TORONTO (Reuters) - Neither rain nor controversy discouraged a hardy band of gadget lovers who lined up for up to 16 hours on a downtown street to become among the first in Canada to buy Apple Inc’s iPhone 3G on Friday.
Jordon Brown thought the distinction well worth a mostly sleepless night camped out on the sidewalk outside a Rogers store that Canada’s exclusive iPhone service provider was opening early to accommodate the Apple faithful.
Brown, a 16-year-old high school student, said he arrived at 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday and was at the head of the line when the shop opened at 8 a.m. to begin signing up customers for the much-hyped smartphone.
“I’ve been waiting for this phone since November. One night in the rain is not so bad,” he said half an hour before the store opened, as 120 other customers, surrounded by a couple dozen media people, queued up behind him.
“The first thing I’m going to do is call my friend, who said I was a loser for waiting here.”
The 3G has faster Web links than the original iPhone and supports third-party software such as games. It’s the first iPhone model to be offered in Canada, home to Research in Motion Ltd, maker of the BlackBerry smartphone and a major Apple rival.
The introduction was not without controversy. A wave of protest over initial pricing options for the iPhone led Rogers Communication Inc to add a cheaper plan this week for those who activate by August 31 on a three-year contract.
Rogers’ initial pricing plans prompted such an outcry that some consumers set up a protest website (www.ruinediphone.com). They claim to have gathered nearly 63,000 electronic signatures and complaints by Friday morning, and urged customers to cancel their contracts with the carrier.
Even with the new option, critics say Rogers’ pricing compares unfavorably with similar plans offered by AT&T, the exclusive iPhone service provider in the United States.
But none of this seemed to bother the people on line in downtown Toronto on Friday morning. Many customers said they could live with paying extra fees just to own an iPhone.
“I’ve been in Canada for two years now, and I’ve sort of gotten used to just paying more when I moved here from the U.S.,” said Matt Mendelow, a 37-year-old nurse who paid someone he found on Craigslist C$200 ($198) to save his 12th spot in line while he worked a night shift.
“I’m a bit of a self-confessed gadget freak and the hospital I work at uses one of the applications that’s being rolled out now, so I’ll be able to use the iPhone in my practice,” he said.
Canadians have long complained about the high cost of wireless service compared with what U.S. consumers pay, and many blame a lack of competition in a thinly populated country that stretches across six time zones.
For Moshe Nesher, those comparisons probably didn’t matter very much. The 42-year-old bike-shop owner from Jerusalem said he flew to Toronto from Israel on Thursday morning just to purchase the iPhone 3G.
“We don’t have the iPhone in Israel and there won’t be for one or two years,” said Nesher, who was not even sure if Rogers would let him buy an iPhone without a Canadian contract.
“I just want it.... It’s little, smart, and you can do everything with it. I could pay $2,000 to come here — it’s not a problem.”
Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Frank McGurty