|It's a phone, an iPod and a pocket-size route to the Internet -- and the hundred-plus people camped out Friday along University Avenue, Kipling Street and Lytton Avenue crave it.
They want one of Apple's new iPhones and to get one, or two, they are sitting in line for hours. A few hardy souls even arrived Thursday afternoon for the 6 p.m. Friday opening.
For San Franciscans Susanne and Pierre Khawand, the choice wasn't whether to wait or not -- it was a choice of locale.
"It's much warmer to stay here overnight," said Susanne, pointing to their air mattress and sleeping bags.
By Friday afternoon, the large Apple store windows were covered in black, a ladder peeking out at the top.
The Palo Alto store closed early to prepare for the 6 p.m. debut, but it will remain open until midnight Friday.
A single security guard, with black glasses, stood in front of the glass doors, responding to relentless questions from a group of teenage boys.
But the real diehards sat in the line, many under umbrellas, on folding chairs, bean bags or even bicycles.
Palo Alto resident Desmond Howard, number nine in line, said his boss offered to pay him $400 to wait in line for an iPhone. He has been waiting since 1:30 p.m. yesterday.
"It's a pretty good day's work," said Howard, who slept in his car for two hours last night while his neighbor in line reserved his spot.
Above Howard's head, on the wall of the Apple store, someone had taped up a cardboard sign that read, "Spare change for iPhone. Please help."
One man in line slept, but most future iPhone owners chatted with friends or on cell phones, or typed busily on laptops. A few read and some line-sitters just sat.
The Khawands waited in line so that Pierre could have two iPhones for himself. He evaluates handheld devices through his blog, 81dayexperiment.typepad.com , and said he's eager to test the iPhone's usefulness "for the business audience."
From the line, Pierre posted frequent updates and photographs about the iPhone countdown -- including pictures of the FedEx truck arriving to deliver the precious merchandise.
"It is getting really serious!" he posted at 12:55 p.m. "The news trucks are doubling, and cameras are getting bigger, heavier, and more sophisticated, and suddenly, yes, suddenly the shipment, yes the shipment, arrives."
But some late arrivals were more nonchalant.
At 3:40 p.m., Palo Altan Robert Brown strolled to the end of the line, which had snaked around the corner of Kipling Street and down Lytton Avenue.
"I've always liked to stay on the leading edge of technology, so maybe it's a fetish," Brown said, who is eager to trade in his Treo for an iPhone.
Though he was the last in line, he wasn't worried.
"This line isn't as long as it looks because they're all spread out with their chairs," said Brown, who is the editor and secretary for the Silicon Valley Mac User Group.
There was plenty to eat and drink -- remains of pizza, bagels and donuts lay strewn along Kipling. Companies also handed out free t-shirts and food, and Apple Store employees regularly passed out water to their patient shoppers-to-be. A snow cone stand was the hit of the afternoon.
Randy Robinson, owner of Vino Locale on Kipling Street, set up a cloth-covered table in the lawn in front of his store, offering wine, water and sandwiches.
"It's been a really fun day," Robinson said. He was aware of the iPhone, but didn't know there would be a line in front of his store for nearly a day.
Apple employees came around to ask if it was OK, Robinson said.
Although Robinson was having fun, and making money, he thought the phenomenon was "bizarre."
"They all want one thing," Robinson said. "I've never seen anything like this."
The spectacle even attracted passersby.
Nodelyn Smith used her own flip phone to photograph her son, Grant, 10, pretending to stand in the iPhone line.
"I'm making history!" he announced.
But Smith isn't in a hurry to replace her flip phone.
"Maybe when our Verizon contract is up," she said, as they continued walking.
Two versions of the phone are available. The four-gigabyte iPhone sells for $499 and the eight-gigabyte model retails for $599.
AT&T services the phones with monthly plans ranging form $59.99 to $99.99. The internet is available via AT&T's network when wireless isn't available, according to Apple.
Apple didn't announce how many iPhones each store had available.
Beginning Saturday, all 164 Apple stores nationwide will open at 9 a.m. and offer workshops on the use of the gadgets.
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