Live reporting from Mike Rose, our man-on-the-spot, transcribed by Erica back at the TUAW desk. (Sorry about the time! I'm on Mountain Time and Mike is on Eastern.)
3:58. It's a zoo. There are probably two times as many gawkers and press than actual people in line. Mike's TUAW shirt is recognized by a German fan.
3:59. It's officially crazy time. Apple crew members have walked down back stairway to take their positions inside the store.
We've now tucked the rest of the liveblog behind the jump. Thank you for sharing the experience!
4:00. There are officially more camera crews on-hand than at any recent vice-presidential debate. Demo dolls and dudes are going up and down the line handing out fliers for mobile websites and PA systems with docks. The crowds are muttering. Are the doors about to open?
4:03. The crew is OUT. High fives for everyone on line--and probably a video of all this is going out this second to CNN. The Apple crew is all cheering--and well they might, given that they're all getting free iPhones from Steve.
4:05. CBS and GM building employees are leaving work, exiting the office and blinking bemused as they call family on their cell phones. "You wouldn't believe what's going on here..."
4:05. A bystander mutters: "Only in New York!". Mike says; "wrong!" The Plaza hotel across 5th ave, scaffolding across the facade, looms over the scene.
4:07. The first customers are coming out. A skinny guy with a blue shirt and a big grin holding a black bag. He holds it in the air like the head of the Gorgon. Mike can't get up to talk to him. There are about a thousand people in the way, some of them armed NYPD officers.
4:09. Mike says: "Note to self: Could not type this fast on the iPhone." The crowd is starting to mill. Popsci.com is shooting video.
4:11. More people are coming out of the store. A cop shouts out: "Hey folks, it's just people shopping. That's it folks. People do it every day." Wet blanket! He says "Move it! Nothing to see here."
4:12. Telemundo is here.
4:13. CNBC is interviewing a buyer. The guy who bought the phone looks very happy.
4:14. MyiPhone.com guy is...oh good lord! TV New Zealand and a scrum of media re actually following the blue shirt guy around. And the Kiwi report almost dropped the iPhone. (oops!)
4:16. 40 people are watching this NZ/iPhone buyer interview.
4:18. The line goes back to Madison Avenue, all the way around to FAO Schwartz. Stretching from one expensive toy store to another.
4:19. A strange yellow motorcar has zoomed by. (And Mike gets temporarily kicked off line. More as soon as we get back to him.) And back: The line passes by an open (but empty) Porsche design store (speaking of toys). And some shoppers in Bally Shoes.
4:20. Mike is busy doing a linewalk video with the shoppers
4:20. Mike is busy doing a linewalk video with the shoppers
4:22. The Online Apple Store is DOWN.
4:25. TUAW reader PeiPei notes "Oh the irony, the CNBC live coverage of the event is only streaming in Windows Media Player."
4:28. There are still easily 300+ people in line. David Pogue is being interviewed out front. There are four satellite trucks here.
4:29. One guy with two iPhone bags tells Korean TV "I feel like I just won the lottery" Drivers and pedestrians on 5th ave ask "what's going on??
4:30. The local Starbucks stand is doing good business.
4:30. The online Apple store will be back up at 6pm PDT (9PM Eastern).
4:30. People who have only been waiting since midnight have their iPhones now. Most buyers are making a quick exit.
4:31. A lot of the excitement is on the wane. Now it's down to "just shopping". Photographers are editing pictures on their Macbook Pro's. The next batch of line-ees are getting inside.
4:32. Pogue has pulled out his iPhone to show off to reporters.
4:32. Mike is taking a quick break to upload his pictures.
4:33. Mike SCORES a free coffee! A chunk of people are going in every 2-3 minutes. The line should continue until at least 9 PM.
4:34. As the line gets processed, more and more people are joining the end of the queue
4:35. To date: Total number of persons who recognized the TUAW logo on Mike's shirt: 1. But he was very excited.
4:37. First unboxing pics on Flickr
4:38. It's getting a little darker and colder at the 5th Ave store.
4:38. It's getting a little darker and colder at the 5th Ave store. If you haven't been to the 5th ave store, it's hard to overstate how savvy the whole thing is. Every single CBS early show shoot takes place in front of a giant glowing apple logo. Genius!
4:40. Shawn king is being interviewed--or some other guy who looks like him. Raindrops begin to fall upon the waiting hordes huddled around the Apple manger.
4:43. The raindrops have let up--just a drop or two right now. Weather here in Colorado? 88 mile-high degrees outside those AT&T stores. Mike lets me know that (a) the coffee is good, and (b) cops are moving people along and (c) if the rain gets worse he may have to run for it.
4:45. Oddly enough this is one of the spots in NYC that smells ever so slightly of horse manure. Central Park hansom cabs linger across the street--or perhaps that's the acrid odor of the massive RDF expansion
4:46. More cheers as the next batch of customers moves into the store.
4:47. Reader asks: "Any idea how many phones are left in that store?" Mike: No idea. I would imagine "a lot".
4:48. It's getting quite windy now and I think the rain is coming. I'm moving under cover. (Meanwhile in Colorado, my AC is straining in the heat.)
4:49. Mike is now `peeking into the store through the glass cube -- the shop floor is packed.
4:52. Most of the rubberneckers are starting to leave but many are still sitting on the chairs and benches around the plaza. I am trying to think of a 'retail event' that compares to this nothing coming to mind. This is more like a movie premiere (LOTR?) than anything else.
4:55. Two verizon trucks driving by on 5th ave. I've also seen T-Mobile Sidekick vans around town today. It's kind of sad.
4:56. Reader Hank reports: "In line at 53rd and 6th at AT&T store - a bunch of their computers stopped working early on. Still in line (started about #20 in line)...
4:59. Indian guy with two young boys comes by and asks me to explain the difference between the two iPhone models. After, he runs off to tell his friend.
5:00. TUAW Laurie calls in to say hi, interrupting our coverage for a couple of minutes. Still no real rain, but it looks like it will start any second.
5:01. Not much more to say here from 5th avenue... it's all over but the shopping. The plaza is gradually being reclaimed by the usual crowd of New York folk who wonder what the heck just happened here. As the plaza grows darker and colder, we recommend that you take care. You may be eaten by a grue!
5:02. A TUAW Reader: "Guy interviewed on the CNBC live Broadcast stated that the time he entered the Apple Store "Was the most amazing shopping experience in his whole life", somewhat paraphrased. He had been waiting in line for around 18 hrs I think."
5:03. Thank you for sharing the iPhone experience with us here at TUAW.