As you may or may not have heard, AT&T (once known as Cingular) has a pretty sweet exclusive on a rather desirable phone being released simultaneously across the country tonight. So with less than a half hour to go until iMania strikes AT&T locations nationwide, we wanted to see how things were going over at the other guys' stores, and we figured that New York City was as good of a test bed as any. Now Manhattan is a rather populous borough, with most retailers seeing a steady flow of customers coming in and out throughout a given weekday, so you'd expect AT&T's three main competitors to continue doing a fairly brisk business even on this holiest of days, right? Not so fast: out of the stores we visited, only Sprint seemed to have the usual excruciating line for service; conversely, you could proud probably have caused a minor stampede among the commissioned sales drones at Verizon and T-Mobile had you so much as ducked inside for a brochure. Click on to get a taste of the telecom world outside the nearly impenetrable dome of influence that Apple and AT&T have magically created today...



The Sprint store on 42nd Street was still packing 'em in as usual, perhaps tempting potential customers with sexy Moguls and the "it's no iPhone but it plays music too" Samsung UpStage.


Seems like no one's home at T-Mobile on 8th Avenue today, where we didn't even have to push people out of the way to get several clear shots of the front of the store.


Things are just as bad at the Verizon dealership across the street from Bryant Park, where despite the COO's iWhatever pep talk to employees and his promise of special deals on select devices, everyone seemed curiously determined to keep heading towards 58th and 5th. Just in case you do get sick of following the iPhone action, though, Verizon stores will all be open until 9PM tonight.

All-in-all, certainly not a red letter for anyone but AT&T in the world of cellphones; consumers, however, can likely expect short lines and enthusiastic associates at their local "off-brand" stores if they do happen to be in the market for a new handset -- and let us just say, if you have in fact avoided being infected with this clever and almost omnipresent virus, we tip our hat to you friend.

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