iPhone 5 launch goes smoothly in Bel Air

Friday morning's national launch of the iPhone 5 appeared to be going smoothly in Bel Air, where only a handful of people were lined up at two of the town's three main phone retailers shortly before 9 a.m.

Outside of Best Buy, Brian Oppenheim, of Joppa; Josh Bem, of Fallston; and Tracey Neff and Andrea Sung, both of Abingdon, were chatting away in the bright sunshine and seemed in no hurry to get their new phones.

The store typically opens at 10 a.m. and Oppenheim, who had arrived at 5 a.m., said Best Buy had made appointments for many pre-order customers to come in before normal hours; he said there had been a steady flow of them during his time waiting. He had thought about getting an appointment, he said, but then got busy and didn't do it.

Oppenheim said he is definitely a fan of the iPhone and has been using one "since they first came out."

"I'm surprised there aren't more of us waiting," said Sung, who said she arrived around 8:15, while Bem said he had showed up a little after 6.

At one point, a store employee came out and told the group the manager would be with them shortly to hand out numbers and that hopefully they could begin taking their orders before the store was due to open. That seemed agreeable to everyone.

Though Neff said she was tempted to take Apple's trade-in offer of cash for her old phone, she might just go ahead and sell it, presumably for more money than she could get in trade. Otherwise, for her and the others – a fifth person joined them – the waiting and the chatting seemed all part of the new iPhone experience.

A block north on Baltimore Pike, nobody was waiting outside of the Verizon store in Bel Air Town Center, while across the street at the AT&T store in Bel Air Plaza, manager C. J. Nasuta had just four folks in line and was happily talking with them and assuring them he still had phones and their wait would not be long.

Nasuta, who the previous day had likened an iPhone launch to Christmas, said he had about 40 people lined up outside the store by midnight Thursday. As promised, he had bottled water and granola bars available for his guests, while they waited.

"It's been pretty much like always when a new phone launches," Nasuta said. "Some people just have to have it now, but I think a lot of people are pretty much getting used to the iPhone, so maybe it's not such a big deal for them anymore."

Nasuta said his store took some pre-orders, and he said he expected most of those phones would be shipped directly to the customer.

His store opened at 8 a.m., and Nasuta was ready – the employees manned stations inside, as one greeted the next customer coming inside and got the process going.

A few people were still drifting up to the store, when an employee came out and told Nasuta they were being advised that some new phone activations could be delayed for up to several hours because of the high volume of new phones being sold around the country.

"It's understandable when you have all these millions of phones being activated at once," he assured those who were waiting.

Nasuta said he had sold out of some new iPhone 5 models, explaining many customers were asking for the ones with the larger hard drives, which had not been the case with some earlier versions.

"Again, as people become more familiar with the iPhone and see what it can do, they have more of an idea what they want," he said. "I know I have more than 4,000 pictures stored on mine."

As one customer left the store, Nasuta bid him farewell and said, "I know you'll just keep turning it on until it connects!"

If people weren't buying the new iPhone Friday morning, at least they were talking about it. Shortly before the Bel Air library opened at 10 a.m., a handful of young people waiting for the doors to open were overheard discussing the merits of this phone and comparing it to their own phones. One fellow said he'd looked into the iPhone 5, but was content to "stick with my Droid."

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