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Friday March 11, 2011 8:35 pm

Surprise! iPad 2 launch draws crowds at Apple Stores

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Apple, Corporate News, Handhelds

ipad 2 line

At 5:10pm ET, an Apple employee suddenly shouted, "Everybody start cheering!"

And the crowd roared as Russian tourist Alex Shumilov, 29, bounced up the stairs of the New York City's flagship Apple store on Fifth Avenue, clasping two white iPad 2 boxes in each of his hand.

After camping outside the store for 28 hours, through more rain than shine, Shumilov became one of the first people in the world to own an iPad 2. It's quite a story to tell when he returns home to Moscow this Sunday.

"I'm a bit tired," he said, while grinning from ear to ear. "But I came all the way here for the iPad. I got two white ones. Everyone is waiting for white!"

By 4:30pm ET, the line for the iPad 2 outside the Apple Store was more than a mile long. It filled the public pavilion (we felt sorry for neighboring F.A.O. Schwartz), wrapped around the block, and continued along one side of the next block.

According to several Apple employees, the line began to pick up around 2pm. Bottles of water were distributed to the early goers, but what most really craved were stools.

Jack, an investment banker, snuck out of work early and arrived at 4:30pm - only to find himself at the end of the line. "I'm guessing there's about 2,000 people ahead of me," he said.

Last year, Jack lined up two hours early for the original iPad and was 35th in line, though that was at a store on the Upper West Side.

"My legs are killing me," said Flora, a Taiwanese immigrant who had been standing in line for two and a half hours and still appeared 200 people away from the entrance. She had dragged a (very good) friend to buy two more tablets, which was every person's quota. The two were planning to ship the iPads to family and friends back in Taiwan, where AT&T's GSM version works.

Flora and her friend weren't interested in the iPad 2 at all. "I'll get an iPad when it has a USB slot," she said.

At the downtown San Francisco Apple store, lines went nearly around the block by 4pm, and Apple employees were preparing contingency plans in case it wrapped around the entire block by the official opening at 5pm.

James Almeida and Joshua Levitt were near the front of the line, and said they'd been waiting there since 4am. Apple employees had come by with water and – what else? – apples, and collected trash. Standard line protocols applied, with spots saved by neighbors in case one had to go use the bathroom.

Almeida, who said he owns "all the iPhones," said he held off for the first iPad. "I held off as long as I could, but ... this product has kind of created its own need," he said.

An Apple employee said that there was a "good amount" of iPad 2s to go around. But even with a limit of two per customer, it was hard to see how the supply would hold out.

PCMag asked its readers to submit their iPad 2 line stories via Twitter. Reader @vinod1978 was at the Fifth Ave store, and said that Apple quickly sold out of the 16GB and 32GB white 3G iPad 2's.

"Lines are moving fast but there are an ungodly amount of people here. Didn't expect it after the 0 wait for my Verizon iPhone," he wrote.

Reader @germangonzalez, meanwhile, said that his local Target store only received five units. "Apple store had over 1k people in line. Waiting in line at my local Best Buy. Wish me luck!" he tweeted.

Reader @TylerPruitt submitted a photo of the line at the Bellevue Square Mall in Washington state. Reader @DavidTimmys had a similar experience at the Apple Store in Emeryville, Calif., while @ericfgould snapped a photo from his office window of people waiting at a nearby Dallas Best Buy.

This article, written by Chloe Albanesius, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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