In a city that’s synonymous with protests against cell phone antennas, more than 100 people queued up outside the downtown Berkeley AT&T Wireless store as early as 7 a.m. for the launch of Apple Inc’s next generation iPhone Friday.
The first to pitch a tent outside the nondescript Shattuck Avenue store at 3 a.m. were siblings and Berkeley High students Jeronimo Madriz and Vanessa Gonzalez.
Sitting on her blue camp chair, Vanessa sipped on her Starbucks latte around 6:45 a.m., while her brother peered anxiously through AT&T’s glass windows to see if he could detect any activity inside.
“We just wanted to do it for the experience and we wanted to be the first ones to be here in Berkeley,” Vanessa, 17, said excitedly, taking pictures with her digital camera.
“It was dark when we got here,” Jeromino, 14, said. “My mom sent our brother with us, then she joined us at 6 a.m.”
Vanessa uses a first generation iPhone—and was waiting to upgrade to the new 3G version—while Jeromino wanted to switch from his Blackberry to a new iPhone.
“They just wanted to camp here for the experience,” said their mother Maria Gonzales, who had packed granola bars and water for their late night adventure.
Li-Shuan Chen, a business and psychology sophomore from UC Berkeley, was third in line.
“I didn’t want to be the first in line, but I wanted to be one of the first,” said Li-Shuan, who showed up 20 minutes after Vanessa and Jeromino.
“I live on Bancroft Avenue, so I was checking every hour to see if there was a line. When I saw a couple of people, I decided to come down here. But I don’t know if it’s worth it, since there aren’t that many people. I thought a lot of Berkeley students would jump in, but not too many students are on campus right now.”
Li-Shuan had brought his economics text book with him for company.
“I got to catch up on my reading waiting in line,” he said smiling. “I also took a really quick power nap for 10 minutes.”
The 60 or so people waiting in line since 6 a.m. increased to slighty more than 100 when the store opened two hours later.
Some customers said the lines were bigger at this particular location last year—when the iPhone launched for the first time—with international students from the university making up a good portion of the crowd.
“Did you hear about that guy in San Francisco who was second in line and was selling his spot for $1,500?” Li-Shuan asked. “It’s kind of like a Black Friday atmosphere everywhere. It’s fun.”
Lines outside the Apple store in downtown San Francisco snaked all the way to O’Farrell Street around 6 a.m. Friday (today) morning, with several people camping outside from last night.
“I think the line outside the AT&T store on Bay Street in Emeryville will be huge since it’s right opposite the Apple store,” said Berkeley resident Lolita Brewster, who was waiting to get an iPhone with her son Morgan.
“Not too many people know of this location in Berkeley.”
Around 7 a.m., a couple of AT&T sales reps came out to distribute water and candy to the people lined up outside.
A few passers-by heckled at the people waiting in line.
It’s pathetic,” said a young boy on his bicycle.
“We love new gadgets, what’s wrong with that?” replied the owner of a brand new iPhone as he walked out of the store.
“No more revolutionary spirit in Berkeley,” sang a homeless guy.
“Everybody wants new technology ... Nothing here but yuppies spending their money.”