LAWRENCEVILLE - John Brickner was so eager to purchase an iPhone on Friday he and a friend camped out in a parking lot the evening before the debut of the device.
The two men pulled up at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to the AT&T Wireless store at the Mall of Georgia and spent the night in a white Toyota Yaris. Brickner, a Braselton resident, said he brought his cell phone and Nintendo DS to keep himself entertained until the Friday evening launch of Apple's newest gadget.
Hours later, at about 2 a.m., the third person arrived to get in line at the Mall of Georgia store. By mid-afternoon Friday, the stores at the Buford mall and Gwinnett Place Mall each held about 20 people.
The iPhone, which went on sale at 6 p.m. Friday at Apple and AT&T Wireless stores, allows owners to make calls, listen to digital music, surf the Internet and more. AT&T, the sole coverage provider, is offering two-year contracts with rate plans starting at $59.99 for 450 minutes of talk time plus unlimited data, visual voice mail, 200 text messages, rollover minutes and unlimited mobile-to-mobile.
Apple has billed the iPhone as the most user-friendly smart phone ever, and it carries a hefty price tag: $499 for the 4-gigabyte model and $599 for the 8-gigabyte model.
"The user interface ... is clearly the best," Brickner said as he was waiting in line. "It can do everything."
At the AT&T store near Gwinnett Place Mall, Kent Le of Lawrenceville was the first to arrive. He said he was at the store at 3 a.m. equipped with a sleeping bag, pillows, books, a digital music player, a laptop computer, a jug of water and some food.
"It's everything I want. It's an iPod, it's a phone," Le said. "I don't have to carry two or three devices."
At about 5 a.m., Atlanta resident Rob Thompson got in line behind Le. Thompson took the day off from work at an industrial design firm in Lawrenceville to wait for the device's release. He came to Duluth to avoid lines in Atlanta, which were reportedly much longer than the ones in Gwinnett.
Thompson said he's been anticipating the release of the iPhone for a couple of years, when rumors that Apple was designing a phone first started.
"I don't even have a real explanation for the fanaticism," Thompson said. "The last couple of hours are nothing compared to the two-and-a-half or three years of waiting."
Farther down the line, Chad Deal sat in a folding chair he purchased at Bed, Bath & Beyond just before he decided to sit and wait for the launch.
Earlier in the day, Deal said he drove by Perimeter Mall, where more than 100 people were waiting for the phone, and decided to buy the device online. But he changed his mind after seeing the line near Gwinnett Place Mall was much shorter.
"I'm an Apple kind of a nerd," Deal said. "I bought my first Mac in November and dived in head first."
But some waiting in line won't be using the phone today.
Buford resident Michael Martin, No. 3 in line at the Mall of Georgia, said he was getting paid to wait in line for his dad.
"It's not really my thing," Martin said of the phone. "I'm a college student. When I see a chance to make money, I jump at it."
Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones were available at launch. But, according to the Associated Press, analysts expect it will sell out by early next week.