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6/28/2007
03:19 PM
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Verizon Wireless Tries To Counter iPhone Frenzy With Store Stunt

Verizon said its stores and kiosks will stay open until 9 p.m. Friday so customers can 'test drive' and purchase any of its 18 multimedia music devices.

Cell phone companies that aren't going to be offering Apple's iPhone on Friday have been watching and fuming over the publicity the hot new wireless device has generated in the press and on TV. Verizon Wireless has decided it can't sit still and do nothing in response.

As you may have heard, Apple and AT&T will begin selling the iPhone at 6 p.m. Friday. In an effort to let the world know that it also has some neat mobile phones, Verizon said its stores and kiosks will stay open until 9 p.m. Friday so customers can "test drive" and purchase any of its 18 multimedia music devices.

A spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless said the open store event gives the company the opportunity to showcase the advantages of its V Cast Music library and its "pay as you go" approach to purchasing songs and music albums. V Cast music songs cost 99 cents each. "We went to great lengths to make it easy to download music to handsets," she said.

The battle of the mobile phone stores also involves comparing (sorry) apples and oranges. Apple has 164 retail stores in the U.S., while Verizon Wireless has 2,300 store outlets in the U.S.

Verizon also is trumpeting the speed of its network -- 400 Kbps to 700 Kbps -- as well as the affordability of its handsets, many of which cost less than $100. The $499 to $599 iPhone, of course, contains an iPod music player, already fabulously successful.

Verizon is showcasing its LG VX9400 phone in a $99 package that also contains a stereo headset, a PC to LG VX9400 transfer cable, and a 2-Gbyte memory card that can store up to 1,000 songs.

Apple, meanwhile, is preparing for its big event. The company said Thursday that customers can purchase no more than two phones when the iPhone goes on sale Friday. Eager purchasers have been camping out at some AT&T and Apple stores in hopes of being able to buy an iPhone, even though none have ever handled the device.

"Apple retail stores were created for his moment -- to let customers touch and experience a revolutionary new product," said Ron Johnson, Apple's senior VP of retail, in a statement. The Apple stores will open at 6 p.m. for purchasers and will remain open until midnight. Apple also said its retail stores will be open Saturday morning to provide free workshops on iPhone usage.

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