SAN FRANCISCO--What a difference a year makes.
Apple released its third-generation iPhone Friday, but considerably smaller and quieter crowds came out for the smartphone's debut. It was a stark contrast to the frenzied first day sales of the original iPhone and last year's iPhone 3G. Friday's lines outside stores across the country were reportedly 100- to 200-people deep in some places, falling short of the lines that sometimes stretched for blocks in 2007 and 2008.
Also different this year was the activation process for new phones. Both Apple and AT&T's servers appeared to hold up much better this year, with many buyers Friday morning reporting quick, easy transactions. After just an hour, folks lining up outside Apple and AT&T stores in New York City, San Francisco, and Emeryville, Calif. were filing into the stores in an orderly manner, with no brawls breaking out over line-jumping or the headache-inducing activation problems of last year to be found.
The relatively lower turnout in the early morning wasn't really unexpected. Both Apple and AT&T offered a few more options for purchasing the 3G S this year that appeared to reduce the chaos--offering preordering and the ability to reserve iPhones for in-store pickup. Some customers who may have wanted a new phone are not yet eligible for an upgrade from AT&T unless they want to pay a hefty "early upgrade" fee, and for others, the 3G S isn't that much of an improvement over the 3G model released last year. … Read more