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Verizon Wireless customers welcome iPhone in Santa Rosa

In the end, he didn't need to arrive on a frigid Thursday morning at 4 a.m.

Standing outside Verizon's downtown Santa Rosa store just before 7 a.m., Justin Serrao of Rohnert Park looked back at a line of about 20 people waiting to buy an iPhone, which became available through Verizon for the first time on Thursday.

"I thought it would be a lot longer," said Serrao, 20, after spending hours in the dark outside the Fourth Street store.

Verizon Wireless iPhone 4 Release

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Nationwide, lines at Verizon stores were shorter than expected. Company officials said that was because there were a variety of ways customers could get the iPhone, from buying it online to purchasing it from Verizon's retail partners.

"Verizon stores are just one piece of the puzzle. Not everyone wants to come and wait in line at the store," said Heidi Flato, a Verizon spokeswoman.

At least Serrao had company in the dark, his girlfriend, Gina Villeggiante.

She wasn't even getting one of the incredibly popular phones. And she wasn't a Verizon customer. She just loves her boyfriend, she said — and he promised her breakfast.

Serrao was one of millions of people nationwide who became iPhone-eligible when AT&T's exclusive deal to carry the Apple gadget ended this week.

The phone became available to the general public on Thursday. Verizon says the day it began accepting online iPhone orders from existing customers, Feb. 3, produced record sales.

That didn't mean much to Catherine Wilson of Sonoma who got up early that day to to place her online order. Her order got lost in Verizon's system, forcing her to make a 40-minute drive Thursday to buy the phone in person.


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