(Adds Vodafone, analyst comment, paragraphs 9-11)
NEW YORK Nov 21 Hundreds of people lined up at
some Verizon Wireless stores on Friday to buy the BlackBerry
Storm, the first touch-screen phone from Research In Motion
RIM.TO that aims to compete with Apple's (AAPL.O) iPhone.
More than 200 people had waited at a Verizon store in
mid-town Manhattan early in the morning, many of whom were
turned away after it ran out of the new phones less than an
hour after opening at 8 a.m. The angry customers caused a
ruckus and police came to restore order.
Verizon said hundreds of others were in lines outside its
stores up and down the U.S. east coast, but added that it had
"plenty of phones" and would keep getting more shipments. It
declined to give specifics on inventory levels.
Anthony Lewis, who was at a Verizon store near New York's
Bryant Park, at first tried to get the Storm at electronics
stores nearby. But he was disappointed, despite putting his
name on a list ahead of the Friday debut.
"I had two pre-orders at Best Buy (BBY.N) and Circuit City
CCTYQ.PK. Now I'm here and I'm hearing it's sold out," said
Lewis, 28, of Brooklyn, New York. "I guess 8 a.m. in the
morning is too late."
A Verizon employee at the store told customers that if they
ordered the phone online or in the store, they would get the
gadget in five to seven days.
Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L), part owner of Verizon Wireless,
a venture of Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Vodafone,
had said on Thursday that it was struggling to meet demand for
the Storm, which it launched on Nov. 14.
Vodafone, which is giving away the phone to UK customers
who sign a contract, had said it had thousands of pre-orders.
STORM OR BRIGHT SPOT?
After briefly rising as much as 5 percent Verizon shares
were up 40 cents, or 1.5 percent, at $26.90 in afternoon trade
on New York Stock Exchange where rival AT&T Inc (T.N) shares
were down 3 percent at $23.76. Both stocks have been volatile
in recent months due to the weakening economic situation.
But analysts said the Storm launch was likely the cause of
the share moves on Friday.
"We've heard nothing but good things about it. It's a small
bright spot in a really bleak world.," said Charter Equity
Research analyst Ed Snyder referring to the Storm. He said that
he had even "heard from some competitors who thought it was
Verizon Wireless is making a big bet on the Storm for the
crucial holiday season. The No. 2 U.S. mobile service heavily
promoted four different phones last holiday season, but its
focus this year is on the first touch-screen BlackBerry.
Both the Storm and iPhone cost $200 for customers who agree
to a two-year service contract and both come with a built-in
camera, and music and video players. Click on [ID:nN20365828]
for more details.
Verizon said it was getting reports of queues elsewhere in
the country, with more than 100 people lining up outside a
store in Bridgewater, New Jersey and another on L Street in
Washington, DC. Spokeswoman Brenda Raney said it was too soon
to say if stores were selling out.
"If a store has already run out, it's evidence of pent up
demand," she said. "We don't normally have people line up."
However excitement over the launch stilled paled in
comparison to iPhone debuts, when ardent fans camped out days
in advance to ensure that they got their hands on the first
devices. AT&T Inc is the exclusive U.S. carrier for the
In San Francisco, smaller lines of about 20 were seen at
Verizon stores at 8 AM. At one of them, an employee estimated
that the store had sold about 100 phones since 7 o'clock.
Standing on line in San Francisco's financial district,
Fred Vassard, a systems administrator, said he owns both
versions of iPhone, but was disatisfied with its phone
capabilities. He wants Storm for both work and personal use.
"It's a touch-screen so it has more real estate, the
reviews were so-so, so I'm hoping I can find some positives in
it. But the phone part will work better [than iPhone]," he
After rising almost 7 percent at one point in the session
Research in Motion's U.S. shares were up 80 cents or almost 2
percent at $42.32 on Nasdaq.
(Reporting by Franklin Paul, Michael Erman, Brendan
McDermid and Sinead Carew in New York, and by Gabriel Madway
in San Francisco; editing by Leslie Gevirtz)