After spending nearly 17 hours in line at the Apple store in the University Park Village in Fort Worth, 18-year-old Austin McLaurin of Aledo had his dreams come true.
"I'm next, right?" McLaurin asked the store clerk monitoring the line, just before he got the nod to go in. He said he spent the night in line watching movies and playing PlayStation 3 -- run by generators -- with his newfound friends. For dinner, they ate pizza provided by the Apple store.
McLaurin had been No. 43 in a line that wrapped around the east side of the shopping center along University Drive and into the Staples store parking lot behind, roughly 400 feet. And that's just the line designated for those who weren't able to reserve Apple's newest iPhone before Thursday's release and showed up for the chance to snag one on a first-come, first-served basis.
A line about half that size circled the opposite side of the building for folks who had reserved an iPhone, stretching past several storefronts, down the west side of the building and into the parking lot behind. At midmorning, store employees walked among the hundreds waiting, handing out cold water, Popsicles and snacks, as well as umbrellas for shade.
Even in the reserved line, shoppers stood several hours. One store employee, asked how long it would take, told a customer there were 35 employees inside working as fast as they could.
Elizabeth Lane, an art teacher in Arlington, was there to pick up her husband's reserved phone. Her payback for "sweating like a dog" for hours? A ticket to see James Taylor and Carole King in concert -- in New York, she said.
At the Apple Store in Southlake Town Square, a rain shower popped during the lunch hour, prompting Apple employees to hand out umbrellas to the dozens in line. One person reported a wait of more than three hours. It was a scene often repeated as the phone also went on sale in Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
From Tokyo to San Francisco, some stores started selling out of iPhones just hours after they went on sale. Some would-be buyers walked away disappointed; tensions grew at stores that hadn't run out.
It costs either $199 or $299 with a two-year AT&T wireless contract. Without a contract, it costs $499 to $699.
Some people were drawn by the new iPhone's thinness, better-resolution screen and longer battery life. It also has cameras on both sides for face-to-face video calls.
Count Mark Sutton of Dalworthington Gardens, who got in the unreserved line at the Fort Worth store about 3:30 a.m., is a fan of video calling. He reports for Air Force duty in August, and his mother and two sisters are all getting an iPhone so they can see each other when they talk.
Asked how he might feel if he didn't get a phone after waiting so long, Sutton said, "I think I might cry."
It seems even Apple was surprised by the number of people who wanted to snap up the fourth version of the iPhone. More than 600,000 had rushed to preorder iPhones on the first day they were available, prompting Apple and its exclusive wireless partner in the U.S., AT&T, to stop taking orders for pickup or shipment by Thursday's launch. On Apple's website, new orders weren't promised for delivery until July 14.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said that demand was "off the charts" and that the company was working hard to get phones into customers' hands as quickly as possible.
Brian Marshall, an analyst for Gleacher & Co., said certain Apple stores likely had enough iPhones to last into today before selling out. A new shipment could be in stores as early as Saturday, he said, but more are not likely until early next week.
Apple is having a hard time getting enough of the new custom parts for the iPhone 4, such as its higher-resolution screen, Marshall said. Apple has said a planned white iPhone proved more challenging and won't be available until late July. Only black models went on sale Thursday.
SANDRA BAKER, 817-390-7727