The word is BIG. Big lines, probably 4 times what they were last year for the 3GS roll-out. I got to the Apple La Encantada store in Tucson at 6AM to find hundreds of people in both the reserved line and those hopefuls waiting without a reservation for an iPhone 4.
The crowd was calm, but anxious. As I talked to people waiting, I was surprised by how many people were not current iPhone users. There were many BlackBerry owners, and a sprinkling of Motorola and Verizon labeled phones. Some said their contracts had just expired, and it was time to get on the iPhone bandwagon.
There were lots of iPad owners too, so some people were sitting down in line and appearing to do some real work. It took me about 2 1/2 hours from my arrival time to getting in the store. The store wasn't crowded, because Apple managers were limiting the size of the crowd inside. I was told they are letting 1 non-reservation customer in for every 15 customers with reserved phones.
One bright spot is that my phone was activated in about 10 seconds. I was expecting a big AT&T meltdown, but at least so far, it looks like things are pretty smooth.
As soon as I left the store I checked the screen. No brown spots. I also tried touching the antenna in multiple places, and never saw the signal bars diminish, but there are widespread reports of both issues.
Apple clearly has a hit with this latest iPhone. The Tucson store said they will run through all the phones they have, and don't expect to see any more until Monday. That won't be good news for the many who are likely to be turned away later today, especially as the temperature climbs toward a forecast 108 degrees.