iPhone 3G: Hurry up and wait

A few have begun queuing up already for the Friday debut of Apple's iPhone 3G.

iPhone line
The two men who will be first in line when the Apple store in SF opens Friday at 8 a.m. to sell its first iPhone 3G. Erica Ogg/CNET News

This post was updated at 2:15 p.m. Pacific. See below.

They've arrived.

Apparently afraid they may not be one of the first people to get their mitts on the updated iPhone tomorrow, a few of the Apple faithful have taken position in front of the downtown San Francisco Apple store. At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, there were just two people and a tent.

Drinking a hot chocolate, and clad in a sport coat and tie, Dale Larson of San Francisco proclaimed the iPhone 3G launch would be "a way bigger deal this year than last year" when the original iPhone debuted.

That's why he arrived at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and slept on the sidewalk at the intersection of Stockton and Ellis streets: to make sure that he would be first when those glass doors open Friday morning at 8 a.m. (He readily recommends it too. "All you need is a tent, earplugs and an air mattress," he says.)

When asked why he went through all that trouble of camping and waiting (again--he camped out for the iPhone launch last year, too) when there were no shortages on the first day of last year's launch, he blames this year's new procedure requiring that all phones be activated in the store on the day of purchase. "I don't want to wait a long time tomorrow," Larson said.

The second man, who arrived at 7:30 this morning with nothing but a folding chair, doesn't actually want an iPhone. But Xavier Llanos, originally of Barcelona but currently teaching 4th grade in Suisun City, Calif., says a friend asked him to get an iPhone for him to bring back to Spain.

Because he's not really an Apple fan, he had no idea what he expected to pay, and got a bit uneasy when reminded he'd have to either buy the phone unlocked for $499 or $599 or sign a contract with AT&T.

Even if Llanos doesn't decide to buy one after all, he said he enjoys the spectacleof queuing up for a gadget.

His fellow line sitter put it the same way. "It's fun to meet all these people," Larson said. "People will stop in their cars on the street here and ask, 'Are you really waiting for the iPhone?'"

Good question.

Update: Well, this is sad. I trekked back over to the Apple store at 1:30 p.m. to see if anyone had joined Larson and Llanos in line, and lo and behold, the line remained at just two people. (Come on, S.F., Apple fanboys in New York are totally beating you!)

While Larson retained his position as first in line (though he'd taken cover in some shade and packed up his tent at the behest of the SFPD), Llanos had disappeared. In his place was Ryan Johnson, 25, a new arrival in San Francisco, casually eating a bowl of takeout stir-fry. When asked how long he'd been in line, Johnson, who describes himself as "retired from the Internet," replied that he "doesn't really pay attention to time."

Lucky him. That's probably the best attitude you can have while waiting in the direct sunlight all day and camping on a sidewalk to buy a phone.

iphone 3G line
Johnson and Larson, SF's two most loyal Apple fans. James Martin/CNET