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Verizon customers line up for iPhone 4

Eric Gabarda, 20, looks at iPhone 4 accessories at the Federal Way Verizon store Thursday, when Verizon debuted the smartphone. Verizon is the newest carrier of Apple iPhones.  - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Eric Gabarda, 20, looks at iPhone 4 accessories at the Federal Way Verizon store Thursday, when Verizon debuted the smartphone. Verizon is the newest carrier of Apple iPhones.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Before the sun rose above the horizon, a line formed at the door of Federal Way's Verizon Wireless on Thursday.

Individuals arrived at the store, located at 2125 S. 320th St., before its 7 a.m. opening in hopes of buying a new iPhone 4 serviced by Verizon. Roughly 25 customers and soon-to-be customers held a piece of plastic with a number at the top, marking their place in line.

On Thursday, Verizon became the second wireless provider to carry iPhones. AT&T, until recently, held a monopoly on the Apple iPhone market.

"Verizon has struck up a very fruitful relationship with Apple," said Scott Charlston, Verizon Wireless Pacific Northwest division spokesman.

Highly anticipated

The iPhone 4 debut was highly anticipated by Verizon retailers, customers, Apple enthusiasts and analysts. Verizon has long wanted to offer the iPhone to its customers, but an exclusive agreement between Apple and AT&T prevented Verizon from entering the market. The agreement recently expired.

"There's been conversation about a Verizon iPhone for years, rumors going back to 2007, 2008," said Charlston.

Individuals who lined up at the Federal Way store wanted to make sure the technological marvel didn't sell out before they had a chance to get one of their own.

"I've just been waiting for this day," Bobby Harris of Federal Way said.

Harris is a 14-year Verizon customer, but contemplated switching providers so he could upgrade his Blackberry to an iPhone.

Eugene Gardener of Auburn and Amy Vanderhouwen of Federal Way both ditched their old providers to become new iPhone owners and Verizon customers. Gardener was formerly with T-Mobile. He was unsatisfied with the carrier's coverage and said he had a hard time getting service inside his home.

Vanderhouwen recently moved from Anchorage, Alaska. The only smartphone her former carrier offered was the Android line. She owned a HTC Hero, but was happy she'd be able to blend into the crowd in the lower 48 states by owning the iPhone 4.

Go go gadgets

Verizon is banking on Apple's technology and sleek look to retain current customers and bring in new ones. Apple has changed consumers' expectations of smartphones, Charlston said.

"There's no secret that Apple really revolutionized the smartphone market and really opened the door to a consumer smartphone experience that really didn't exist before 2007," Charlston said.

The company is also counting on iPhone 4 features specifically designed for Verizon's network. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the mobile hot spot. It provides the iPhone user, and nearby friends, instant Internet access from almost anywhere. The AT&T iPhone 4 lacks this feature.

Sales analysis

Charlston was unable to reveal how many of the new smartphones Verizon Wireless expects to sell in the coming weeks. He was also unable to reveal how many phones would be available in stores Thursday.

"We expect record-breaking sales," he said.

Higher than usual sales began before the iPhone 4 hit retail stores. Verizon began selling the device online to existing customers during a pre-sale that started midnight Feb. 3. Stock sold out within hours.

"We set a one-day sales record for any launch of a new phone with our pre-sale orders," Charlston said.

As soon as news broke in January that Verizon would launch the iPhone 4, analysts began predicting how many devices Verizon would sell. A Jan. 10 Forbes article estimated sales between $5 million and $7 million. A Jan. 11 Wired report estimated sales between $7 million and $13 million.

Nationwide, lines for the Verizon iPhone were not as long as some technology experts and analysts expected. But sales could still pick up. Verizon offers wider coverage than AT&T. The customer service is also superior, Charlston said.

"We're just excited, very excited, to provide a more reliable, more stable voice and data experience across a much larger percentage of U.S. land mass," he said.

Verizon's iPhone 4 is selling for $200 for the 16-Gigabyte model, and $300 for the 32-gigabyte model. A two-year contract accompanies the purchase. Verizon is offering a trade-in of up to $200 for old phones, Charlston said.

The iPhone 4 was introduced to AT&T customers last summer.

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