Rain doesn’t deter Maryland customers, sales of iPhone 4S

The iPhone 4S, Apple’s latest addition to its fast-selling product line, was released in stores Friday, and Baltimoreans dutifully braved stormy weather to line up outside stores selling it.

Anthony Johnson and Nieeasha Johnson test the new iPhone 4S phones Friday at a display at the AT&T store in Harbor East. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

The phone, the first new product released by the company since co-founder Steve Jobs’ death last week, saw the most preordered sales of any iPhone yet from AT&T, one of Apple’s designated wireless carriers, according to an AT&T spokeswoman.

Margarita Noriega said about 200,000 iPhone 4S units had been preordered from the company.

At Verizon Wireless’ store on Fleet Street in Harbor East, shopper Ben Shifflet, in line at about 10:40 a.m., said he was actually surprised there was not a larger crowd.

“It seems like everybody wants to have it,” said Shifflet, adding he was excited about the phone’s voice recognition software. “I don’t know how they [Apple] do it every time.”

Both the AT&T and Verizon stores downtown opened at 8 a.m. Friday, an hour earlier than normal. Neither was packed with people when Shifflet was getting his new iPhone, though the stores were busy enough that over a half-dozen service representatives at each were occupied talking to customers or ringing up purchases.

A line of fewer than 10 people outside the AT&T store was ushered inside as the rains intensified mid-morning, and customers continued to trickle into both locations despite the downpour.

About 50 people were queued up outside the AT&T store before it opened its doors, Noriega said. AT&T employees handed out water bottles and granola bars to the early-morning shoppers as they waited, she added.

Noriega said the busiest AT&T location in Maryland was at the Towson Town Center Mall, where the line wrapped partially around the building.

Melanie Ortel, a regional spokeswoman for Verizon, said lines outside Maryland stores were between 20- and 100-people deep, with the first customer arriving at 3:30 a.m. at one store.

Ortel declined to say how many of phones Verizon expected to sell Friday or had sold in preorders but said the company was “very happy” with the level of demand they had seen.

Not every iPhone buyer seemed as taken by the Apple mystique. Ben Lambert, an AT&T customer standing in line in downtown, was blasé about the purchase.

Lambert was at the store to replace an older model no longer working properly; a store window ad was the first time he saw the iPhone 4S.

“I just want the new one,” he said. “I’m sure they’ve made some sort of upgrades.”

Bruce Mangels, waiting in line at the AT&T store with his adult daughter, Catie, was similarly unenthusiastic about the product. Catie Mangels said she had wheedled him into coming with her because both of them had qualified to upgrade their phones, and she thought it was time they replaced their old phones with the iPhone 4S.

Noriega would not disclose the exact breakdown of AT&T customers purchasing the iPhone 4S as an upgrade versus customers getting the new model without the upgrade credit, though she described it as “a good mix.”

Apple and phone companies in seven countries 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.

The base model of the iPhone 4S costs $199 in the U.S. with a two-year contract. It comes with 16 gigabytes of storage. Customers can get 32 gigabytes for $299 and 64 gigabytes for $399. Customers have a choice of white or black.

The phones also debuted Friday in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Britain. They are coming to 22 more countries by the end of the month.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.