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Only short lines formed this time around for the iPhone's launch on Verizon. Apple and Verizon were clearing expecting much bigger crowds.  (Source: Reuters/Mike Segar)

Apple's Steve Jobs may not be as far removed from the company as thought. Despite being on medical leave he is reportedly holding multiple meetings and even visited Cupertino campus, preparing for the upcoming iPhone 5 and iPad 2 launches.  (Source: European Pressphoto Agency)
For all the hype AT&T's iPhone 4 launch was far bigger

It was to be the biggest phone launch of the year.  At long last the much beloved iPhone was launching on "America's most reliable network", Verizon Wireless.  The carrier clearly expected an epic turnout, so it erected metal barricades in front of its city stores like in New York and San Francisco.  It also beefed up its staff for launch day (Thursday).

But ahead of the 7 a.m. opening of the store on Thursday only a small contingent of Apple fans gathered outside the building.  In New York City at 6:30 a.m. lines tended to have only 10 to 40 people.  One might suspect the cold winter weather might play a role, but consider that stores in San Francisco, which is enjoying far nicer weather, only saw 20 people.

Through the day a moderate stream of customers came in to pick up their pre-ordered iPhone.  Pre-orders were open two days -- on Feb. 3 for existing customers and on Feb. 9 for the general public.

Intriguingly, despite supposedly being "superior" to AT&T in terms of service quality, the turnout at Verizon seemed quite anemic to the hordes of people that camped outside Apple and AT&T stores last July.

Even Verizon Wireless spokesperson Brenda Raney admits that her company was a little surprised by the low turnout.  While she describes the sales as "brisk and steady" she comments to Reuters, "We prepared for more. When you have people over for dinner, don't you prepare for more?"

It's hard to determine what exactly was the cause of poor response.  Perhaps it's a sign that Apple is losing more momentum to Android.  Or perhaps it's a sign that not as many AT&T customers are interested in switching as predicted.  Regardless, while Apple and Verizon Wireless would never admit it, the launch clearly was a disappointment to their high expectations.

In other related news, Apple founder and chief executive Steve Jobs is now back to work -- from home.  According to The Wall Street Journal, sources at Apple say that while Mr. Jobs' health problems forced him to take a medical leave and largely confined him to home, he's been able to hold regular meetings via teleconference.  And he was even spotted visiting Apple's Cupertino campus on one day.

While Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook is currently guiding the company in an official capacity, Jobs is reportedly continuing to guide the company in an unofficial capacity.  He reportedly is especially focused on executing a successful launch of the iPad 2 sometime in the next few months, and the iPhone 5, which is expected to launch this summer.  Both devices will be offered on both of America's largest carriers -- AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless.

An Apple spokesperson commenting to The Wall Street Journal states, "Steve is the CEO of Apple and during his medical leave he'll continue to be involved in major strategic decisions."

Medical experts consulted by the WSJ say that Jobs' increasingly gaunt appearance in recent months and illness is likely a sign either that his cancer has reoccurred or that he's experiencing complications with his organ transplant.  Either way, the hard-driving general isn't able to full step away from his duties at the company; that much is clear.

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RE: not a surprise
By superPC on 2/11/2011 11:52:23 AM , Rating: 4
or maybe we're close to hitting the saturation point of iphone user.

RE: not a surprise
By HrilL on 2/11/2011 12:42:49 PM , Rating: 2
I'd have to agree. I'm in a fairly well off area of the country lot of college kids that seem to come from wealthy families. Retirees and rich tourist. When I go downtown to bars and what not everyone has either and iPhone or an Android and RIM is a smaller but still noticeable 3rd place. You'll almost never see people with feature phones. Last time I was one was this girl I know who literally loses a phone once or twice a month and her parents wouldn't keep buying her new iPhones. She went through 4 before they stopped getting her new ones.

RE: not a surprise
By vol7ron on 2/11/2011 2:07:08 PM , Rating: 3
I might go back, though. The $100/mo isn't as worth it as I thought it would be. One reason I got it was to trade stocks whenever, wherever. $1200/yr to do that is expensive, when I'm at my computer most of the time anyhow. It's not that $1200 isn't affordable, but I could put that cash towards something else - it's the opportunity cost that's high.

I think the service is going to be my major deterrent in the future.

RE: not a surprise
By vol7ron on 2/11/2011 2:08:16 PM , Rating: 2
What I mean by that, is I'd rather just pay for an iPod touch that has almost all the same features than a phone that I barely use for the phone.

RE: not a surprise
By bigdawg1988 on 2/12/2011 5:22:17 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe you're just not looking (probably surfing on your darn smartphone, young whippersnapper). Only 20% of shipments were for smartphones in 2010(see source below).
Heck, I switched from a smartphone to a feature phone to avoid at&t charges. I just don't spend that much time walking around on the internet. :)
Feature phones just don't get any press coverage. Who cares about a phone that makes calls? They're getting hard as heck to find, and nearly impossible to find a site that reviews them. Poor dumb little feature phones....

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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