Updated: Lines across the country for Sprint Pre launch

NEW YORK CITY--Sprint Nextel customers braved a steady rain here to get the Palm Pre at a launch event for longtime customers, held a day before the device officially goes on sale.

At 6 p.m., when the doors to the store in downtown Manhattan opened, there were 12 customers outside waiting in line as rain fell. The rain appeared to have deterred more people from showing up early, as a steady stream of customers trickled in throughout the evening.

Brooklyn native Alfredo Rodriguez, 37, was the first customer in line and the first to get a Pre when he got into the store. He currently has an HTC Touch Diamond and has been a Sprint customer for a year and a half. He said he was attracted to the Pre because of its design.

Rachael Harris, 28, another customer who waited in line, said she was happy to upgrade from her UTStarcom-made PPC6700 to a Pre. "It's time to move on and move up," said Harris.

Harris, a Sprint customer for seven years, said the Pre's ability to combine email accounts, calendars and messaging services into a single view was the gadget's most appealing aspect. "It ... seems to put everything together in an easy-to-navigate package where my information is held together the way I hold it in my head, and not the way it is in multiple computers."

Harris said the Pre was unlikely to draw non-Sprint customers to Sprint, but would excite current Sprint customers.

Sid Hassim, 32, from Queens, said he first heard about the Pre after the Consumer Electronics Show in January and started getting excited about it then. He said the fact that the Pre had a physical keyboard was key for him. He said he thought the Pre would get people to switch to Sprint "because of their plans, the Simply Everything plan. Financially, it works out well," said Hassim, who has been a Sprint customer for 12 years. "Instead of actually getting an extra data plan like you would with AT&T, you get everything in one shot, one price, so it's good."

The one-day-early launch event only was open to longtime Sprint customers, though a Sprint spokesman declined to provide details on how customers were selected for the invitation.

Update: On Saturday, the day the device was set to go on sale nationwide, there was a line of about 10 people at a Sprint store in Denver at 8 a.m. Click here for details and pictures. Further, according to reports from Reuters and Bloomberg, there were lines for the device in Chicago, Boston and elsewhere, though they were not as long as those for the iPhone 3G.

For more:
- see our full coverage of the Pre launch weekend
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article

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