Apple store employees wearing blue shirts descended the stairs at the North Michigan Avenue store at 7:58 a.m. Friday and clapped until they opened the doors to eager new iPad buyers.
About 131 fans standing outside in 48-degree weather were let inside in small groups.
Dawn Citino, a 45-year-old Sears inventory manager who had waited outside since Thursday afternoon, said she was so excited, she couldn’t “wait to get home and play.”
Citino owns an iPhone, a MacBook Pro and both iPad1 and 2 versions, and said she couldn’t wait to enjoy the new iPad’s high-definition screen, faster speed and bigger processor.
“My iPad has replaced my laptop and desktop,” she said. Apple has transformed personal computing.”
Citino had waited 15-and-a-half hours for her coveted device, making friends in the process who took turns on bathroom breaks and hot-drink runs. Yet the iPad wait wasn’t Citino’s longest; she had waited 16 hours for the very first iPhone.
Number four in line, Miguel Siman, an 18-year-old freshman film major at Loyola, said he has used an Apple computer since he was 5.
“It’s been since the beginning of time,” he said, invoking a Steve Jobs-like phrase and look upward to the sky.
The sky was the limit for Sandibell Hidalgo’s hopes to surprise her boyfriend on his birthday Friday as she stood at the end of the line, holding her 2-year-old daughter, Ofelia, in a blanket.
“I wanted to get something different,” she said, noting that her boyfriend, Ruben Torres, had gotten her an iPhone4 for her 26th birthday. Torres is turning 27.
Ash Kayo, a 30-year-old tax consultant visiting Chicago from Tokyo, stood in line only a few minutes before she reached the Apple store’s entryway.
She will surprise her brother with the new iPad after he graduates Friday from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with an MBA.
Kayo owns a Mac computer, an iPod and an iPhone. She said she considers her iPod an essential accessory, and her Internet network provider in Tokyo offers free texting with the iPhone.
“All my friends use it to text each other,” she said.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, whose stock is now valued at more than $600 a share, has already stopped taking advance orders for Friday.
The excitement started in Australia, where people piled into stores of the local phone company, Telstra, which started selling the iPads shortly after midnight there.
Buyers expressed their enthusiasm for the new device’s retina-display feature that touts a higher-resolution screen than a high-definition TV, an updated processor for faster speeds and the ability to turn into a user’s own personal high-speed “hot spot” to hook up to the Internet, according to media reports.
Apple store representatives in Chicago said they will have “plenty” of new iPads in stock. They declined to give the specific numbers of iPads to be delivered before stores open at 8 a.m.
The local Apple stores intend to maintain order by giving tickets to those in line until they reach the number of new iPads available.
“We will communicate with people while they are in line,” said a representative at the Apple store at North and Clybourn avenues. “If they don’t get a place-holder ticket, they’re more than welcome to wait to see if someone ahead in line doesn’t buy a new iPad or returns it, but otherwise, they can order one in the store or online.”
Anyone disappointed at the Apple store may try a local RadioShack store, some of which will have limited numbers of the new iPad for sale, a RadioShack spokeswoman said. The RadioShack spokeswoman could give no details on which stores would have one of the new iPads, or the quantity at those stores.
There were 15.4 million iPads shipped in Apple’s most recent quarter nationwide, which included the critical holiday season. That amount was more than double its iPad sales the year before.
The new iPad was announced a week ago, without a new name. The new features will make the tablet computer slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2 because it needs a larger battery to power the high-resolution screen. But tech-expert reports say a new technology feature will extend the battery life beyond that of the iPad 2.
Prices are not changing from the previous models. They will start at $499. Versions capable of accessing cellular networks will cost $629 to $829.
Citino, wearing a floppy green-and-white St. Patrick’s Day hat, said she planned to spend about $1,200 on her device – after taxes and various extras.
“Their products are so well made, they are so well done, so intuitive, that you want to be the one to brag and say, ‘I got it first,’” said Citino, director of inventory management for footwear at Sears Holdings.