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Weeks later, iPhone 4 lines still huge

Despite antennagate, NYC lines for the iPhone 4 still stretch around the block. What's going on?

Friday morning, Upper West Side: an instant flashmob of iPhone 4 waiters.
Friday morning, Upper West Side: an instant flash mob of iPhone 4 waiters.
Scott Stein/CNET

You'd think that, nearly two months after launch, post-antennagate, an iPhone 4 should be fairly easy to come by.

As recent reports have stated, the iPhone 4 seems to be sold out in a number of Apple stores, despite supplies that are constantly arriving. Apple's Web site states a three-week wait before new iPhone 4s are being shipped.

It's worse than that, I discovered. Not only is it hard to come by, but there are still lines nearly as long as they were on the original launch day, even on August 13. How can this be?

Friday morning, 9 a.m.
A phone call to the Upper West Side Apple Store confirmed that the iPhone 4 is, indeed, in stock. "Come down now, there's already a line," the Apple employee advised. He wouldn't say whether there were enough to make the trip worthwhile.

At 9:20, the line was around the block and down to the next street, at least 70 people long, probably longer. How did everyone know? Did they all make calls like I did?

One security guard told a passerby to order online instead--that unless he arrived at 7 a.m., he wouldn't even have a chance of buying one. At some point, I ended up trapped in a bit of cognitive dissonance: the wait had clearly taken too long, but if I gave up now I'd lose all my progress. I waited well over an hour and gave up, the line never having even moved close enough for me to peek through the store windows (see the picture). I could have been waiting another 2 hours.

I already felt absurd waiting on line for an iPhone 4 halfway through August. Even worse, I walked away empty-handed. The black-shirted Apple security team outside offered little consolation. Apple used to offer online in-store reservations for same-day pickup, but an Apple employee on the phone said the first-come, first-served system is "more fair." How so, when I couldn't even get one without taking a half day off work?

Then again, maybe I should have done as the employee suggested, and order online.

Have you experienced any oddly long lines for the iPhone 4, or was this incident isolated to New York City? How did everyone find out so fast, when Apple wouldn't release information about stock or shipment dates beforehand? I guess I can't get too critical...after all, I was in line, too.