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First fans show up to wait for iPhone

Apple Inc. said on Tuesday its hotly anticipated iPhone could cost as much as $3,000 with a required two-year service contract, and a handful of eager buyers started lining up to spend their money.
/ Source: Reuters

Apple Inc. said on Tuesday its hotly anticipated iPhone could cost as much as $3,000 with a required two-year service contract, and a handful of eager buyers started lining up to spend their money.

A small clutch of gadget enthusiasts staked out spots in front of Apple’s store on New York’s tony Fifth Avenue, days before the iPhone goes on sale on Friday evening local time.

Plenty of potential iPhone consumers have said they would wait for Apple’s next versions of the device to buy it, hoping for a lower price and faster network connection.

But industry analysts expect the first iPhone to sell quickly, at least in its initial months. Jessica Rodriguez, a 24-year-old student from the Bronx, seems to agree with them.

“I love everything Apple, and this is going to be something that goes down in the history books of cell phones,” she told Reuters.

Rodriguez showed up on Tuesday morning with a chair, a sandwich and a large iced tea, taking the fourth place in line and braving an expected heat spell in the city.

Rodriguez plans to switch to iPhone’s exclusive carrier, AT&T, just to use the device, and she will give her current Sprint Nextel phone to her mother.

“My dad thinks I’m crazy, but then he saw the commercial and said, ’I want it,”’ she said of her 76-year-old father.

David Clayman, a recent university graduate who starts a technology consultant job in July and was third in line, said he hoped to buy several devices, one for his father’s 50th birthday and a second to auction off for his favorite charity.

Apple shares have gained nearly 35 percent since the company unveiled the phone in January, as investors hope that sales of the device will outstrip even its best-selling iPod music player.
Apple shares fell back 1.7 percent to $120.28 on Tuesday after it disclosed the wireless costs, while AT&T gained 55 cents or more than 1 percent, rising to $39.63.

Waiting game
Buyers of the iPhone must commit to a two-year contract with AT&T. The device combines a wireless phone, music, video and Web browsing, and will be sold exclusively through AT&T for at least two years.

Apple and AT&T on Tuesday outlined three iPhone rate plans that will be available, from $60 per month for the most basic to just under $100 per month for more talk time. AT&T said iPhone customers could also choose other AT&T service plans listed on its Web site.

While that is consistent with other AT&T wireless plans, it adds $1,400 to $2,400 to the cost of what many say is already a steeply priced $500-to-$600 gadget.

“Given the additional features embedded in the iPhone, we believe the pricing is attractive,” UBS analyst John Hodulik said in a note to clients.

He said the service costs were competitive when compared to similar plans from rivals like Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.

The iPhone service plans all include unlimited data, 200 SMS text messages, roll-over minutes and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, the companies said.

Not only Apple and AT&T are hoping to profit on the iPhone phenomenon. Advertisements on the New York and San Francisco online message boards at solicited payment for waiting on line to buy an iPhone.

One listing from a self-professed “professional waiter” offered to stand on line for a fee of $100 per eight hours wait. The person will throw in delivery for an extra $50.

In another listing, a person identified as “Ray” offered to start waiting on Thursday for the highest bidder. Ray noted that people paid over $1000 to get one of the first Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles, which went on sale in November.

Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Scott Hillis