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Psst, lines are way shorter at AT&T stores

While hundreds of people wait outside Apple stores in New York City to get their hands on the iPhone, AT&T stores around the city have only a handful of people waiting in line.

Why be the 250th person standing in line at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue to get an iPhone when you could be the third person in line at the AT&T store on West 95th Street and Broadway in Manhattan? That's exactly what Scott Zegar, 29, asked himself.

95th Ave
People stand in line at the AT&T store on West 95th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. Miles Bukiet was the first in line starting at 7 a.m. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

"I went to the Apple store at 5:00 a.m. this morning," he said. "And there were like 500 people already in line (A more accurate count from our intrepid reporter, Caroline McCarthy, is more like 250 people.) So I came back uptown, slept for three more hours, and got here around 9 a.m."

As of 11:00 a.m. Friday, only four people were standing in line outside of the West 95th Street AT&T store and only five people were in line at the AT&T store in Times Square. AT&T officials wouldn't say how many devices they were getting. But one person in line at the Times Square location said he heard that each AT&T store would have at least 40 phones.

"I'm the second guy in line here, so I think I'm pretty safe," said Ralph, 22, who didn't want his last name used because he had told his boss he was sick today. "The line at the Apple store was just too crazy."

Unlike the lines at the Apple stores in Manhattan, the people standing in line at the two AT&T stores I surveyed appeared to be more cell phone zealots than Apple freaks. For example, Ralph's girlfriend, who was waiting in line with him for moral support, confessed that in the two years she has been dating Ralph, he has bought at least six new phones.

"There was the Razr and the Pebble," she said. "And didn't you also have a Krzr or a Rokr?"

The stiff price tag of the iPhone doesn't bother Ralph. The last cell phone he bought, an unlocked Nokia 8800, also cost him $600. But he said it had a "crappy battery." He's already sold the old phone to a co-worker for $300 in anticipation of picking up the new iPhone.

Times Square
Only five people were in line at AT&T's store in Times Square waiting to get the new Apple iPhone, which goes on sale at 6 p.m. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

On the Upper West Side, Zegar, a self-described trust-fund baby, also isn't fazed by the $600 price tag for the 8GB device nor does he think much of paying a hefty fee for canceling his Verizon Wireless contract to sign up with AT&T. He doesn't even seem to be bothered by the fact that the past five iPods he has bought have all broken.

"I love cell phones and gadgets," he said. "And it looks cool."

But at least one person in line isn't buying into all the hype. Miles Bukiet, 19, who happens to be the first person in line at the AT&T store on West 95th Street, thinks all the iPhone madness is a bit silly. Bukiet, who arrived for his place in line at 7 a.m. Friday and was sitting outside the store with his Sony Discman and his 3-year-old LG flip phone, sees a lucrative business opportunity. He placed an advertisement on Craigslist on Wednesday night and is in line for two guys who promised to pay him $200 each for an iPhone.

"I have no interest in an iPhone," he said. "I think the whole thing is kind of ridiculous. But making $400 to stand in line all day, when I can sit here and listen to music or read a book, seemed like pretty easy money to me."

Indeed, if I had known it would be so easy, I would have called in sick today and joined him.