Flagship store sells out of iPad Minis after less than three hours
--Launch of two tablets draws crowd despite storm recovery
--Fifth Avenue store pushes back device launch by two hours
(Adds details of city status in fourth paragraph, mention of sold-out stock in fifth paragraph.)
By Drew FitzGerald
Hundreds gathered outside Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) flagship New York store on Fifth Avenue to buy the company's latest device--a smaller version of its popular iPad tablet--despite lingering effects from a massive storm earlier in the week that left half of Manhattan without power.
Eren Betin, 25, a graphic designer from Istanbul, said he thought the iPad Mini's sticker price was high--it starts at $329--but still considered the product a better buy than comparable tablets with sharper screens.
"For me, it's not about how good it is technically," Mr. Betin said. "It's about the software, so that's why I'm buying it."
The crowd at Apple's main store in New York looked noticeably smaller than the one for the iPhone 5 launch in September, but it was still impressive considering the disruption caused by superstorm Sandy. Mass transit in the city remains hobbled or nonexistent in many areas, while power is still out for millions of residents in lower Manhattan, other boroughs and surrounding suburbs.
Despite the challenges for local buyers, the store sold out of the iPad Mini after less than three hours. The New York outlet started selling the devices at 10 a.m., two hours later than other Apple stores outside the region, because of delays related to the storm.
Some customers, who had to wait longer outside in the chilly weather, grumbled about the two-hour delay but acknowledged the unusual circumstances affecting the event.
In the last minutes before the devices' launch, Apple employees took their usual positions in front of the retail outlet's glass-box entrance, counted down the last 10 seconds and clapped as the first group of customers filed into the store.
Members of the crowd, which included committed Apple fans as well as enterprising customers waiting to sell their two allotted devices on the Internet, bundled up with scarves and heavy coats as the temperature remained below 50 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the morning.
The iPad Mini, which measures 7.9 inches diagonally, was announced amid a flurry of updates to the company's product line, including refashioned Mac computers and an update to the seven-month-old larger iPad, whose marquee feature was a higher-end display and faster wireless networking technology known as LTE.
Some waiting in line for the new tablet said the storm this week wouldn't have stopped them from buying the new device, while others said destruction from Sandy spurred them to wait in line for the first time.
"I'm down by Union Square, and there's no electricity," said Eytan Friedman, 43 years old. Without heat, "it's just very hard to sleep, so I figured I'd get up early and get my new iPad rather than lie in bed and stare at the ceiling."
Mr. Friedman said he wanted the new full-sized iPad rather than the miniature version, which struck him as "sort of a larger version of the iPhone." He said he traded in his old iPad as soon as he heard about the new LTE-enabled tablet.
"I would never wait in line," Mr. Friedman added. "This is the exception."