Early buyers of the iPhone 5 don't mind lack of NFC, Lightning port adapter

Outside carrier stores, customers say they want a faster, bigger iPhone

HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Long lines formed for days outside of Apple stores in major cities to buy the iPhone 5 today, but smaller crowds also gathered in college towns like Harrisonburg, Va., where the longest wait was overnight in front of the AT&T and Verizon Wireless stores.

Bryan Moore shows off his new iPhone 5. He waited overnight outside the Verizon wireless site in Harrisonburg, Va., to be first in line.

"I wouldn't wait all week outside Apple's store in New York City. It's not worth it. I have to go to work," said Bryan Moore, the first in line at a Verizon store here.

Moore arrived about 11 p.m. ET Thursday to get his new iPhone 5, but was able to sleep in his car, which he parked nearby overnight, and could still hold his spot. By the time doors opened at 8 a.m., there were 22 people in line.

Across the street, AT&T had 21 people in line when its store opened at the same time. Sprint is also selling the iPhone 5 today, but not apparently at the nearby local store, where no line had formed at 8 a.m. and the lights were off.

Moore bought a 32GB white model of the iPhone 5, an upgrade from his iPhone 4. He will pay for 2GB of data service a month under a Verizon Share Everything plan, which gives him free voice and text. Moving to the new plan means he will have to give up an older unlimited data plan, but he said he's willing to do so to get the iPhone 5.

Longtime friends Tony Mann and Richard Mancari got in line for the iPhone 5 at 10 p.m. Thursday at the AT&T store in Harrisonburg, Va.

Asked which features impressed him most about the new device, Moore said he wants "all of it" in the new device, meaning a faster processor and larger screen as well as access to a speedier LTE network, among other features. Moore, who said he works in retail, wants to eventually become an Apple tech. "I keep my entire life on my phone," he said.

He's also eager to try out the latest improvements to Siri, the Apple voice assistant that can be used for map navigation in the new iOS 6.

Five customers waiting in lines said in interviews that they didn't care that the iPhone 5 has no NFC chip for use with Apple's iOS 6 Passbook feature for transmitting data for tickets or boarding passes. Passbook relies on transmitting via barcodes on the iPhone 5's display, which are read by optical scanners at a payment terminal or boarding gate.

Experts have said Apple could miss out on developments with mobile wallet technology by not including an NFC chip in the iPhone 5, as its compeititots have done, but others said Apple's decision is sufficient.

Apparently, these customers agreed with Apple's approach on Passbook.

Moore and Wendy Kern, who was second in line at the Verizon store arriving at 4:45 a.m., said they would never put private credit card information on a phone for a mobile wallet because they don't trust the security, even on an iPhone.

"I've been hacked too many times making purchases from my computer," Kern said. "I wouldn't mind using my new iPhone to show a boarding pass, but I'm not loading my credit card on there." Kern said she travels fairly often as a golfer and golf instructor.

"I never buy anything from my phone because of worries [about security]," Moore added.

At the AT&T store across the street, longtime friends Richard Mancari and Tony Mann, both freshmen in computer science at James Madison University, said they weren't veryfamiliar with NFC technology, although they were getting accustomed to what Passbook offers and hoped to take advantage of it.

Both students said they are heavy texters and data and Twitter users. They also download songs from iTunes and occasionally stream music over Pandora or Spotify. They both lined up outside the AT&T store at 10 p.m. ET Thursday to be first in line. They spent the night outside with temperatures in the 50s while wearing hooded sweatshirts and seated in camp chairs.

Mancari said he wanted to replace a Samsung Captivate, an Android device, with the iPhone 5 "mainly to get something faster." He smiled when asked if LTE speeds and large data downloads of multimedia might incur some steep data charges, adding, "I'm hoping my mom pays for it."

Both Moore and Kern said they thought the controversial Lightning 8-wire port seemed like a bette way to charge and update the iPhone 5 than the older 30-pin port.

Moore said the new Lightning port "sounds like better technology than a microUSB," which Apple decided not to include in the iPhone 5. MicroUSB is widely used by other smartphone makers and is mandated in Europe by the European Union.

Some customers have complained that Apple is charging $29 for a Lightning adapter to connect the iPhone 5 to older accessories, but neither Moore nor Kern said they cared and might not even need, or buy, an adapter.

"I won't need an adapter," Kern added. "I'll just use the older charger on my iPad and the newer one with the iPhone 5."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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