inside the mall.

The scenes in South Florida’s Apple stores were relatively tame compared to those around the rest of the world. At New York’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue, where the line began forming last month, more than 1,500 customers stretched across 10 chaotic blocks by opening time.

In Shanghai, China, a student marched the campus of Songjiang University carrying a placard offering to rent out his girlfriend for money to buy an iPhone -- though, he added, the price didn’t cover any “funny business.”

In Singapore and Paris, crowds of waiting customers turned into unruly iMobs that had to quelled by police. A young Chinese student kicked out of a rampageous line in Sydney, Australia, sobbed to reporters: “It's a waste of my heart, waste of my love.”

In Hong Kong, many shoppers emerging from stores went right back to the lines, offering their new phones to customers still waiting in line at prices up to $1,000 a pop -- a healthy markup for devices retail-priced at $200 to $600.

Some new iPhone 6 owners were more poetic, sort of. Daniel Manzano of the rock band Boyce Avenue, tweeted from his new device: “A deactivated phone is like a lifeless body. So sad. RIP iPhone 5. I will miss you .... for like 10 seconds.”

The appeal of the iPhone 6 even seemed, at least briefly, to stretch beyond the grave. A post about the new phone -- apparently prepared in advance, set with a timer, and then forgotten about -- appeared for a short while Friday morning on the Facebook page of the late comedienne Joan Rivers before disappearing again.

Many of the customers waiting in lines were veterans of previous iPhone launches. At Dadeland Mall, almost all over the first 10 people in line had met before in other lines. With experience to their advantage, they knew how to get through the wait, taking turns to get each other meals from the food court.

“It’s like a weird form of camaraderie,” said Tremayne Crossley, whose sleep-out at an Apple store in Portsmouth, England, was his third. He told the London Daily Mirror that this was the quietest launch he remembers -- nothing like the one for iPhone 4, during which he spent hours in a line next to a drunk covered in his own vomit.

As big a moment as the roll-out of the iPhone 6 was for its infatuated fans, it was even bigger for Apple. The iPhone provides more than half of the company’s annual $171 billion in revenue.

(This story was supplemented with reports from Herald wire services.)

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