iPhones hot item in less-populated areas

FARGO, N.D. —Apple devotees in states largely disregarded under a formerly exclusive deal to distribute the iPhone rushed to stores to snap up the gadget early Thursday as Verizon Wireless entered the fray.

Phil Toso, the manager of a Verizon store in Baxter, Minn., said dozens of people showed up when the business opened at 7 a.m. Thursday. The store usually opens at 10.

"The customers that are coming in are coming in for the iPhone," Toso said.

At the West Acres Shopping Mall, Madison Bratz, 20, said her Android cell phone had been the "next best thing in Fargo," but that she happily used up all her available funds to buy an iPhone Thursday.

"I totally spent my whole paycheck but I don't care," the direct support specialist said, smiling. "I have waited so long for this. So long."

Previously excluded from the iPhone club because of AT&T's at-best spotty coverage in this part of the country, cell-phone users in areas of the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming can now get the phone through the nation's largest wireless carrier.

The initial turnout may not have been quite what some distributors had expected, and a Verizon spokeswoman said a combination of online pre-orders and the weather may have affected early sales.

"This was the first day the phone was available in stores but the third day that customers could actually buy them. So when you do that and you add the frigid temperatures, yes, the lines aren't where we expected them to be," spokeswoman Brenda Rainey said.

"But we're more interested that the customers who walked out were satisfied and we're very happy with that," Rainey said, adding: "Lines are not our goal."