Small Verizon iPhone Lines No Big Surprise

As was the case at the Denver Flatiron Crossing that The Mac Observer covered early Thursday morning, there were few people lining up to get the hotly anticipated Verizon iPhone across the country. Reports from other Apple Store locations indicate that it wasn’t just Denver’s cold weather discouraging waiting lines, but the reality is that none of us should be surprised.

CNNMoney reported that eight people were in line at Apple’s 5th Ave. Cube, and CNN itself reported there were a few more than a dozen customers waiting in Atlanta, Georgia. In Coral Gables, Florida, there were a few more people, while there were none at Apple’s San Francisco flagship store.

There are many and more differences between the launch of the iPhone 4 on AT&T and the launch on Verizon’s network that are likely contributing to differences in opening lines, any one of which would keep the lines short.

For one thing, there are millions of AT&T iPhone owners already on a summer-release schedule for the iPhone in terms of their contract expiration dates, especially with the leeway AT&T has given iPhone owners allowing some to upgrade before their two-year contract was complete.

Verizon and Apple announced in January that the iPhone was coming to Big Red, and the prospective pool of customers ready to buy an iPhone whose contracts would accommodate a subsidy here and now is likely to be smaller. Verizon has sold a lot of Android devices in the last year, and few of those customers would be eligible for a subsidized iPhone any time soon.

Another factor is the fact that Apple has worked quite hard on improving supply of the iPhone 4, and the company’s logistical chain has improved dramatically. One reason Apple saw the kind of opening lines for iPhone 4 unseen since Steve McQueen had to put out a Towering Inferno is the fact that customers expected initial supply of the device to be limited.

First Verizon iPhone Sale

Behold the vast horde of one buying the first Verizon iPhone at Denver’s Flatiron Crossing Apple Store
(Photo by Jeff Gamet


There was little or no angst ahead of the Verizon release about whether Apple would be able to meet initial demand. Why wait in line in the middle of February if you can stroll in to an Apple Store…or Verizon…or Best Buy any time today to pick one up?

Which segues into another point: In addition to Apple having improved its supply chain for iPhone 4, there are far, far more points of sale for the device today (for both U.S. flavors) than there were for the release on AT&T last June. Supply is on hand at all the above retail locations, and Verizon customers could also be assured that their pre-order would arrive on time (if not early) if they had it shipped directly to them.

Another factor is that the iPhone 4 is no longer a new device, even if it’s new to Verizon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you could hold out until the Summer (four months, give or take a bit), you can get the iPhone 5. Plus, there will be that many more customers eligible for an upgrade as those four months roll on.

Also, the vast majority of U.S. users who had to have an iPhone 4 NOW already had one. They got it at AT&T. There is little doubt that iPhone will be just as successful at Verizon over time as it has been at AT&T, but that doesn’t mean that people will line up in sub-freezing temperatures before 7:00 AM to get one.

Lastly, Verizon customers don’t have the same culture of opening events as those iPhone owners who have long been with AT&T, and that could be a bigger factor than it might otherwise seem at first blush.

We expect to see reports later on Thursday and over the weekend that Apple and Verizon saw a steady stream of traffic of customers throughout the day, and we expect to see solid lines of Verizon customers at the iPhone 5 launch sometime this Summer.