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The iPhone comes to Grand Forks

After a four-year wait -- an eternity in the cell phone industry -- many local residents weren't taking any chances when the iPhone finally came to North Dakota today.

Kim Newman, a salesperson at Verizon in Grand Forks, shows Tom Miesner, Lancaster, Minn., the features on a new iPhone on the first day that the popular phone was made available in North Dakota. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

After a four-year wait -- an eternity in the cell phone industry -- many local residents weren't taking any chances when the iPhone finally came to North Dakota today.

An eager shopper got to the Grand Forks Verizon Wireless store on 32nd Avenue South by 5 a.m., and about 25 people were waiting in line by the time the store opened for business at 7 a.m.

John Barrieau, retail district manager for Verizon Wireless in North Dakota and northern Minnesota, said there was a "constant flow" of customers in the store all day.

"I've been doing this for 10 years, and I don't think I've ever seen customers so excited," he said. "They're shaking hands and high-fiving on their way out the store."

The iPhone was released four years ago and was available in most of the U.S. But the phone was exclusively offered through AT&T, which did not have coverage in North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.


That changed this morning as Verizon Wireless started selling the phones, putting an end to the Midwest's iPhone dead zone.

Barrieau said the iPhone stands out from other smart phones and is in high demand because of its features, including its compatibility with popular music program iTunes.

"But a lot of it is just going to be the Apple brand," he said. "It's an iconic device that people want."

Wait is over

Megan McCauley, 21, said she's been waiting for months to get an iPhone -- even though she bought her last smart phone less than a year ago.

"I love my iPods and my iPod Touch, and I just really like the Apple products," she said.

The East Grand Forks resident said her brother bought an iPhone earlier in the day, and many of her friends plan to get the high-tech gadget once their cell phone contracts are up for renewal.

"I text all the time so it's still going to be used for the phone, but it will be nice to have my iPod kind of combined into it now," she said. "I can pretty much do everything with it."


Travis Herbeck said he's wanted an iPhone for the past year. It's the first smart phone he's ever had, but Herbeck said it won't take him long to become accustomed to his new high-tech gadget.

"I have the iPod Touch, I have a lot of iPod products and it seems like a pretty seamless transition," he said.

Herbeck said his iPhone will serve as a music player and traditional phone, while also acting as somewhat of a "little entertainment system" with the variety of games available as iPhone apps.

But Herbeck said he wasn't quite sure if the long wait was worth it.

"I've been debating about whether I should pull the trigger," he said. "The rumor is they're going to have another iPhone coming out maybe this summer, and I was debating on 3G versus 4G. I guess we'll just wait and see. I think it will be worth it."

Grand Forks resident Lisa Mills stopped by the Verizon Wireless store to consider her options after she started having problems with her cell phone, but it didn't take long before she decided to get an iPhone.

Mills said her new iPhone will be compatible with the cell phone networks in Europe, an important consideration because she'll be moving there this summer when her husband is stationed in Germany.

And it also will work with the Skype app, a "necessity of life" that allows her to make calls over the Internet to her husband while he's stationed in South Korea.


But Mills said a lot of her decision to get an iPhone rather than an Android or BlackBerry came down to sticking to the brand that she trusts.

"I have the iPad, the iPod and an Apple computer, so it's a natural progression," she said.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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