Once again, Apple has managed to draw a crowd eager to be among the first to get their hands on the latest iPad.
By 7:30 am ET, the line at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store snaked around the side of the store, down New York’s 59th Street past FAO Schwarz, then rounded the corner onto Madison. On par with some launches, the line didn’t reach peak levels in which it made it all the way back around to the front of the store.
Folks began getting in line as early as Monday, with many braving a cold damp night on Thursday to get the chance to be one of the first with the new iPad.
“It’s been a little bit cold,” said Christopher DiBella, who waited in line for 24 hours to get the new iPad. DiBella said it is the eighth Apple product launch he has gone to in person. While he knows he could order online, he said he kind of likes the spectacle; plus, he was traveling for work, and wasn’t quite sure where he would be when the new iPad went on sale.
Midway through the line, Army recruiters Luis Zacarias and C.J. Montoya waited patiently in uniform, convinced that they would be able to get one of the new tablets before they had to head into work.
“We’re leaving here with one,” Montoya said with a smile. “That’s undeniable.”
Those who ordered earliest could avoid such lines and still get their hands on the tablet in the next couple of days. However, those who are just now realizing they want a new iPad face an unpleasant dilemma — order online and wait a while, or join a queue at an Apple or other iPad-selling retail store.
Announced less than two weeks ago, the new iPad looks much like its predecessor in design, but features a super-high-resolution screen, along with an improved graphics chip and camera, and the option of using ultra-fast LTE wireless networks from AT&T or Verizon.
Also on hand — and among the first in the store — were customers like Jim Basquez of Manhattan, who ordered the day the new tablet was announced, but opted to pick up his iPad in-store. Standing in line around 7:30 am, Basquez was playing an NBA basketball game on his iPad 2 — which he now plans to give to his brother.
Apple has its launch plan down to a science. At 7:53, loud cheers started coming from the workers inside the store. Four minutes later the doors were unlocked and propped open. Promptly at 8, the first customers were allowed in, and by 8:07, the first person emerged with a new iPad, only to be quickly besieged by reporters and photographers as if they were a model walking the red carpet.
A handful of companies looked to capitalize on — and build goodwill with — the crowd. A Pennsylvania candy company was handing out Peanut Chews, while iPod-case maker Otterbox handed out survival kits, including beanies and ponchos, which came in handy when the cold, misty night turned to rain around 4 am on Friday.
A small gathering of protesters affiliated with Change.org also stopped by the launch, showing a banner and encouraging Apple to do more regarding the treatment of the workers who make the iPad and other products.
“It’s important to me that the folks that make the products we use in our everyday lives are treated ethically,” said Charlene Carruthers, a New York-based activist.