Published Thursday, June 24, 2010 | 9:27 a.m.
Updated Thursday, June 24, 2010 | 6 p.m.
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Map of Town Square
6605 S. Las Vegas Boulevard , Las Vegas
It's midnight at the Town Square shopping district south of the Strip and a line of 132 people is standing in front of more than a dozen storefronts.
They're leaning on walls and reclining in lounge chairs. One family sleeps on an air mattress in the bed of their pickup truck. And almost everyone is keeping busy, of course, on their iPhones, MacBooks or any other Apple product you can name.
They're in line for the company's latest big gadget: the iPhone 4. This newest model of Apple's best-selling smartphone went on sale in Apple Stores nationwide this morning.
This scene is hardly new to Apple, as long lines have surrounded these stores for the launches of each of the previous three models. At Town Square, James Cognitore has taken it upon himself to be the unofficial line-keeper. Following a method he started when the iPhone 3G came out in 2008, Cognitore writes down names to make sure people will get their same spot back if mall security disbands the line and people have to come back later.
"Make friends around you. Those friends are your friends, everyone is friends now," Cognitore said. "I love Mac, and I want everybody else to be happy about the situation."
He says this is the longest list of names he's ever kept. Not surprising, considering the thousands lined up across the country on a first-come, first-serve basis, waiting for their local store to open at 7 a.m. Whether it's Apple's slogan for the new phone — "This changes everything. Again." ̵ the bundle of new features — a higher-resolution display, high-definition video recording and editing, multitasking capability, a camera flash, and a front-facing camera for video calls and easy self-portraits — or both, there's no shortage of people looking forward to buying the new device on Day One.
More than 600,000 people pre-ordered an iPhone 4 last week, prompting Apple and AT&T to stop taking orders for shipment by Thursday's launch. On Apple's website, new orders aren't promised for delivery until July 14. Locals who did get a pre-order in — nearly 100 of them — waited in a separate line at the Apple Store in Town Square.
There was a concern among those waiting about how many iPhones the store would have available for those who didn't pre-order. Brett Reese, 22, who got to Town Square at 8 p.m. Wednesday and was the first in the pre-order line, said he was worried Apple might start selling reserved iPhones to fulfill the demand.
"Even though I'm supposed to be eligible for one, I still wouldn't want to be in the other line," he said. "And if I came here tomorrow, I'd most likely be out of a phone because I think those guys want it more."
The line still wrapped around the corner and past numerous stores as of 2 p.m. Thursday, though Apple Store employees told those waiting that they would be notified if the store sold out so that they didn't keep standing around in the 103-degree heat for nothing.
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, the Apple Stores at Town Square and the Forum Shops had sold out of the new iPhones and didn't know when a new shipment would arrive, which is the same story for many Apple Stores across the country. Fashion Show Mall's store could not be reached for comment.
Earlier in the night, curious shoppers walked by and asked what was going on, or what time people had arrived to secure their spot in line. Jake Bridges was first in the purchase line, arriving at 6:45 p.m.
"I just got lucky," he said.
The other two Apple Stores in Las Vegas — at Fashion Show Mall and the Forum Shops at Caesars — weren't allowing anyone to line up until about 5 a.m. Town Square security originally said it wasn't allowing anyone to loiter outside the Apple Store in Town Square before 4 a.m., but then changed it to 10 p.m. Wednesday. However, by 7:30 p.m., they weren't asking any of the four people in line to leave. Robin Jones, one of the first few in the queue, snapped a photo on her soon-to-be-outdated iPhone and posted it to Facebook.
"For proof we're the first ones here," she said.
Others were not so lucky. Quinn Myers, 16, had been at Town Square since 9 a.m. Wednesday. Mall security told him he had to leave and couldn't line up until 10 p.m., so he hung around the mall and kept checking back in. When he came back at 8 p.m., the line already was 20 people long.
"It's all right. We should still get a phone. It's better than being 200th in line," Myers said. "We were afraid if we didn't get one now, we wouldn't get one for months."
While the mood at the front of the line was subdued, people at the back seemed nervous about their chances of scoring a phone because Apple hadn't released the number of devices it would have available for purchase at each store. One man explains his wife and daughter are coming at 2 a.m., and the man behind him scoffs in obvious annoyance.
Cognitore, the unofficial line keeper, said he has heard numbers between 500 and 1,200, but one woman insisted each store will only be getting five iPhones. That number might sound ridiculous, but there are reports of stores with very few phones for customers waiting in lines. According to CNNMoney.com, many non-Apple stores have very short supplies of unreserved phones, and Wal-Mart spokesperson Ashley Hardle said only 1,500 of the company's 3,600 stores would have phones available Thursday.
"Inventory remains constrained, and it is expected that many of the iPhones that Best Buy receives will go first to customers who reserved one during presale," Best Buy warned Wednesday in a statement.
Black curtains hid the Apple Store's interior from public view while employees prepared it for the tidal wave of customers at 7 a.m., three hours earlier than the store usually opens. Apple employees occasionally emerged to hand out water to those in line.
Meanwhile, Apple fans strategized. At about 10 p.m., Jones was relieved of line-waiting duty by two 16-year-old girls. She paid them $120 to wait in line for her overnight. Then they will pass the torch off to her boyfriend in the morning, and he'll buy the couple's two iPhones. Jones and her boyfriend are on the same account, which will allow him to buy an iPhone for himself and one for her.
Occasionally, cars pass the line and yell nerd-aimed insults out their windows. "Get it next week!" comes from one gray sedan. One passerby shouts, "You guys seriously just need to get a life."
Kristi DeVita and Katie Ritchie from Boulder City say they'd normally be on their side. They made an exception because Thursday is DeVita's 20th birthday and this seemed a fitting way to celebrate. At 4 a.m., they were among 287 people lined-up -- and counting.
"We would never do something like this," Ritchie said. " I was brought up in a home where my parents made fun of people like this and they were called crazy people. And now, I'm one of them."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.