Terri Moellers lined up at an AT&T store near Pine Ridge Road early Friday to get her hands on an iPhone 4S.
She arrived at the store, off U.S. 41, at 8:25 a.m. A little over an hour later, she walked out with her new phone, which Apple dubs as its “most amazing iPhone yet.”
Many others were just as eager to get a hold of the new phone, which they could touch and feel in stores for the first time on Friday. AT&T saw lines at all of its stores in Southwest Florida, which opened at 8 a.m. So did other retailers, including Apple stores.
Lines formed across the world on Friday to buy the new phone, one of the last devices to be developed under the leadership of Steve Jobs. Apple Inc. could sell as many as 4 million of the 4S phones this weekend.
After buying her new phone at the AT&T store in North Naples, Moellers said she was overdue for a new one. She’d had her 3G iPhone for four years.
“Really, I’ve been limping along,” she said. “I really had worn it out.”
As she left the AT&T store, which was still swirling with customers, she still had much learn about her new phone.
“I know some things, but I wouldn’t say a lot,” she said. “It’s faster. The camera is better.”
In the store, a sales agent told her about Siri, a “personal assistant” built into the phone who will send messages, schedule meetings and make phone calls based on the voice commands. Siri can even talk back.
Staff at the AT&T store was very organized, signing customers in before they walked through the doors. Store employees also handed out water bottles to waiting customers, Moellers said.
She said she went into the store on Thursday to reserve the phone, but she was told she didn’t need to because there was a “good allotment.”
Moellers, 52, relies on the phones many features to keep her organized, including the calendar. “It’s invaluable,” she said.
Dyanne Grieff, 56, drove to the same AT&T Friday morning, but she came for another reason. She was having trouble with some of her apps and she needed to upgrade the data plan on her 3G iPhone, which she’s had for less than two years.
She said she was taken care of in “a few seconds,” despite how busy the store was with customers wanting the latest iPhone.
“I always come here,” she said of the store. “They have all my account information.”
Grieff said she might check out the 4S in July, when her two-year contract will expire and she’ll be eligible for an upgrade.
“I’m always behind everybody,” Grieff said.
There was no line when she left the AT&T store before 10 a.m.
The lines at AT&T stores didn’t seem as long as they have been for other iPhone launches. Kelly Starling, a spokeswoman for AT&T, attributed that in part to more advanced orders. She said her company handled 200,000 pre-orders in the first 12 hours after it began taking them on Oct. 7.
“I think people took advantage of that opportunity,” she said. “It’s convenient. It’s shipped to their billing address, so they don’t have to worry about getting in line at a store.”
At the Apple store at Waterside Shops in North Naples, only a few customers were in line at about 10:30 a.m. The store offered coffee, water, tea and apples to its customers waiting outside. Security was on hand, just in case it got too chaotic. Media was not allowed in the store.
As customers arrived at the store eager to buy a 4S, they were immediately quizzed about what they were looking for including what color phone they wanted and how many gigabytes of memory they needed. Customers had to show two forms of ID and were asked up front if they were eligible for an upgrade.
Jessica Loy, 19, who lives in eastern Collier County, urgently drove to the Apple store at Waterside early Friday because her iPhone was broken and she couldn’t see her screen anymore. It broke on Thursday night.
She wasn’t interested in a 4S. She’s happy with a 3GS, for now.
“I just need a phone, anything that will work with texting on it,” she said.
She said it took 25 minutes to get her problems taken care of. She was relieved.
“You lose your mind when you lose your phone,” she said.
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.