Apple fans who stood in line for hours in hopes of buying the 5.5-in. iPhone 6 Plus were disappointed -- even perturbed -- to find none in stock at both the AT&T and Verizon stories in this college town west of Washington D.C.
Several prospective customers stormed off angrily from their separate lines at the stores when told they could buy only the iPhone 6. Others strategized about buying the 4.7-in. iPhone 6, then selling it quickly on eBay or elsewhere to be able to buy the Plus this fall.
These Apple fans had little recourse since there is no Apple retail store in Harrisonburg and Best Buy was also selling the iPhone 6 only on a first come, first serve basis. However, Apple stores around the nation, including in downtown Boston, had both new versions in stock, according to reports.
"Why didn't you tell us earlier that you didn't have the Plus? That sucks! " one customer yelled to an AT&T store clerk when the clerk announced none were on sale as she opened the doors at 8 a.m. ET. Many customers had been waiting several hours already, and several raised their hands when asked if they wanted the Plus.
The clerk told the crowd of about 30 that Apple hadn't allowed AT&T to inform customers in line that it had no iPhone 6 Plus devices until 8 a.m. ET.
Across the street at the Verizon store, Danny Sarco got in line at 2 p.m. Thursday to be first in line to buy the 6 Plus when the store opened Friday morning. He was too tired to get angry when he learned he couldn't buy the larger model. He said planned to buy the Plus in the fall when it's in stock, and would sell his new gold-colored iPhone 6 on eBay.
Sarco said he would have pre-ordered the Plus online, but "the system wouldn't let me," which is why he was determined to wait overnight, sleeping with a blanket and folding chair. He had the first spot in line by himself from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. Thursday.
Over at AT&T's line, Pradeep and Rhea Kini also both wanted the larger iPhone 6 Plus. The married couple had waited three hours in line and despite their disappointment decided to each buy the smaller model in hopes of possibly returning them for two of the larger models later.
Sarco, a software programmer for 10 years, said he liked having both NFC and the 8-megapixel rear camera in his new iPhone 6. "I'm an amateur photographer and this new camera has image stabilization," he said. "A larger display will be nice, too, but a Plus would be better." The iPhone 6 is even larger than the iPhone 5S and earlier versions with their 4-in. displays.
Sean Cochran, a student at nearby James Madison University, wanted an iPhone 6 at AT&T mainly to join a less-expensive Next service plan than the plan he had on his iPhone 5S.
The increase in screen size didn't matter to him. "The iPhone 6 and the Plus are too big," he said. "Four inches is the perfect size."
Buyers seemed divided on the value of having NFC in the new iPhones for quick in-store purchases. Cochran, an intelligence analysis major, said he worries about security with a mobile wallet. "I don't trust the cloud, period," he said. "I'm not putting any personal information there."
Pradeep Kini, a software engineer, said he is "huge on NFC" in the iPhone. "I was upset that Apple didn't have it in the last version. I think Apple's NFC will be more secure than what we have now."
Sarco said he also isn't worried about NFC and mobile payments with Apple, and probably would use his phone for in-store and online purchases. "NFC and mobile wallet is important when Apple does it and it's not important when Android does it," he added, referring to Google Wallet, which hasn't gained nearly the popularity that Google and analysts expected.
Sarco admitted to being a huge Apple fan, and claimed to have stood in line to buy a new iPhone each time a new version was offered. "I've been to Apple stores in other cities and all over," he said. He had been an AT&T customer until buying his new iPhone 6 at Verizon, but said he switched for "logistical reasons," and not because of any problems with AT&T.
As a runner, he said he's eager to try out more fitness apps with the iPhone 6. "I run now with the iPhone 5S in my pocket, but I might have to find another way to carry it," he said, gesturing he might use an armband.
Most of the customers in both lines appreciated a larger iPhone, in either version, and increased size seemed to drive most purchases. "I'm excited about the size of the Plus, and I'm tired of looking at a smaller screen," said Tess Layer, an English major at JMU who arrived at 8 a.m. in hopes of buying the larger version. "I'd prefer the larger one. I didn't know they didn't have it until I got here."