Customers waiting outside the Verizon Wireless store in Castleton early Thursday wanted two things: iPhones and warmth.
The 10 people lined up 45 minutes before the earlier-than-normal 7 a.m. opening were tightly bundled. One woman waited in the warmth of her car while her son stood in line for her. The below-zero temperatures bit at the skin of those huddled outside.
So Mary Riley, a 13-year Verizon employee, brought out some hand warmers.
“Let’s keep you warm,” she said.
Inside waited Starbucks coffee and, of course, the iPhone 4. Verizon started selling the much-heralded smart phone in their stores Thursday after Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T ended.
Indianapolis customer Meka Anderson, sheltered in a thick, orange jacket with a fur-lined hood, didn’t want to wait any longer than she’d already had to.
“I had Verizon before, and I’ve never, ever lost a call, so I didn’t want to pay the fee to switch over to AT&T,” said Anderson, 29. “I thought it was going to be long lines, and I didn’t want it to be sold out and then wait weeks to get one.”
Ted Wendling, Verizon’s district manager of retail sales for northeast Indianapolis, said the frigid temperatures might have kept some people from lining up early. However, he doesn’t expect that to affect sales for the day.
“We know that there’s been a lot of pent-up demand for it, and we know that it’s going to be a popular choice amongst a lot of our customers,” said Wendling, an employee at Verizon for nearly 20 years. “They have been loyal to Verizon Wireless because they trust in the network reliability that we do offer. Now, we just have another device to add to our portfolio.”
Verizon began online iPhone sales for existing customers Feb. 3 and had to stop taking orders temporarily after selling out a limited supply. The company did not say how many devices had been ordered, but said it sold more phones in two hours than it had in the full day of any previous phone launch.
AT&T activated 15.2 million iPhones last year. Analyst estimates for Verizon iPhone sales this year vary widely, from 5 million to 13 million. Observers expect the sales to Verizon subscribers will be strong, but the big question is how many iPhone buyers will be jumping ship from other carriers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.