‘Because it’s an Apple Product:’ New Yorkers Fill Stores for iPhone 4S

The rain didn’t stop Apple fans in Manhattan on Friday as many waited hours – and some overnight – to get their hands on the iPhone 4S.

At the company’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan, New Yorkers huddled together under umbrellas as they waited to get their hands on the new device. Although the 4S has been available for pre-order since last week, many piled into the store to pick up their phones in person.

“I had to get an iPhone 4S because it’s an Apple product,” said 18-year-old Saif Khalid, an international student from Pakistan. Khalid noted that his iPhone 4 was recently stolen and he’s been relying on an old BlackBerry in the meantime. “Now, I’ll probably just toss my BlackBerry onto the street,” he said.

Over a couple hundred people coiled around the store’s granite square and stretched along Fifth Avenue, waiting alongside memorial flowers and commemorations for the late Steve Jobs.

Since Sprint sold out of its pre-order 16GB devices on Monday, many Sprint customers flocked to Apple stores to make their first iPhone purchase ever. Others were veteran Apple followers upgrading from their 3GS.

“I wanted to order it online, but since the site was blocked at work, I skipped work to get it,” said a lab researcher at a New York hospital, adding that he needed an upgrade after a broken ‘silent’ button on his iPhone 3GS became a nuisance during meetings.

Meanwhile, Apple fan Alan Packer, 70, said he was ready for an upgrade but wasn’t able to pre-order his a device with his carrier.

“I went over to the AT&T store and they said if I pre-order it, it won’t be here for three weeks,” said Packer, who along with his wife was looking at a two hour wait to get into the Apple store.

Many said the phone’s voice command technology Siri was the main draw for making the purchase.

“Having a built-in personal assistant on a phone sounds funny,” said Fabio Abreu, a Brazilian native living in New York. “The personal assistant, that sounds funny. I don’t know what kind of stuff she responds to. Parking spaces, finding restaurants, hopefully. If I tell her I want to meet a girl downtown though, what’ll happen?”

Abreu said the $199 price tag doesn’t bother him: “It’s not expensive for the type of work it does for you.”

The Fifth Avenue Apple store wasn’t the only place in town bringing in crowds. Lines wrapped around various stores carrying the new iPhone, including the Verizon store on Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron district.

“I don’t even have a smartphone yet, so this is a huge leap for me into the modern tech world,” said a businessman waiting in line during his lunch break. “I’ve already been in line for awhile though, so I hope the line starts to move.”

The iPhone 4S’s design – which is the same as previous models – didn’t dissuade mobile users from taking the plunge.

“It might not be as obvious to others that it’s the latest model, but I’m interested in the speed and voice-assistant software anyway,” said another woman waiting in line. “People may not be able to tell it’s brand new, but I will.”

With Samantha Murphy.

LAPTOP contributor