Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Live on Fifth Avenue from Apple's iPhone 5 launch (updated)

September 21, 2012: 7:32 AM ET

Nine satellite trucks, zero protestors and longer lines than last year for the iPhone 4S

iPhone 5 customers dashing down glass staircase. Photo: PED

FORTUNE -- We're here at the big glass cube of Apple's (AAPL) flagship Fifth Avenue store for the launch of the iPhone 5. The queue of customers isn't as long as the 1,200 that greeted the iPad 2, but at 7 a.m. -- one hour before doors open -- I counted 710 heads, 52% more than the 400 at the iPhone 4S launch.

[UPDATE: At 7:50, T-ten minutes, the line was 820 customers long and growing at the rate of six per minute. That's more than the 500-600 we counted at the launch of the original iPad.

At 8:00 sharp, the rush started. First in line: Hazem Sayed, 54, who had spent eight days a nights in the queue to promote a social networking app called Vibe. See here.]

The media presence was, as usual, intense. There were 9 TV satellite trucks and more Steadicams and well-coifed talking heads than I could count.

The presence of iPhone resellers was also strong. At least three were sponsoring line-sitters: Gazelle, Otterbox and BuyBack. Otterbox grabbed the pride of place: A big yellow tent directly in front of the glass cube's glowing white apple.

The glass cube at 6:45 a.m. Click to enlarge. Photo: PED

To the relief of the die-hards who had been there for over a week, the Occupy Wall Street crowd that arrived Wednesday night and harshed their vibe for most of Thursday disappeared last night at about 6 p.m. without, we are told, managing to sell their spots in line (asking price: $100).

The NYPD, anticipating another wave of subway iPhone thefts, was handing leaflets out to line sitters encouraging them to register the serial numbers of their new phones.

By 7:30, two analysts had already weighed in. Chris Whitmore raised his Apple price target (to $850) on signs that demand for the iPhone 5 is "very strong." Topeka's Brian White reiterated his conviction that today will go down as "the biggest consumer electronic launch the world has ever seen."

I shot a video of the whole line and the first wave of customers running the Apple staffer gauntlet. You can get it on YouTube here.

The start of the line. Click to view video.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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