Apple to debut eagerly awaited cell phone today

LAWRENCEVILLE - The much anticipated debut of Apple's iPhone drove people in other parts of the country to spend several nights waiting in line so they'd be assured of getting the device on opening day.

The desire wasn't quite the same in Gwinnett.

The iPhone will go on sale today at 6 p.m. at local AT&T stores (there isn't an Apple store in the county) and few, if any, Gwinnettians appeared to have camped out for the phone.

Dawn Benton, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said she was not aware of anyone in the county waiting in line as of late Thursday afternoon.

Benton said Wednesday that lines were already forming in the New York and south Florida markets.

The Associated Press reported three people had gotten in line outside Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York City as early as Monday.

The iPhone has been hyped greatly because it's the first cell phone released by Apple. The phone will allow its owners to make calls, listen to music and surf the Web.

"This is going to change the face of wireless as we know it," Benton said, citing features like visual voicemail, Wi-Fi capability and a large touchscreen.

Benton couldn't say how many iPhones would be available for sale at local stores on Friday. AT&T stores will limit one phone per customer.

Benton said if stores ran out of the phone on the first day, then customers waiting in line could go ahead and pay for the device and it would then be shipped directly to them within a few days.

Local stores will also receive weekly shipments of the iPhone, Benton said.

"We're going to have one for everyone who wants one eventually," Benton said.

AT&T stores, formerly Cingular stores, will close at 4:30 p.m. to prepare for iPhone sales at 6 p.m.

The iPhone will cost $499 for the 4 GB model or $599 for the 8 GB model and buyers must get a two-year service plan with AT&T, the sole coverage provider for the iPhone. Service plans start at $59.99 a month for 450 minutes.

The next most expensive phones offered by AT&T (with a two-year contract) are the AT&T 8525 and the BlackBerry 8800, both of which cost $299.

If people are willing to pay $500 or more for a phone, some entrepreneurs are hoping they might be willing to pay someone else to stand in line for them. One advertiser on the Web site Craigslist offered to endure the wait in an Atlanta line on Friday for the price of $200.