apple_logo_rainbow_6_color.jpgRelated: SF Shoots: San Francisco Gets The iPhone 4S

Gone were the rainbow-colored sticky notes fluttering on the Apple store’s glass storefront in downtown San Francisco–a memorial to the company’s late co-founder–replaced with a sea of blue T-shirts worn by the retailer’s employees who lined the sidewalk this morning.

The store opened an hour early today at 8 a.m. to begin selling the latest incarnation of the tech giant’s popular smartphone, the iPhone 4S.

By 7:30 a.m., at least 150 people waited in a line along Stockton Street that wrapped around the corner and continued west along O’Farrell Street.

The first person in line, Robert Thompson, of Emeryville, said he claimed his spot at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday and that he had never before camped out for a product release.

“If I had to … I would do it again,” Thompson said, noting that people in line were friendly, shared food and traded contact information.

He did so this time because he needed a new phone quickly and couldn’t wait for one to arrive had he been able to pre-order one. First-day preorders for the iPhone 4S broke the one-million-unit mark, easily making it the fastest selling version of the handset.

Efficiency was the theme of the morning. The line moved quickly once the doors opened at 8 a.m. because store employees had paired up with the first 50 or so customers while they were still in line.

An equal number of employees inside the store lined the entrance and flanked the stairs to the store’s second level. They roared cheers in unison and high-fived customers as they entered the store, rendering the event more of a pep rally than product release.
Thompson exited the store, black 4S in hand, at 8:16 a.m.

By that time, Meagan Lansdale, 32, of San Francisco, who had been somewhere around the 100th person in line, was beaming at the front of the line as she was greeted by her personal Apple shopping assistant.

Lansdale, who grew up in Palo Alto and graduated from Stanford, said she witnessed the transformation of Silicon Valley thanks to the influence of Apple and the new generation of tech companies.

“Steve Jobs just changed the world–period,” she said.

When she heard of Jobs’ death last week, she said she was moved by the loss because of his impact on design and people’s daily lives. “It was almost like I felt like a family member died,” she said.

The 4S she bought today represents her third Apple handset, and she said she admired Jobs because she has “always appreciated his melding of the art of technology with the function.”

Expecting the wait this morning to have been much longer, Lansdale, who now lives in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, carried much of her arsenal of Apple products with her. Her iPhone, she said, is her favorite. Lansdale wasn’t alone on that point.

Many people in line, including Jay Streets, 51, of San Francisco’s Cole Valley neighborhood, said that they were loyal to the brand and to the iPhone in particular because of its innovative features and signature design.

“I’m not brand loyal to anything other than Apple,” said Streets, who arrived in line at about 6:10 a.m. with Norton, his fluffy Golden Retriever-poodle mix. “But I had never used a smartphone before the iPhone.”

Streets said he owns pretty much every Apple product released since he bought his iPod classic in 2004.

“A week later I bought another, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.

The wait was pleasant, Streets said, because of the camaraderie in line.

“You meet such nice people,” he said, echoing the comments of others in line who said the experience was a positive one.

He has waited in line for every product launch–except that of the original iPhone in June 2007, because he was not yet an AT&T customer. The iPhone 4S represents the first time that the phone will be available on three U.S. wireless carriers–Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc.

Although it was hard to tell judging by the normal outfits of the people in line, today is also Steve Jobs Day, a worldwide event organizers originally envisioned as a way to thank Apple’s innovative genius for his trailblazing work.

Participants were encouraged to cultivate their image in Jobs’ likeness by donning a black mock turtleneck. Expert impersonators, organizers said, could “go full Steve” by wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes to round out his signature style.

No one in the line outside the downtown San Francisco Apple store sported a black turtleneck. Then again, the forecast for today, with high temperatures in the 70s, isn’t exactly turtleneck weather.

When Jobs died last week from complications related to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, the thank-you became somewhat of a memorial.

The iPhone 4S is the last design of the popular handset that was completed under Jobs’ supervision. The phone was officially announced on Oct. 4, one day before Jobs’ death.
People have organized meet-ups worldwide, from Manila to Mumbai, and from Brussels to Burbank, to celebrate Jobs’ life and the ways his work affected our lives.

“We admire his work. We’ve embraced his vision. And we love what he’s brought to the world,” organizers wrote on the event website.

One of the gatherings is scheduled to take place in Fremont this morning in the parking lot of the original Macintosh computer factory, which is now a data center run by Hurricane Electric.

The gathering is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at 48233 Warm Springs Blvd.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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