Verizon iPhone debut greeted with short lines

Todd Resseau a Verizon employee has an Apple logo shaved into the back of his head to show his support for the release of the new Verizon iPhone.  Verizon released their version of the Apple iPhone today, to a steady but not overwhelming crowd of anxious customers.  The Verizon store located on Pineridge road had a stream of customers buying the phone and several who had pre-ordered and were looking for accessories. Manuel Martinez/Staff

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Todd Resseau a Verizon employee has an Apple logo shaved into the back of his head to show his support for the release of the new Verizon iPhone. Verizon released their version of the Apple iPhone today, to a steady but not overwhelming crowd of anxious customers. The Verizon store located on Pineridge road had a stream of customers buying the phone and several who had pre-ordered and were looking for accessories. Manuel Martinez/Staff

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— The Verizon iPhone went on sale Thursday, but demand appeared to be tepid, with small or no lines at Verizon and Apple stores.

The launch of new iPhone models at AT&T Inc. every summer has meant long overnight lines.

Verizon Wireless may have satisfied most of the demand by allowing online pre-orders for current subscribers, and freezing weather Thursday across much of the country could also have kept buyers away from stores. But weak traffic could also be an indication that Apple Inc.'s phone may not have much power to draw subscribers from other carriers.

"This was the first day the phone was available in stores but the third day that customers could actually buy them. So when you do that and you add the frigid temperatures, yes, the lines aren't where we expected them to be," Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney said.

Shares of Verizon Communications Inc., which co-owns Verizon Wireless with Vodafone Group PLC, fell 26 cents to $36.42. Shares of Apple Inc. declined $3.62 to $354.54. Shares of AT&T Inc. bucked the trend, ending the trading session up 27 cents at $28.24.

Verizon Wireless started taking pre-orders a week ago, and said that in just two hours, between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., they broke the previous record for first-day phone orders.

AT&T Inc. has so far been the exclusive carrier of Apple Inc.'s popular phone in the U.S. It activated 15.2 million of them last year. Analyst estimates for Verizon iPhone sales this year vary widely, from 5 million to 13 million. Analysts expect the sales to Verizon subscribers will be strong, but few have dared to put a figure on how many subscribers Verizon will manage to grab from AT&T.

AT&T subscribers have complained about dropped calls and other problems with network performance, but their displeasure seems to have subsided a bit in the last year, as AT&T ramped up spending on network upgrades.

John Brumbach, in Omaha, Neb., hit an Apple store at 11:30 a.m. to get a Verizon iPhone. There weren't many customers there, and he left after half an hour with a working phone.

"It was seamless," he said.

He headed to the home office in his basement, where he was happy to get four or five bars of signal where his AT&T iPhone had none.

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